Stats of the Week: Cleveland Browns Continue to Hoard NFL Draft Picks
Before we get to the stats of the week, let me preface by saying I have come to (semi-) praise the Browns, not bury them. That is because of the man at the top, Jimmy Haslam, who along with co-owner and wife, Dee Haslam, has practiced patience through some more lean times in the past year and a half. I mean, they haven’t fired a major player in the football hierarchy for a whole 20 months, and reports are that coach Hue Jackson and football architects Sashi Brown, Andrew Berry and MLB alum Paul DePodesta are getting along pretty well in making the football calls.
Jenny Vrentas and I met with Jimmy and Dee Haslam in Cleveland in August, and I asked them what was the most important lesson they’d learned. Dee Haslam brought up something she’d heard the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, say: “Hire for where you want to be, not for where you are.”
Jimmy Haslam said about the challenges of the NFL versus the truck stop business: “It’s a lot harder than you think. Having been in business and having done at least okay there, to come into the NFL and think that’s necessarily going to transfer to running a pro sports franchise, it doesn’t work that way. The important thing is to get the right people in place, and … leave them there for a long time. And, in this league, you gotta have a quarterback.
“The group is working very well together. We have very healthy debate. If you and I went to dinner, I would predict we would have a lot of good and vigorous debate on subjects, which is good. If we agree on everything, there’s something wrong. We’ve put together a diverse group of skill sets—smart, work hard, bring a lot to the organization. This year, I don’t think we’ll be 15-1, but we’ll be better. We spend time talking about small victories.”
My biggest problem with the people who run the Browns—and it surfaced again last week with the cutting of Joe Haden—is they continue to build for the future by again and again letting go of good players. Not saying Haden was great (he’s fallen off from his two-time Pro Bowl status), and not saying he was worth his scheduled $11 million a year over the next three seasons. But the list of good players sent away is long, and these are not cancers—they’re good football players. Taylor Gabriel, Alex Mack, Mitchell Schwartz, Terrelle Pryor, Tashaun Gipson, Andy Lee since New Year’s Day 2016 … players who would contribute to a winning team; Gabriel, Mack and Schwartz were key guys in the NFL playoffs last January. One contributing player was acquired Saturday, when the Browns got the better end of a deal, trading a sixth-round 2018 pick to Pittsburgh for a 2015 third-round receiver from Auburn, Sammie Coates, plus Pittsburgh’s seventh-round pick in 2019.
Part of the constant churn of the roster comes from the constant churn of club architects. The Browns have employed six GMs since 2008. Haslam’s most significant words in this interview: get the right people in place and leave them there for a long time. I’m hoping for the sake of Browns fans and the sheer misery of nine straight losing seasons (4-28 the past two years) that Sashi Brown gets the significant team-building time Ray Farmer and Mike Lombardi and Tom Heckert and George Kokinis and Phil Savage didn’t.
Now for the Stats of the Week.
In the eight drafts between 2008 and 2015, Cleveland had five general managers and five head coaches who made 10 first-round draft choices.
Nine of those ten first-round picks, who would now be between 24 and 33 and theoretically be in the prime of their careers, forming the backbone of a team for the long haul, are gone: Alex Mack, Joe Haden, Phil Taylor, Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Barkevious Mingo, Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel and Cam Erving.
One, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, a 2015 pick, is still on the team.
The Browns are drafting enough players over a 37-month period to field a full game-day roster, and have two players left over. The Browns’ draft haul, annually, from 2015 to 2018:
|2018 (As of Sept. 3)||12|
Total: 48 (after the Sammie Coates acquisition on Saturday). Average NFL team’s picks over those four seasons: 32. (Teams get seven draft choices per season, and in the NFL, another 32 picks per year, approximately, are awarded as compensatory picks for teams that lose monied free agents.)
Assume the Texans finish with a better 2017 record than the Browns, and this will be true, if nothing changes about the 2018 draft between now and late April next year:
Cleveland will pick six players before Houston picks one.
None of the eight quarterbacks and wide receivers on Cleveland’s roster as of this morning was on the roster in March 2016.
Quotes of the Week
“I’m kind of chasing him around. You know, like chasing a girl in high school.”
—Rams coach Sean McVay, as the team continues to deal with the holdout of its best player, defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who wants to be the highest-paid defensive player in football.
“We did the study and the research and we weren’t interested. No, I’m not explaining it.”
—Jacksonville executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin to the Florida Times-Union, on whether the team would sign Colin Kaepernick as a backup quarterback.
“There’s nothing that compares to it. You need a great starting pitcher, a great closer in baseball. You need a great point guard in basketball. But there’s not one position that comes anywhere close in sports, I don’t think, to quarterback in football. If you ask any one of our football people, they’d all say getting the quarterback right is number one. I can tell you this: It’s on the top of our list daily. Once you get that, the game’s much easier.”
