Cleveland fans often disagreed with former general manager Sashi Brown and his analytical approach to the game, but on a day like Friday, when the Browns traded for Jarvis Landry, Tyrod Taylor and Damarious Randall, it’s clear that he leaves somewhat of a complicated legacy behind.
In the two years that Brown was in charge, Cleveland won just one game, and the franchise sank new lows competitively. The team flirted with whatever the NFL’s version of tanking is and angered the established order. But the financial war chest that Brown created, including a stable of draft picks that—even after Friday’s deal—leaves them in command of the draft, is something that should not be forgotten.
Should fortunes finally turn for the Browns, he cannot be written out of the story.
In the same way that Cleveland was able to absorb QB Brock Osweiler’s contract without blinking just to obtain a second-round pick, they were able to snag the 2017 leader in receptions and still have room to extend him if they so choose. After that deal, even if it puts Landry on par with the recently-extended Mike Evans at $16.5 million per year, the Browns could still have more cap space than a majority of NFL teams.
From there, they nabbed a quarterback who can at least perform at replacement level, and sometimes at a Pro Bowl level—probably their best quarterback to start a season since Derek Anderson back in 2009. To top it off, Cleveland added Randall, a former first-round pick who had a career-high four interceptions last year, and sent QB DeShone Kizer to Green Bay as part of the deal.
Maybe these are the types of “go for the kill” moves Brown have never made. While Cleveland was aggressive during his tenure, dealing for linebacker Jamie Collins, the parting of significant draft picks may have been too much for him to stomach. Regardless, Browns fans are looking today at a lineup that may or may not include the following components:
QB: Tyrod Taylor/Any rookie they would like in the draft
RB: Saquon Barkley
RB: Duke Johnson/Isaiah Crowell
WR: Jarvis Landry
WR: Josh Gordon
WR: Corey Coleman
TE: David Njokou
That’s a significant amount of talent invested in an offense that has been stagnant over the years. If the team fails, the blame will land on the coaching staff, not on the roster.
Brown had the fortitude to erase Cleveland’s hard drive for the first time in decades. Before his arrival, the Browns were a patchwork quilt of different eras, each season bringing on a new general manager, head coach and philosophy. Piling more irresponsible financial decisions atop a mound of festering soot wouldn’t have done the team any good. Instead, he put a target on his back by ripping the band-aid off entirely—something no previous regime had the guts to follow through on completely.
The result was a fresh start—a clean, unfurnished room with new paint. And while the process led them to miss on potentially generational talents like Carson Wentz, it also gave the team the flexibility to do … anything, just like they did on Friday.
The NFL has a history of “bridge” general managers. Most recently, the Jets hired John Idzik to usher in a new era of salary cap responsibility. He built their bank account to roughly $100 million and got fired for the far more popular Mike Maccagnan—an evaluator who had the privilege of immediately spending that money in free agency to great fanfare.
Brown looks to be on a similar path. Should Cleveland finally turn it around—how many offseasons has that sentence been written?—the narrative will focus on Dorsey’s steady hand and personnel experience. The “real” football players be promised to acquire. He may be exactly what the franchise is looking for, given his stellar track record of finding talent deep in drafts with the Packers and Chiefs. Brown’s great undoing was not having this type of established personnel mind to lean on.
His other great undoing was making himself expendable before the payoff. When it comes, he shouldn’t be forgotten.
• Question or comment? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.