Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Only Way?

The NFL is a copycat league. This we know. When one team has success utilizing a certain play or system, other teams mock it. The Wildcat, for example.

This seems to have extended to how you build a successful team. Recent Super Bowl winners have featured homegrown Quarterbacks taken high in the first round of the draft – Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and so on. So other teams, seeing this success, are copying it. This would explain the Redskins mortgaging their future for the shot at drafting Robert Griffin.

And it also explains why some Browns fans are screaming for the front office to take Ryan Tannehill, who does not even represent the QB consolation prize in this year’s draft – that was Griffin. Tannehill, by most accounts, is the distant-third-best QB in the draft. A project that will need time to develop. A guy who we will not even know for about three years whether he was worth the investment.

But hey, recent Super Bowl winners have first-round QBs. So we gotta have one too, right?

No. Recent success by other teams doing something a certain way does not mean it’s the only way to be successful. See, I could point out a 6th round pick by the name of Tom Brady, or going back ten years, Trent Dilfer. The supporters of ‘Draft a QB High’ blueprint don’t like it when Dilfer is invoked. But it is a valid point – there’s more than one way to win in this league. Baltimore’s plan was a dominating defense and a ball-control offense…and a QB that doesn’t have to go win games (and on the flip side doesn’t lose them).

I know our front office has a plan. And I am sure somewhere in that plan is upgrading the QB position should Colt McCoy not be the answer. McCoy was a third-round pick, so if you subscribe to the ‘Draft a QB High’ theory to success, that’s about two and a half rounds too late, thus his fate is sealed. I am hoping by the point some are starting to see the over-simplistic folly of equating success with where your QB was drafted.

What I would say about the QB position is, it the most visible position on the team. He handles the ball on every play. And we know the QB gets too much of the credit when the team wins and too much of the blame when they lose. Which, by the way, explains much of the criticism of McCoy. With a losing record as a starter, he hasn’t (yet) captured the lightning in a bottle and elevated the play of those around him; therefore he doesn’t represent the express elevator ride to the top that the ‘Draft a QB High’ theorists want to see.

Well, I would offer that Tannehill won’t give us that ride either.

So here it is, here’s my take. Ready?

There are many ways to build a winning NFL franchise. Recent success of other teams notwithstanding. What we have experienced recently are teams that, somewhere along the way, were in a position to upgrade their QB position. They were in a draft position where they could get their QB of the future, let him ferment on the bench for a while, then step in and carry an already good team to higher level of success.

Read that last sentence again. Teams that were already good is the key.

The Browns are not good. Yet.

So how do we get good? Well, this year’s draft is going to be critical. With (presently) three picks in the top 37, we have the opportunity to get three impact players. If Heckert parlays that #4 overall pick into multiple first & second round picks, we will have even more. But unfortunately (or in my opinion, fortunately), QB will not be one of those players chosen.

Unless, of course, Heckert ignores the plan and instead tries to shortcut the way to the top like the Redskins are trying, by ignoring obvious areas of the team in need of upgrading in favor of a project QB.

I have a theory. And I will admit I hope it proves true since the Browns have been living it for about a decade now. It goes like this: The longer it takes for a team to get good, the longer they will be good once they get there. In other words, teams that have a plan and patiently stick to it will be rewarded once the plan produces. Conversely, those that try to shortcut their way to the top will either never get there or, if they do get there, won’t be there long.

So for the 2012 draft, ignore QB. It didn’t work out for us this year and we are in no position to be drafting projects in the top ten. Let the Dolphins take Tannehill. I will gladly welcome Trent Richardson, Justin Blackmon or Morris Claiborne to the team and enjoy watching them improve the team immediately.

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