Thursday, March 22, 2012

The trading game

There’s an aphorism in sports that goes something like this: Sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make.

In the case of the Browns and their love affair with Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin the Third in next month’s National Football League college draft, that rings so true.

If the reports are to be believed, the Browns were more than willing to mortgage a large chunk of their future (three first-round picks) for an untried, untested quarterback who might go on to become the next John Elway or Peyton Manning. But he just as easily might go on to become the next Akili Smith or JaMarcus Russell.

There is absolutely no guarantee Griffin will arrive in the NFL and become an instant star like Cam Newton did down in Carolina. What Newton accomplished happens maybe once in a generation. Not twice in consecutive years.

Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert Jr. don’t realize yet how lucky they are that the Washington Redskins made a better offer (they added a second-rounder to their package) to St. Louis for the Rams’ second pick in the next month’s college draft.

They don’t realize how lucky they are that they now can take their first three picks (Nos. 4, 22 and 37) and finally start to put together the kind of club they envisioned when they took over a couple of years ago.

That the Redskins trumped the Browns in the RG III sweepstakes angered many Browns fans who believed Holmgren and Heckert should have tried harder.

In fact, Holmgren complained to season ticket holders that his offer to the Rams “was every bit the offer that was chosen.” Then he complained further that a complicit relationship between the Rams and Redskins was the reason Washington won.

“There are reasons I can’t go into now why it didn’t happen,” he said. “I’m not sure if any offer we made at the end of the day was going to be quite good enough.”

Holmgren was referring to the chummy relationship between Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher. But Holmgren knows better because he worked that little scam nearly a dozen years ago in his first year as the coach and general manager in Seattle after leaving Green Bay.

He pulled off a similar deal, according to Don Banks of Sports Illustrated, 11 years ago when he swindled the Miami Dolphins out of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who was property of the Green Bay Packers at the time.

Just when the Dolphins thought they had a deal to send their first-round pick to the Packers for Hasselbeck, Holmgren stepped in and struck a better deal with his buddy, Packers general manager Ron Wolf, that did not involve giving up a draft pick.

What goes around comes around. Holmgren has no room to carp about the shenanigans between Fisher and Shanahan. Apparently the Browns’ president has a short memory.

Instead of making excuses for not landing Griffin, he should concentrate on the reason he was brought to Cleveland. Build a winning team. That hasn’t happened yet. It hasn't even come close.

Fashioning a 9-23 record in two seasons is not a ringing endorsement one can slap on a resume. That’s what Holmgren and Heckert have produced in the their two exceedingly long seasons in Cleveland.

The bloom has not just faded from this rose, it has disappeared. The days of the H&H guys getting a pass are gone and now they had better step up their plan to resurrect pride in the name Cleveland Browns or else face criticism that is long overdue.

Their little charade of coming in and living off their reputations isn't working any more. Expect the critics to begin chirping loudly if another losing season looms.

What the Browns need to do in this year’s lottery is what they failed to do last year – improve an offense that at times resembled a Division III program. There are way many holes to fill on that side of the ball, starting with the right side of the offensive line, running back and wide receiver.

It is incumbent to surround Colt McCoy with as many weapons as possible in order to make a solid determination whether he’s the quarterback they thought they drafted a few years ago.

If they so much as even think about drafting a defensive player in the first two rounds, they should turn in their credentials immediately because they don't understand and are no better than Eric Mangini, Phil Savage, Butch Davis or Dwight Clark.

No question the defense improved last season under Dick Jauron. But how many games can a team win when the offense has trouble averaging 14 points a game? When an offense scores more than 17 points just twice in 16 outings? When an offense produces only 20 touchdowns in 16 games?

How much more evidence does it take to make H&H realize offense is what’s holding this team back? It’s the offense, stupid, that needs to be addressed. And there are some pretty good offensive players in what promises to be a deep draft.

The draft seems to be the way Heckert wants to go since the Browns have signed just two nondescript free agents in defensive ends Juqua Parker and Frostee Rucker. Big whoop. Nothing more than a couple of sideways moves that will improve the Cleveland defense hardly at all. If Heckert is looking for an improved pass rush with these guys, he’s dreaming.

The Cleveland GM, quite obviously not a big fan of free agency, had better come up with a big draft this time because its success will depend to a large degree on how the Browns finish this coming season.

While the Browns won’t admit it, the 2012 season very well could be a make or break season for at least Heckert. Holmgren still has owner Randy Lerner’s ear – and that of a certain Seattle talk-show host, as well, it appears – and will get at least a fourth year.

Then the club president can finally bolt Cleveland and land where he is much more comfortable: in Seattle. It’s obviously a city he yearns for considering his family lives there, and his relationship with that talk show host.

