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It’s the Cleveland Browns

“It’s the Cleveland Browns

When they’re Siped up, you can’t shut ’em down

Take your tranquilizers, pop your beer-can lids

It’s the Kardiac Kids.”

That is the chorus of a novelty song from my childhood, a song called “The Kardiac Kids,” by Messenger. It came out in Cleveland in 1980 when the Browns had a semi-magical season, and I probably hear that chorus in my head once or twice a month. It’s like that gum commercial in “Inside Out.” I expect to hear it in my head for the rest of my life.

I think, sometimes, about what the Cleveland Browns represented then. I was 13 years old, and the Browns had not won anything in my lifetime. But the Browns were still a proud organization. The echoes of Paul Brown and Jim Brown and Otto Graham and Lou the Toe Groza still rang. Nobody thought of the Browns as a joke. They were a great team that happened to be in a temporary lull. By then, I already knew that the Cleveland Indians were laughable. I already knew that the Cleveland Cavaliers were a clownish organization. But the Browns? They were NFL royalty.

I thought about this when I read Mary Kay Cabot’s story this morning.

I should warn you … it is a strange story, one that might make you wonder if you mistakenly clicked to the second page by mistake or, perhaps, have gone mad.

The lede paragraph:

CLEVELAND, Ohio  — The Bengals did locate the email from the Browns about the AJ McCarron trade that was sent just before the trade deadline Tuesday, but they were in the process of filing their paperwork to the NFL and did not see it until later, a Bengals spokesperson told cleveland.com.

This is English, and it actually does make sense when you know the story … but why would you know the story? Why would you bother?

The Cleveland Browns have no idea what they are doing. I do not say that lightly. You often hear people say that this manager or that coach or this organization does not know what they are doing, but that’s an overstatement meant to express the full load of frustration at the team for bunting at the wrong time or messing up the clock in the final minutes or something. In the larger sense, everyone at the highest level of professional sports has some idea what they are doing, right?

No. Not the Cleveland Browns. They literally do not know what they are doing.

Before I get into the specifics of this McCarron fiasco, I’d like to — as Agent Smith says in The Matrix — share a revelation with you. I’ve been trying to put into words for a while now why I’m so frustrated by the Browns front office official policy of hoarding draft picks. In a sense, this is the smartest thing to do, right? This team has been terrible. So what do you do? You get a whole bunch of high draft picks and then use those picks to get great players who then make up a fantastic team. Lots of teams do it. The Philadelphia 76ers seem to be in the midst of doing that.

The Browns have five picks in the first two rounds next year, so that’s good, no?

My friend Dayton Moore, the general manager of the Kansas City Royals, told me something a while ago that has stuck with me. He said that when he hires scouts, one of the most important ingredients is that the scout “likes players.” I know that sounds strange, but stay with me here.

The thing about scouting is that it is easier, much easier, to see the flaws than it is to see the potential. The vast majority of players don’t make it. In a sense, as a scout, you are going out on a limb every single time you say that you believe in a player … even a hyped player. The easiest answer for any scout is always, “No.” If you file a report that says, “Doesn’t have the skills to be a Major League/NFL/NBA/NHL star,” you will be right 1,000-times more often than you will be wrong.

But “No,” doesn’t DO anything. No doesn’t build teams. No certainly doesn’t build championships. This is why Dayton Moore wants scouts who like players, who see the good in players, who will fight for players, who will risk being wrong again and again because being right means so much.

That thought is at the heart of what I have come to loathe about the Cleveland Browns. They do LIKE any players. They so clearly see what’s WRONG with players. They can give you a hundred reasons why Carson Wentz won’t make it. They only draft players reluctantly. They seem to spend more time high-fiving about nebulous draft picks (that have the potential to lead to MORE draft picks) than they do high-fiving about getting actual players who can help the team win. It’s maddening.

The last two days have been instructive. It became clear over the summer that Hue Jackson, the Browns beleaguered coach, REALLY LIKES New England backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Jackson came to Cleveland with a deserved reputation of being something of a quarterback guru for the patchwork surgery he had done on Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. At the time, Dalton as floundering a bit. Jackson understood Dalton’s strengths (quick release, smart player, generally accurate) and his weaknesses (sub-standard arm, not a great deep ball, somewhat jumpy in the pocket) and he built an offense that made Dalton effective. It was exciting to think about what Jackson could do with a young quarterback.

Then he came and the Browns made clear they had no interest in giving him a young quarterback. The Browns had the No. 2 pick, slotted by everyone for Carson Wentz. They traded down. They had the pick that was ideal for Deshaun Watson. They traded down. The spin was that the Browns were not ready for a franchise quarterback … or that they had too many other problems to solve … or that franchise quarterback was slated for Year 3 of the rebuild … or something.

