Browns heading in right direction, finally

A few issues ago, I wrote that the Browns shouldn't waste the first pick in the 2017 draft on a quarterback. Now, it's time to look back to the year 1999, when Cleveland re-entered the NFL and used the first pick in the draft on – what else – a quarterback.

Tim Couch was the first pick in that draft for the Cleveland Browns. It was a pick that was the start of the futility of the Browns going forward to current day. The issue wasn't with Tim Couch. He may have been a premier quarterback under better circumstances, but he was coming to an expansion team that had a horrible offensive line, no running backs to speak of and only one wide receiver that was any good, Kevin Johnson. KJ, as he came to be known, was the Browns second-round pick in that same draft. 

With minimal talent around him, Tim Couch got beat up. He missed the final nine games of the 2000 season with a broken thumb. In 2002, while leading the Browns to the playoffs, he suffered a broken leg in the final game of that season. After that injury, he was never the same and was cut by the Browns in 2004.

The sad part of all of this, is that the Browns should have traded away the Tim Couch pick. This was the year, 1999, that Mike Ditka was the coach of the New Orleans Saints. He desperately wanted to draft running back Ricky Williams. The Browns had the opportunity to trade the first pick in the draft to New Orleans. The Browns would have received all of the Saints draft picks for that year, along with first and third round picks the next year.

Building a team from scratch, the Browns would have had a chance to trade down again in that first round of 1999 to pick up additional high-round picks for that same year or possibly an additional first round pick in 2000 or even more. After trading down, they would have had the opportunity to start building a foundation for the team heading into the new century. They would have been able to secure some linemen, both for offense and defense, along with any other position players that would have fallen to them in that draft.

If they had followed this strategy to build a foundation, they would have also ended up with both the first and second picks in the 2000 draft. This would have been quite a bonanza for an expansion team building from the ground up. They could have used both picks or, once again, traded at least one of them to earn additional high-round picks for that year and probably another first-rounder in 2001.

This scenario should sound very familiar to current Browns fans, as I am seeing this strategy finally ... and I will repeat that ... FINALLY, being used as of last year. The Browns parlayed their second pick in last year's draft to include an additional first-round and also a second-round draft pick in the upcoming draft, along with additional picks that were used last year. The Browns currently hold five picks in the top 65 of the upcoming draft. This will be their opportunity to add a few Pro Bowl-caliber players to their nucleus that will be counted on to make a long-term impact on the future success of the team. It was difficult going through that expansion year back in 1999. Unfortunately, the Browns found it necessary to force their fans to go through the excruciating pain of what amounted to a second one last year.

The strategy is now in place and it is a good one. The next and more important piece of the plan will be to draft admirably this year and bring in those All Pro-caliber players. Execute the plan or plan to be executed; the warning is the same as with the previous brain trusts of this team, except this group has taken some solid first steps.

Greg Schwert

Proud single parents of four children that enjoys sporting events and is the President of Parents Without Partners Chapter #1395.

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Volume 9, Issue 5, Posted 10:21 AM, 03.21.2017