—Cleveland co-owner Jimmy Haslam, to me and Jenny Vrentas, on the search for a quarterback to lead the Browns out of the wildnerness. They’ll give 2017 second-round pick DeShone Kizer his shot starting Sunday against the Steelers.
Haslam, later in the same interview: “Who knows? We could have [the right quarterback] on the roster right now.”
“Roger [Staubach] gave me something one time, it was great. He goes: ‘They are going to try and coach you out of making plays. Coaches are always going to try to coach that out of you. Don’t let them. What makes the best quarterbacks is always the ability to go above and beyond what the coaches ask. The coaches are going to coach it out of you, but the guy who can makes plays, that is a rare gift. Just make sure you don’t stop being aggressive.’”
—Tony Romo, to Kalyn Kahler of The MMQB, in her “Talking Football” interview.
Factoid That May Interest Only Me
Eleven years ago, a 12-year-old Korean boy named Younghoe Koo moved with his family to New Jersey. He didn’t speak English. He thought one way to make friends would be to take up football, and he began placekicking. He kicked well enough at Ridgewood High to get a scholarship to Georgia Southern, and then he got signed as a free agent with the Chargers for training camp this year. Koo out-kicked incumbent Josh Lambo, and now Koo is going to start his NFL career on Monday Night Football, Chargers at Broncos, Week 1.
Monday Night Football in Korean:
• 월요일 밤 축구
• Wol-yoil bam chuggu
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note
Hope He’s a Delta Frequent Flyer Dept.: In the past 11 months, Bene’ Benwikere has gone from a starting cornerback in Carolina to the bench in Miami, to the practice squad in Miami, to the post-season practice squad with Green Bay, to Cincinnati as a free agent, and, on Saturday, to Dallas, which sent a conditional draft choice to the Bengals for him.
Tweets of the Week
The NFL is going to turn this 90->53 day into a major event within five years.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) September 3, 2017
One thing I will say on Dorsett: you could tell Pagano was getting annoyed w his muscle strains and pulls. Missed too much practice time.— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) September 2, 2017
Browns down to just 4 players on the roster from 2014 season. Cray.— Andrew Hawkins (@Hawk) September 1, 2017
Hawkins was on that 2014 Cleveland team.
Just had an idea: Really need limit on roster spots in salary cap league? If teams want to carry 58 dudes and fit them under $170M why not? https://t.co/QNH3owij0g— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) September 1, 2017
2:38 pm— GB Crime Reports (@GBCrimeReports) September 1, 2017
Lambeau Field - black male insists he's there to try out for the Packers - is refusing to leave
From the new season of “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.
This week: a special podcast with tributes to Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, as well as a conversation with LeBeau. The Hall of Fame former Detroit defensive back turns 80 on Saturday, a day before he’ll become the first 80-year-old coordinator in NFL history.
• LeBeau on the best wideout he ever covered: “Paul Warfield was as good as any of them … I covered Bob Hayes, who was a great player and an Olympic 100-meter champion. When he ran, half the stadium shook because he was so powerful. As a guy trying to run with him, you just had to watch and feel, and you knew when he was opening up, and you knew damn well you better give him some room. But Paul, you couldn't do that with him, because if you took your eye off him for a second, he was already five yards somewhere else and there was never any physical exertion, seemingly, that this guy is really trying to run hard. Paul was like Fred Astaire in football cleats, man.”
• LeBeau, who imported the Zone Blitz to the NFL in 1984, on how he found it: “I was … out on a scouting mission for the Bengals in the early ’80s … and I was probably only talking to [LSU assistant coach] Bill Arnsparger for 15 minutes, but I admired what he had done as a defensive coach and some of the various movement patterns that he had started, and I'll never forget this, but he said, ‘All I was looking for was a safer way to create pressure.’ And that sentence was the atom that split for me, because I was going to Texas and I had an airplane flight and I got the gal to give me a supply of cocktail napkins and I started drawing right away on a safer concept of pressure. Blitzes up to that time were all what we call zero coverage, where everybody had a guy and you overloaded the protection by sending an extra guy … I thought, Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get that pressure at least from one half of the defense and still keep a free safety where if something went wrong, he could tackle the guy and we could play the next down? I'm not sure that's what Bill meant, but that's how it focused into my mind right away.”
• LeBeau on calling plays at 80: “I never think about it. I'm just a football coach and I'm going to try to do my job. I never think of stuff like that. The secret for being able to work this long is I have had some wonderfully good players. I could name a ton of them that have played well for me and kept me working. I have great genes. My mom was 96, my dad was 88, my dad's sisters all went way into their 90s. LeBeaus are hard to get off the planet.”