The reality: The Cleveland Browns front office does not like players.

Instead, they gave Hue Jackson a couple of potential sleepers– Cody Kessler and Deshone Kiser — and told him, “OK quarterback guru, let’s see you make one of THOSE guys into a franchise quarterback.” He has not been able to do so.

In any case, Hue Jackson really wanted Garoppolo, and the Browns certainly had the draft picks to go get him. But, alas, the front office doesn’t like players. So they made half-hearted offers to the Patriots for the guy and then, if reports are true, left the office early on Monday while the 49ers zoomed in and got the guy for a second-round pick.

It’s kind of hard to believe the Browns, as draft-pick rich as they are, couldn’t have done better than that. There are rumors that Garoppolo preferred San Francisco and Patriots coach Bill Belichick wanted to help out his player. This rumor is comedy gold; it is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. Bill Belichick would have shipped Garoppolo to Siberia if offered an extra pick.

But, alas, the Browns did not get too involved in the whole Garoppolo thing, which shows you exactly what they think of Hue Jackson. Sometimes front offices and coaching staffs are not on the same page. The Browns front office and Jackson are not even in the same library.

All of this finally brings us to the McCarron fiasco. My guess — and I admit I’m guessing here — is that at this point Browns owner Jimmy Haslam stepped in. I don’t claim to have any deep insight into the inner workings of the Browns, but Haslam could not possibly have been happy with the Garoppolo madness. I think he told the front office — Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta specifically — “DO SOMETHING.”

 

So they decided to get Hue Jackson a consolation prize, Cincinnati backup quarterback A.J. McCarron, someone Jackson knew in Cincinnati. The Browns, because they are the Browns, offered more for McCarron (a second and a third round pick) than the 49ers paid to get Garoppolo. Because … Browns.

It was an ill-considered deal, but at least it was an effort to get the Browns a little help.

Then the craziness begins. Let’s see if we can follow the line. The Browns and Bengals agreed to the deal with just minutes to go before the 4 p.m. trade deadline.

First story: The Browns and Bengals trade was not completed because the Browns failed to get the papwerwork into the league on time.

So that was not good. But it got better.

Second story: The Browns and Bengals trade was not completed because the Browns were too busy CELEBRATING to remember to get the paperwork into the office on time.

Some things are so stupid, you just can’t believe they are true.

Third story: It was the Bengals who failed to send in the correct paperwork — they sent in their paperwork with their own signatures but it did not include the Browns signatures.

Wait! Now the problem seems to be the Bengals, which … OK that seems unlikely.

Fourth story: The Bengals said, no, they never got any paperwork from the Browns and they did everything right.

Yeah. That sounds more like it.

Fifth story (now we are getting to the Cabot story above): The Bengals said, yes, actually after a while they did find the Browns paperwork in their email box, but had never seen it because it came from some guy named Chris Cooper, who apparently nobody in Cincinnati even knew. And anyway, none of it mattered because, the Browns still needed to send the paperwork to the league office, which they did not do because … Browns.

This is where the story seems to be now.

The Cleveland Browns do not know what they are doing.

So now let me say this: My biggest Browns rooting interest the last two years has been in stability. My feeling has been that the recent history of Cleveland football is so absurdly scattered and uneven that what this team needs is to stick with a plan, ANY PLAN, and just let it play out. I’ve wanted the Sashi Brown-Paul DePodesta thing to work. I’ve wanted the Hue Jackson thing to work. I’ve refrained from saying that any of them should be fired, even to close friends.

But you know what? This is too much incompetence even for me. The Browns have a baseball guy and a money guy running their football operations. They have a head coach who is 1-23 and is basically being treated like the crazy guy who sneaked in through an open gate. They have a bunch of draft picks and no clue what to do with them. They have a whole team players who make dumb mistakes week after week after week and never seem to get better. Even their rock, Joe Thomas, is hurt and out.

I honestly thought it couldn’t get worse. But that’s the trap. Buddy Bell was right. It can always get worse.

 

 

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31 Responses to It’s the Cleveland Browns

  1. Chris Smith says:

    I’ve said it before, and possibly even on this site, but I was raised a Redskins fan. I gave up on them when it was clear Snyder was in his own world and would never build anything respectable. Even with that, though, at least HE TRIES TO WIN!

    I cannot figure out why anyone would waste a single second cheering the Browns. Awful.

