Friday, April 27, 2012

Draft's first round kick-starts Browns' hearts

You wanted a sense of urgency from your front office, Browns fans? How about a nice pulse-frying shot of adrenalin delivered straight to the heart from a franchise that seemed dedicated to a glacially slow rebuild?

T-Rich and Old Man Weeden, together at last.
The Browns showed a boldness last night never before seen with this regime.  These are same guys who sat idly on the sidewalk for two straight free agency fire sales; the selfsame "process" pansies who used past drafts as a means to acquire more picks. Last night was about "winning now," and whether or not you agree with the moves, the attitude behind them was past due for the leadership of this team.

Giving up three "precious" mid-to-late-round picks for Trent Richardson was easy math. The Browns need quality over quantity, particularly on offense. Getting the best running back in the draft, an impact guy who won't even turn 21 until July, is more than worth a few picks who would likely serve as depth for their first year or two of service, should they pan out at all.

Perhaps I'm just used to the franchise picking guys that end up as practice squad fodder or disappear into the ozone entirely after a season. Teams do find late-round gems, as is my understanding, but Cleveland needed a player that would put the tiniest bit of terror into opposing defensive coordinators. They did not need another backup corner to serve as gunner for the punt coverage team until he's ready to crack the starting eleven in two years.

Brandon Weeden, meanwhile, is the selection that's going to have fans chattering all summer. It's also the pick that's perhaps a bit harder to defend. Tall, strong-armed, purported to be able to make the quick and accurate throws necessary to run a successful West Coast offense. That's your upside.

Downside is decision making and accuracy issues when under pressure. There's also the small matter of being the oldest player ever to be drafted in the first round. Twenty-eight years, 195 days, if you're counting. Weeden will be 29 by the first month of his rookie season.

The age thing will no doubt be overblown to hurricane force by a sector of the fanbase, and it's not without merit. How many really good years do the Browns expect to get out of Weeden? Best-case scenario, let's say he's a Pro Bowler by year three. He would already be 32 years old and numerically at least on the downside of his career.

Picking Weeden does point to a franchise that wants to compete faster than the snail's pace at which they were moving, but doing zilcho in free agency to shore up the thin wide receiver corps belies that seeming sense of urgency I talked about up top.
Simply fantastic
One could argue that Kurt Warner was 28 when he made his first start for St. Louis. However, Warner was handed the keys to a Lamborghini when he stepped under center with The Greatest Show on Turf. Weeden, should he be the starter as projected, is essentially climbing into the torn bucket seat of my 1987 Dodge Omni, aka The BoombasticMobile.

That said, the Browns did need to address the most important position on the field. Colt McCoy is hard-working, tough and dedicated, everything you want in a guy working as your plumber or construction foreman (Fine means of employment, both. Not a slight against anyone, etc., just a means of making my point. Seriously, calm down). Give him a Kurt Warner-like arsenal and maybe he leads the Browns to 9-7. McCoy's limp arm and shocking degradation in decision-making skills as 2011 progressed showed he's nothing more than a back-up in this league. Sorry, Colt. Like George Burns once said about Hollywood, pro football is indeed a hideous bitch-goddess. 

The Browns move on to the second round tonight, and it's likely you'll see a wide receiver taken with the #37 pick to help out Messrs Richardson and Weeden. There's much work to be done, yes, but at least the front office has finally shown some sand in bringing this moribund football team back to respectability.