OK, the Trent Richardson storm has passed, right? That was some ridiculous backlash. I understand that to Cleveland Browns fans, the trade meant more to them than the loss of a running back. It meant a truth they went through the entire offseason refusing to believe: This team was going to have to be ripped apart in order to get better.
I know that it gets frustrating as a fan to watch inept football year after year, while your closest NFL neighbor and biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, enjoy seemingly successful season after successful season. Every regime the fans were given a new promise; every regime a new strategy; every regime another failure.
Browns fans have found everyone to blame for this but the athletes themselves. It was Randy Lerner‘s fault for being an absent owner. It was Romeo Crennel‘s fault for being too relaxed with the players. It was Eric Mangini‘s fault for being too strict. It was Pat Shurmur‘s fault for being too Pat Shurmur.
But as the front offices kept changing and the roster kept changing, the results did not. A new owner and team president and head coach was supposed to change all of that. And it didn’t. And fans are pissed.
So, here we go again. Another year of throwing in the towel and another year of promises about the next year. And this one comes with 14 games remaining on the schedule. That sucks. Football fans look forward to the season all year and 120 game-minutes in, the Browns 2013 season seems to be over. Well, it doesn’t seem; it is over.
Rob Chudzinski can be passionate all he wants about this team going out and achieving, but the horses that belong to the Browns need to find a pasture. Some solid role players, but no stars, and professional sports require stars. You can’t win without them.
What parity means is not just that the money is even, but so is the talent. What sets one team apart from the other is its stars: Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Calvin Johnson.
It doesn’t guarantee success (See: Detroit Lions), but it’s necessary for it.
What the Browns have to do with these 10 picks in next year’s NFL draft is to find a star. Not a good player. Not a solid contributor. They need a star. And, folks, Richardson wasn’t a star. Neither is Brandon Weeden. Neither is Greg Little.
As a matter of fact, while the Browns have had some success finding good players in the draft, none of the regimes have found a star. None. Not one since 1999. Tim Couch was not a star. Courtney Brown wasn’t. Jeff Faine wasn’t. Nor Braylon Edwards. Nor Beau-freaking-Bell.
So, can you blame the fans for having doubts about draft picks? Yes, this current regime isn’t responsible for 14 years of futility, but neither have they had to sit here and watch this mess for a decade and a half.
These regimes like to talk about sustainable winning. How about inconsistent winning? How about flash in the pan winning? While the powers that be are concentrating on winning multiple seasons, the fans would like to see just one.
So, I understand all of that from the fans because I feel the same way. But no matter who you’re talking to — fans or front office — it all comes down to getting stars. And the star is not Jon Gruden or Nick Saban, just as it wasn’t Mike Holmgren. The star has to be someone who gets on the field and really makes things happen.
And for the Browns, there’s only one position where they have to find that star: Quarterback. Since Couch, the Browns have drafted two QBs in the first round, both with the No. 22 pick: Brady Quinn and Weeden. Both were misses.
The Browns need to hit on a quarterback with their first pick, and they need to hit on a star. Which one? I have no idea. But if it costs them all 10 picks, I don’t care. They need to get themselves a star QB.
If they don’t? Well, Browns fans, get ready for the 2015 draft.