    • Tom says:

      Thank you, Chris. THANK YOU. I cannot understand it either. And that is why fan is short for “fanatic”, I suppose. No logic or reason.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I think this was the issue for the Falcons before Arthur Blank took over. The owners, The Smiths, didn’t really show much interest in winning. So, they inevitably caught lightening in a bottle a couple of times, but never had back to back winning seasons in their entire history. Once Arthur Blank bought the team, everything changed. Everything was done to make the Falcons a first class winning franchise. It should have all culminated with a Super Bowl win last year, but that didn’t quite happen. Point is… Ownership in the NFL means everything. If the owner isn’t good at hiring his executives, isn’t willing to spend the money to win, isn’t focused on making the franchise a place where players WANT to sign and isn’t spending a lot of time thinking about ways to get better…. then you’ll never win. You can get 2-3 of those things right and still not win. You might get lucky one year, but to be a winning franchise requires that you do all of those things right. With the Browns, do they get ANY of them right?

  2. Bruce says:

    The crazy thing is, this probably worked out best for all involved. McCarron is not that good, thus saving the Browns draft picks and yet another bad QB. Plus, this not happening probably saved McCarron’s career. Instead of going where quarterbacks careers end, McCarron gets to keep his health and continue carrying a clipboard.

    • Matt Cramer says:

      True but you could say that about every potential Browns deal. Since no deal ever works out, it’s always for the best if it never happens — especially for the player involved. Bengals would have actually done something with those picks though; Browns will just take more doomed players.

  3. Windier E. Megatons says:

    At this point you can’t help but wonder if it’s some sort of “Springtime for Hitler” deal.

  4. Ross H. says:

    I think they’re doing the “not liking anyone too much” intentionally. They view their set of players and picks as a stock portfolio. And they think they can’t beat the market, so just look for the best value. But like you said, they don’t have a plan for how to arrange their assets into a winning football team.

  5. I know the Royals, Indians, and Cavaliers have betrayed you with their recent successes but the Browns will never let you down Joe; you’ll always have this narrative to write about.

  6. Bryan says:

    The 49ers offered a 2nd round pick and Brian Hoyer for Garoppolo and that was the trade that was completed although it included a step that Hoyer was “released” in order to avoid potential issues with compensatory draft picks.
    *
    The Browns who haven’t had a competent backup quality QB since Hoyer left the Browns after the first year of the Johnny Manziel era were not a feasible trade partner for the Patriots unless New England was willing to trade Garoppolo to the highest bidder and then sign Kaepernick.

    • Hamster Huey says:

      That’s interesting – I hadn’t read this take anywhere. Was it that obvious nobody would sign Hoyer off waivers after he was cut? Would his salary demands have been unreasonable? Otherwise that’s at least a bit of a gamble for the Pats.

      • Spaceman Spiff says:

        Hamster Huey and the gooey kablooie!!!

      • Rob Smith says:

        How many teams are looking for backup QBs and willing to spend extra money to obtain one? Half way through the year, it should be zero. You don’t really have the time to bring them up to speed and you don’t have the cap money to bid for them. The Patriots need a backup because they just traded theirs and had also traded their 3rd string QB early in the year. So they were in an unusual situation where they just dumped their backup and his higher than normal backup QB salary and the third string guy that might have been ready to step up to backup. They needed “someone” and had cap room. If you went through all the other teams, nobody was in that same situation that I’m aware of.

  7. Jim says:

    How did Kevin Costner make all this look so easy?

  8. shagster says:

    Feel for you buddy. Get Shaw. He gets injured — likely w Thomas out — or he wins.

    Or get Kaep. His numbers last year were decent, and he had NO team around him.

    He flat out has a gun for an arm. Think George, but hell of a lot better a QB. Needs help disguising his reads. Stuff Jackson knows how to handle. W Gordon potentially coming back Cleveland will need a guy accurate downfield. Kaep is definitely that

    • Rob Smith says:

      The thing I’ve been wondering about Kaepernick is whether he’s in football shape. There are already issues with him being toxic to part of the fan base and his being more of a read option QB that only fits a few teams in the league. That’s 2 1/2-3 strikes already. Is he ready to step in if someone actually got desperate enough to sign him? I really don’t know the answer, but one couldn’t blame him if he wasn’t in shape because he realizes nobody is going to sign him.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        Supposedly he has continued to work out in hopes someone will sign him. Maybe he’s not the best fit in the NFL, but does anyone really believe he wouldn’t be playing SOMEWHERE if not for the controversy? I can understand why teams don’t want the hassle, but it’s hard for me to believe, just on a football level, that he isn’t a better option than at least some of the backups in the league.

  9. MikeN says:

    Whose 2nd rounder did Cleveland offer for McCarron? Pats got the 49ers pick which is almost a 1st rounder. If Cleveland wasn’t offering their own pick, it might not have been a better offer.

  10. Steve says:

    Buddy Bell said: “Things can always get worse” while managing the KC Royals at a time when the Royals were a reasonable facsimile if the current Browns organization. But let the Royals be an example to Browns fans. Things can also always get better.

  11. Mark Daniel says:

    That not liking players thing reminds me of the scene in Zero Dark Thirty where the team is meeting with the CIA director (James Gandolfini) about the location of Bin Laden.