In fact, he can probably do the show in studio rather than long distance.


  1. Rich - while I understand the frustration with the offense I must comment that successful teams do not draft for need, but usually take the dreaded BPA (best player available). If that's Claiborne, then so be it.

    1. True to a degree... but if you look at The Steelers as an example, they most often take BPA at a position of need....

  2. Thanks Rich for saying what needs to be said.

  3. You can't see the future any more than they can. Their strong pursuit of RG3, had it resulted in the trade, may have been what turned this franchise around. Who knows? You don't and you can't claim they dodged a bullet. Now, if it's your opinion they're better off with their future picks and you're glad it didn't work out. Fine. That's an opinion. Stating they dodged a bullet as if it were fact is just nonsense.

    1. Jim,

      I'm not stating this as fact. I'm stating this as an opinion. You can take it any way you want. I think the Browns dodged a bullet and I used this as a forum to say so.

      Only time will tell how right or wrong I am. I firmly the three picks they held on to -- courtesy of the stupid Washington Redskins -- will help them a lot more than any hotshot rookie quarterback.

      Like I said, The Third could turn out to be John Elway or Akili Smith.

      Thanx for your input.

  4. Anon . . .

    At No. 4, Trent Richardson is just as good for what he does as Claiborne is for what he does. Right now, flip that coin and it comes up offense every time in the first two rounds. Claiborne is very good, no question. But this club needs offense much, much more than it does defense.

  5. I must be the only one in the country who thinks the
    Rams made a bad trade.

    First of all, if you think that RG3 is *all that* why
    would you trade him to another NFC team? Let
    him go to the AFC and knock heads with Andrew
    Luck for the next ten years.

    Here's the trade St. Louis should have made: they
    should have asked Cleveland for the two number ones
    ...and Joe Thomas. The Rams are weak at left tackle
    and wide receiver. In one stroke, they could have had
    a franchise left tackle and taken Blackmon with the
    fourth pick. And still been players at #22. The team
    would have been immediately strengthened.

    Now everyone thinks the Browns would never have
    traded Joe Thomas. But if you believe that Griffen can
    take the Browns reliably to the playoffs, you make
    the trade. Especially if you're entering your third year
    as team President and a little panic is starting to set in.

    So now do the Browns do a Groundhog Day? In the
    movie, Bill Murray had to live the same day over and
    over until he got it right. Do the Browns trade away
    the rights to Blackmon or Matt Kalil for an extra first
    round pick in next year's draft and try to trade up
    for Barkley?


    1. Richard (nice name).

      There's absolutely no way the Browns would have parted with Joe Thomas in that deal. Period. He's the best player on a team that badly needs more good players. Trading him is not the way to achieve that.

      Now the notion that the Browns might trade away the fourth pick to the Rams makes a lot more sense. The Rams need wideouts and Justin Blackmon will be there at No. 4. That way, the Browns could pick up an extra pick, say a third-rounder, and still have a shot at Trent Richardson at No. 6.

      To me, that makes way more sense and keeps picks #22 and #37 in play. At those spots, the Browns could get a right offensive tackle and wide receiver.

      And Matt Barkley is nothing more than a wild card for next season. No one knows how this season will turn out and thus not know how the draft will play out in 2013.

      As for Griffin, I'm not nearly as sold on him as you seem to be. And don't worry about those other posters. Your explanation is enough to leave their posts alone. I'm certain other visitors will see it that way, too.

      Thanx for dropping in.

  6. My only problem w/ your opinion, is that you may be starting another lynch mob. Remember the one that saved Savage and ran Collins out of town? In hindsight, it looks like the fans picked the wrong guy to save. (Hard to know for sure, but we all know how things w/ Savage turned out).

    As fans, yes, we're frustrated. Unfortunately, bitching about it isn't going to help much. I'm pretty sure they know they need offensive playmakers. And if they draft defense and we have another losing season, and you successfully get H&H run out of town, then what? Another rebuilding process? We'll be back to square one and still have nothing to show for it.

    1. I'm not trying to start a lynch mob or run anyone
      out of town. Simply trying to speculate what the
      best trade would have been through the eyes of
      the Rams. And Heckert is way better at drafting
      than Savage was.

      Now if Cleveland - just for once - is really lucky,
      Matt Kalil would fall to us at #4 and we trade with
      the Rams for the #6 spot and a second rounder.
      Heckert could do the team some serious good
      with four picks in the first two rounds.


    2. My mistake. I thought the above email was a response
      to the email I posted about the Rams. Mr. Passan, if you
      could delete these two replies, I would appreciate it.