Turmoil Since the Turn of the Century

If you take a quick scan of the Wikipedia page for the city of Cleveland, you’ll notice that their motto is “Progress and Prosperity.” I’m sure Cleveland is fully of lovely people, but their sports teams have been anything but in recent years. Specifically speaking football, the city has endured more than their fair share of losing and heartbreak since 1999. Through horrible drafting, mediocre coaching, and poor quarterback play, Cleveland does not rock… despite popular opinion.

Tim Couch, 1st overall pick in 1999

Tim Couch, 1st overall pick in 1999

With their six top 5 draft picks since 1999, the Cleveland Browns have selected Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Gerrard Warren, Braylon Edwards, Joe Thomas, and Trent Richardson. These six players have combined to average less than 4 seasons each with the team, with only one (Thomas) considered remotely successful and one (Brown) doesn’t even get listed first when you Google him. Failure in the NFL draft is understandable and even accepted in some cases. But six top 5 picks? With one hit? Now that’s downright dreadful. Take a look at this chart from the 2012 draft:

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Save for cool hair from Travis Benjamin, not a single one of those players made a meaningful impact on the 2013 team. This kind of drafting explains a lot. The Browns have not made the postseason since 2007, but it’s not like they’ve been in the hunt either. The team has averaged roughly five wins per season over the last fifteen years and not eclipsing more than five since ’07. While lack of necessary incoming talent is a serious issue, it may not be the most pressing matter on hand.

To win in the National Football League, a good coach is an essential ingredient to the puzzle. When one thinks of Super Bowl winning coaches, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, Bill Walsh, and Bill Belichick come to mind. Sure, there are exceptions such as Barry Switzer (Cowboys, 1996) and Brian Billick (Ravens, 2000), but for the most part, the coach can make or break a team.

In the past fifteen years Cleveland has employed eight different head coaches and none of them have a winning record with the team. To put that into perspective, division rival Pittsburgh Steelers have had only 3 head coaches… since 1969. Why do the Steelers hold the record for most Super Bowl victories? Continuity at Head Coach. Why have the New England Patriots been the most successful franchise in the past fifteen years? Continuity at Head Coach. Why have the Cleveland Browns failed so much in recent seasons? I think you know the answer to that by now. One can only wish new boss Mike Pettine the best of luck.

What goes hand in hand with coaching? Quarterbacking of course. The only time in NFL history where a team without a star quarterback has won a Super Bowl was the 2000 Baltimore Ravens with Trent Dilfer. Other than that, year in and year out it’s most likely a future hall-of-famer holding up the Lombardi trophy. Look at this chart chronicling the signal callers in the land of “Progress and Prosperity” over the past fifteen years:

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Needless to say, none of these guys are getting a bust in Canton anytime soon. So while the Browns have had talent at various positions over the years, they have never managed to strike gold at the most important position on the field.

In the three most important aspects of harboring a successful NFL franchise, the Browns have recently failed miserably. With the 4th overall pick in this years draft, they have a chance to turn it all around; however, recent history doesn’t suggest improvement. Prosperity and Progress… keep sayin’ it Cleveland. Keep sayin’ it.