Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When winning means losing

Everyone in Browns Nation was so thrilled last season when the Browns shocked just about everyone in the NFL and won their final four games. Little did we know at the time how much of a negative impact that would have on the club's future.

As we head into the NFL's college draft in about 24 hours, the Browns are slated to pick seventh in the opening round and most likely will wind up with a pretty good player. But it just as likely won't be the player who can have a profound impact on the defense.

That's because safety Eric Berry, in all probability, will be off the board and the Browns will have to make a decision to take either a very good offensive tackle, such as Bryan Bulaga or Anthony Davis, or Earl Thomas, a young safety out of Texas who isn't ready yet for the NFL.

With only one full season as a collegian, Thomas is too raw to come in and make an immediate difference. And that's what the Browns need on defense. Berry can provide that impact. Thomas has too many flaws in his game. Berry is NFL ready, having learned the ins and outs of the league from Monte Kiffin, his defensive coordinator last season with the Volunteers and a legendary NFL veteran.

Had the Browns maintained their losing ways last season, when they played some of the worst football in franchise history, they would have been in a much more advantageous position to grab someone like Berry without worrying whether he'd be there. Winning put the club just far enough out of reach for the blue chippers. Imagine that. The Browns can't win for losing. But they can lose for winning.

As it is, Mike Holmgren, rather than having a no-brainer for his top pick, will be forced to make a command decision as to the club's course in the opening round of the truncated draft. Sitting at No. 7 and with Berry probably off the board, Holmgren might be tempted to trade down, pick up extra draft picks and target a different area such as quarterback.

Of course, the possibility exists that Holmgren and General Manager Tom Heckert will surprise us by trading up instead of down to secure someone like Berry. It certainly is within the realm of possibility. But they've got to be very careful not to pay too high a price for such a move.

If only they could have lost a couple of more games last season. The season was so far out of hand after the first 12 games, anyway, no one would have cared.

So close and yet so far.

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