Sunday, April 29, 2007

The drafting of a dynasty

What a great day to be a Cleveland Browns fan.

There are not many days I can say that. In fact, I can't think of another day in decades that has made a mark on the franchise quite like Saturday.

There have obviously been plenty of dark days when Browns fandom felt more like a sickness. Too many to list. Some major, some minor. But for the first time since art modell - a name not deserving of capitalization - moved the franchise, there is hope.

Hope can be a dangerous thing, of course, bringing only further despair and descent into the pigskin insanity. But it'd be hard to argue that in this particular case. The Browns got better Saturday. They got better in a hurry. They made a bold freaking move.

Not since Cleveland drafted Ozzie Newsome and Clay Matthews in the first round of the '78 draft has there been this kind of optimism.

Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn? Hallelujaih!

Thomas was the guy I wanted at No. 3 all along. Since the return of the franchise from purgatory, three regimes consistently failed to address the offensive line. After six years of watching quarterbacks flee for their lives, the Browns signed center LeCharles Bently, the first indication the latest regime got it.

Bentley was crippled by the Cleveland Curse and may never play a down for the Browns, but at least they showed interest in correcting the problem.

Now they've got Thomas, a left tackle to dominate for the next decade. Finally. He's going to make an immediate impact. Running and passing games are both immediately upgraded. With Eric Steinbach now at left guard, Kevin Shaffer can switch to his more natural right tackle position. God, if LeCharles can ever play again, it's going to be the best line in football.

But they weren't going anywhere - no matter who the quarterback or tailback were - until they addressed the line.

I wanted Thomas ahead of Quinn at No. 3 for that reason. Also, admittedly, because I'm not entirely sold on Quinn. I haven't seen him step up and win a big game. Quite the opposite, in fact. But that was my same criticism of Peyton Manning eight years ago. He could never beat Florida when it counted.

Shows what I know.

I believe Quinn has Pro Bowl potential. Even if he turns into a middle-of-the-pack NFL starter, this is a great upgrade. Not to mention great story. How many draft prospects come out and say, "I want to play for Clevleand!" (Not since Bernie Kosar).

Cleveland paid a steep price to move up and select Quinn at No. 22. Next year's No. 1. It's a top-10 pick. We know a 6-10 or 7-9 record is probably the best we can hope for from the 2007 team.

But I figure if they had Quinn rated as a top-10 prospect this year, then it's worth it. If they believe he is a franchise quarterback, then it's worth it.

They essentially spent their first-round pick in '08 on Quinn, and paid the price of a second-rounder to get him this year and start the building process that much sooner.

What an opportunity. Even better, Brian Billick was on the phone with Quinn when the Browns slid into the No. 22 spot, up from No. 36. Baltimore was talking trade with Kansas City at No. 23. Always nice to get a small measure of revenge over that creaky bastard in Baltimore.

The Browns roster has been devoid of talent for seven years. In those seasons, they have had exactly one Pro Bowler. Jamir Miller in 2001. One Pro Bowler in seven seasons. There's probably 60 to 80 Pro Bowlers every season.

So the Browns have had 1 in 490 chances? Jesus, what a talenteless team.

Not anymore. Two huge building blocks are in place after Saturday. Maybe three with the cornerback they took out of UNLV in the third round, who had transferred out of Southern Cal after some legal quandaries.

Next year, Quinn will take his lumps. But the foundation is set. For the first time in a long time. Probably for the first time since the Newsome/Matthews draft established the teams that became the Kardiac Kids in the early 80s, then the teams that played Denver a few years later.

Congratulations, Cleveland.

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At 5:01 PM, Blogger Todd Cohen said...

I thought the Browns did well as well....mazel tov to you and those freaks out in Cleveland.

As much as Brady Quinn was hyped by those in the media, I am a little skeptical of this pick.

We all know the Doplphins pass on Quinn for Theodore Ginn, Jr. It should be noted that Quinn spent the offseason working with the Miami coach and QB coach.

If THEY weren't sold on him, how good can he really be?

Then again....Terry Shea is their QB coach.

Never mind.

At 3:16 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I see many-a-cleavland weekenders in our future.

Before we go, I promise to take that NFL101 class. Though I fear it might be taught by one L.Carr?!?

At 6:39 AM, Blogger Smokey Robinson (aka Matt) said...

I'm not sure if you remember this, but after Peyton Manning's first season in the NFL, you and I actually compared him to Scott Mitchell.

And I thought you were supposed to be an expert.

So which do you think will be greater in '07: the number of Browns wins or the number of tearful retirement speeches given by Brett Favre?


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