    CIA Director: Now very simply, is he there or is he not there?
    His team: “We call come at this through the filter of our own experiences.”
    “There’s a 60% probability he’s there.”
    “I concur. 60%.”
    “I’m at 80%”
    CIA Director: Do you guys ever agree on anything?
    “I’d say it’s a soft 60, sir.”
    Then Jessica Chastain (Maya) chimes in: “One hundred percent. Okay, fine, nintey-five percent because I know certainty freaks you guys out. But it’s a hundred.”

    The Browns need someone like Jessica Chastain.

  12. Eric says:

    I just really disagree with the premise here. You want your scouts to love players, but your front office needs to be cold and calculating. I don’t think Bill Belichick has ever loved a player in his life. He would trade Tom Brady tomorrow if he thought he was getting a good deal. That cold efficiency has allowed New England to put a great roster around their star quarterback for 17 consecutive seasons. When your front office falls in love with players, you trade your franchise for Herschel Walker, trade your whole draft for Ricky Williams, mortgage your future for Ryan Leaf, trade three picks for Tim Tebow, dump Jerome Bettis for Lawrence Phillips. In the Browns’ case, you trade up for Trent Richardson and draft Johnny Manziel because a bum told you to. And yeah, every once in a while you end up with Deshaun Watson — but even that could end up being a disaster. RG3 looked incredible until he tore his ACL, too, and now that draft-day trade is just another bust.

    This Browns front office has consistently made good decisions in every area except one: college player evaluation. And yeah, that’s a really important part of the job, probably the most important, but I’m hoping it’s something they can improve on. The decision-making process is good; the information is bad.

    As for acquiring a quarterback to appease Hue Jackson, I’d like to go back to the one time the Browns DID draft a player they loved. Remember Cody Kessler? “You’ll just have to trust me on this one,” Hue Jackson said with a sly smile. Cold analysis said that Kessler didn’t have what it takes to play in the NFL, but the Browns drafted him for Jackson. Now Hue wants another quarterback. All I can say is, thank God the McCarron trade didn’t go through.

    • Mr Fresh says:

      I agree with this. However, I do think they need an excellent talent evaluator/scout providing input into their choices.. because the Ivy league guys aren’t getting it done and Hue is too busy calling plays to make a difference at draft time.

    • MarkW says:

      You’re missing the point. It’s not about “falling in love with players”, it’s about not being so negatively self-protecting that you never take a shot at anyone.

  13. E.H says:

    First, build your lines and you’ll be fine.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I agree. We bring blocking and tackling into the discussion but then quickly veer off into QB talk. If you block and protect your QB, almost any player who can make the NFL can have some success. If you get a leaky line, the QB is getting hit and doesn’t have time to make reads. That creates sacks and turnovers, which lose games. Unless you’re Aaron Rodgers, you need a line to make successful throws. And even Aaron Rodgers gets hurt if he gets hit too often. A lot has been made of the Falcons lack of offensive success this year. The claim was made on the air by Joe Buck and Troy Aikman that the Falcons were the same team as last year. That’s incorrect. Their right guard retired and their Pro Bowl right tackle got hurt. The right side of the line is a disaster. I should also add that Alex Mack is not having the year at Center that he had last year either. That may be his age or it may be the issues to his right. But either way, the situation on the line has disrupted everything. Last year they had five excellent linemen who played almost every snap together. None of them missed a game or even significant time during a game. “Shockingly”, they had a lot of success. This year, they don’t have the continuity, the right side is a mess, and suddenly they’re getting sacked (Ryan is running for his life way too much), turning the ball over and not getting the ball downfield. I don’t see why this is such a mystery to the NFL writers and announcers. It’s the only thing, literally, that’s different from last year. Duh.

  14. MikeN says:

    Reports are that Red Sox will get Stanton. I say Jeter would never allow it. What do you think?

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      I buy it, but I think the Cardinals have a better chance of landing Stanton. The question becomes: who would the Sox give up to top the potential package of young pitchers that the Cards will offer? Early reports have them packaging Benintendi – but I can’t see that happening. I also don’t see them moving Devers. Without those two…I’m not sure they can put together a strong enough package to top the package the Cards will offer.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        I would be very cautious about trading for Stanton. Keith Law noted that he has been injured a lot and missed a large number of games over the years (aside from the time he missed after his beaning). Other than last year, his career hasn’t been that great. I wouldn’t want to take on that contract. Now, maybe last year is really a truer picture of what Stanton really is, which would obviously make it a better risk.

    • MikeN says:

      I was asking about whether Jeter would be anti-Sox.

  15. Unvenfurth says:

    I was going to make a Tyler Thigpen joke, but the Browns already had him on thier team, as recently as 2014!!!! WOW!

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