With the No. 15 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns select Corey Coleman, wide receiver, Baylor.
The moment Roger Goodell stated the Browns selected Coleman, and not Laquon Treadwell or Josh Doctson, fans began to utter the “same old Browns” phrase. Another wide receiver under 6’0” and 200 pounds and another speed guy with a limited route-tree—they all have been exposed to this story before.
However, when you truly take a look at the story being written by the Browns front office and head coach Hue Jackson, you have yet to be exposed to this story. Because quietly behind the scenes in Berea, the organization is doing something that has not been done here before. They are giving their quarterback weapons he is familiar with.
No, Robert Griffin III did not attend Baylor at the same time as Coleman. The Browns No. 15 overall pick did not join the program until 2012, and he would redshirt that season. The familiarity I am speaking of is in regard to system familiarity—and that comes straight from Baylor head coach, Art Briles.
Briles has been the head coach at Baylor since 2008, and was the architect of the offensive scheme both Griffin and Coleman thrived in during college. Griffin threw for 10,366 yards, 78 touchdowns and 17 interceptions on his way to a Heisman trophy in Briles’ system. Coleman caught 173 passes for 3,009 yards and 33 touchdowns en route to a Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s best wide receiver in 2015.
When Griffin was at Baylor, he had great success with another receiver that would have been considered “small” by Browns fans standards—Kendall Wright. Wright was 5’10” and 190 pounds at Baylor, and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds. So, while he was similar in size—he was much slower than Coleman on paper. However the production was there, as he caught 108 passes for 1,663 yards and 14 touchdowns during the 2011 season alone with Griffin.
Coleman is much more of a dynamic player than Wright was in college and will be more dynamic than Wright has been thus far in his NFL career, but you get the picture. The Cleveland Browns are doing everything they can to make sure Griffin is comfortable enough to experience success early in his NFL career.
Don’t believe me? Take a listen to this interview Briles did with 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland after Coleman went No. 15 to the Browns. In this interview you will learn that not only is Coleman ready to be “The Man” for the Browns at receiver, but that Griffin has already reached out to his new No. 1 target.
The Baylor connection is not the only one the Browns are exploiting here with Coleman and Griffin. If you take a look at the receivers Griffin experienced success with during his rookie season in Washington, the story is very similar.
Santana Moss was one of Griffin’s go-to receivers in that offense, and he checks in at 5’10” and 181 pounds and ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at the combine. Pierre Garcon measured in at 6’0” and 210 pounds at the combine, running a 4.42 40-yard dash. Josh Morgan was 6’0” and 219 pounds, and ran a 4.47 40-yard dash. Finally, Leonard Hankerson was 6’2” and 211 pounds and ran a 4.43 40-yard dash.
Flash forward to the 2016 NFL Draft, where the Browns added Coleman (4.37 40-yard dash), Ricardo Louis (6’2” and 215 pounds, 4.43 40-yard dash), Jordan Payton (6’1” and 207 pounds, 4.47 40-yard dash) and Rashard Higgins (6’1” and 196 pounds, 4.64 40-yard dash). Aside from Higgins’ time, the additions are eerily similar in terms of measurables to the group Griffin experienced success with during his rookie season in Washington.
Could this all be a coincidence? Sure, but Jackson and the Browns aren’t the only ones to look to previous success when providing a quarterback with weapons for their offense.
Back in 2006 when the New Orleans Saints and Sean Payton inked Drew Brees to a deal in free agency, they took a similar approach. It was reported Payton looked back at Brees’ college film to see the type of receivers he experienced success with. One of the first that stood out was a receiver by the name of Vinny Sutherland, a 5’8” and 192-pound receiver with 4.48 40-yard dash speed. The second was John Standerford, a 6’4” and 206-pound receiver who ran a 4.55 40-yard dash. The third was a bigger tight end, 6’4″and 243-pound Tim Stratton.
Why do these three players stand out among those Brees played his career with at Purdue? Well, because their size and abilities in the offense were mimicked with additions Payton and their staff made the next few years.
Right away in the 2006 NFL Draft, the team selected a little known receiver out of Hofstra named Marques Colston in the seventh round. At 6’4” and 225 pounds, many draft pundits didn’t expect him to even make the roster. Instead, Colston would go on to have 1,000 yards receiving in six of his first seven seasons in the league as Brees’ go-to guy in the offense.
In that same draft, the team would select a dynamic running back who could line-up all over the field and catch passes as well, Reggie Bush, out of USC. Standing 5’10” and 201 pounds and running a 4.33 40-yard dash, Bush gave Brees a weapon not only in the run game—but also in the passing game.
A few years later, the Saints would go out and trade for a 6’5” and 250-pound pass catching tight end, Jeremy Shockey, in order to give Brees a weapon at tight end. Then a few years after that, they would draft Jimmy Graham—and we all know how big of a weapon he became for Brees and the Saints.
The Browns will not come out and say it publically, as they continue to preach competition at the quarterback position, but in my eyes the team is quietly doing whatever they can behind closed doors to give Griffin weapons that he is used to in order to help him succeed.
They didn’t go out and draft a pair of 6’4” receivers like Josh McCown had in Chicago and Tampa Bay during his career. No, they went out and drafted the size and speed Griffin had success with.
So when you utter the phrase “same old Browns” in regard to what the Browns have done this offseason, you should probably take a deeper look at what has been done—because it is far from that. In fact, though Griffin is not currently on the level of Brees, it is closer to “same old Saints” than “same old Browns.” And I think that has worked out pretty well for the Saints during the Payton-Brees era.