Cleveland Botches Potential Rebuild

The 2018 NFL Draft was critical for the Cleveland Browns after a season in which they didn’t win a single game, compiling a record of 0–16. There has only been one other team in National Football League history that has gone winless: the 2008 Detroit Lions. The Browns, whose performance has been notoriously bad over the past couple decades, need to make significant changes if they want to overcome their current laughing-stock standing as a laughingstock in the league.

One of the best opportunities for a franchise to improve is through the NFL Draft, which occurs every April. Quick changes were absolutely necessary for Browns executives looking to keep their jobs, and they responded by making a number of big — and surprising — moves.

Football fans all over the world were stunned last Thursday when the Browns named Oklahoma quarterback and 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield as their number-one pick. Many analysts predicted in their mock drafts that Cleveland would choose Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley, who many believed was the best player in the draft. However, the Browns desperately need a quarterback as well, and fans can’t always depend on sports analysts — at the end of the day, it’s general managers who make the decision. Cleveland needs a franchise quarterback who will lead the team to success in the next few years, and John Dorsey and his staff believe that Mayfield is that guy.

This decision might silence doubters and pay off, or it might fail in epic fashion — something the Browns are all too familiar with. The city of Cleveland has seen the rise and fall of a plethora of quarterbacks throughout the years — some who were doomed from the start. Recent examples include the likes of former Texas A&M star quarterback Johnny Manziel and former Baylor University Bears and Baltimore Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III, both of whom were also Heisman winners. Many Browns fans are skeptical for this reason. Mayfield could end up becoming another Johnny Manziel, as he has a similar reputation.

When considering the context, I completely understand why many Browns fans are dissatisfied with the Mayfield pick. Cleveland recently picked up quarterback Tyrod Taylor from the Buffalo Bills this spring, which led many fans to believe that Taylor would be the Browns’ franchise quarterback. In fact, Taylor might still fill that role for the organization, so why would the Browns draft another quarterback instead of drafting Barkley, who is clearly the best running back in the draft? After all, the Browns needed a running back, and they already wasted a second-round pick on quarterback Deshone Kizer last year. His name may infuriate many Browns fans, considering he performed terribly in the only season he played for the franchise before being traded to the Green Bay Packers.

Kizer threw 11 touchdowns in 15 games compared to 22 interceptions before being traded to the Green Bay Packers. Another one bites the dust.

Despite the doubts and skepticism, the Browns are optimistic about the upcoming season, and with all these changes, maybe they should be. Even with all of the surrounding concerns, Mayfield has a lot of potential, and if he develops like he’s supposed to, he could enjoy a lot of success in the NFL. In addition, the competition between Mayfield and Taylor will make each one better, which, in turn, will make the team better.

The quarterbacks also have a number of weapons to work with after acquiring star wide receiver Jarvis Landry during the offseason and bringing back Josh Gordon from last season.

But let’s all remember that it’s the Cleveland Browns we are talking about. The Browns embody the epitome of Murphy’s Law: Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. The franchise’s history of bad luck has been the theme of their embarrassing seasons of the past several years. We can only hope that Mayfield will prove himself as a leader who can turn the entire organization around. We’ll just have to patiently wait until the fall to see.