Friday, April 19, 2013

Fred Astaire had nothing on these guys

Here we are less than a week until National Football League college draft weekend and we have no more idea of what the Browns are going to do in the annual lottery than we did four months ago.

After club CEO Joe Banner and General Manager Mike Lombardi conducted the annual pre-draft get together with the media Thursday, we gleaned very little – no, make that nothing – as they tap-danced their way around just about every question.

These guys should have been politicians the way they deftly non-answered the media’s queries. No matter how many different ways some of the questions were couched, the answers remained the same.

Banner let his guard down only once, but it was not draft related. And he was remarkably candid.

Asked whether the club felt pressure from the fans to win now, he replied, “There is a lot of pressure, mostly self-imposed frankly, for us to be successful.” Normally when someone says frankly in an answer, I get suspicious. It’s as though he’s trying to sound genuine.

He continued. “What we are trying really hard to do is resist the temptation of doing something quickly and not being able to sustain it. That versus trying to have some degree of patience.

“I think you’ve seen us both be patient, but also active and build it the right way. So we have a chance to not sneak into the playoffs once and then go backwards, but build a team that should be sustainable and has the right strengths to compete against the best teams in the league.”

In other words, he’s not looking for the quick fix, as opposed to building slowly and sustaining what he expects to be significant progress from season to season. He does not want the Browns to be a one-season wonder.

As for the current off-the-field distraction, a.k.a. Jimmy Haslam III vs. the government, Banner adroitly avoided stepping anywhere near that minefield, so it shouldn’t interfere with the fans’ fun next week.  

Other that that, the only piece of information they conceded was assigning first-round grades to 18-20 players. All of which means there is a strong likelihood they will trade out of the sixth slot in the first round in an effort to pick up extra selections.

It wouldn’t surprise if Banner and Lombardi trade down more than once in the opening round, stockpiling even more picks, if they believe they can still be in position to draft someone they have targeted.

And when it’s all over Saturday evening, you can bet  they will pronounce themselves extremely satisfied with their work. That, of course, is what all teams do. (Sarcasm alert!) The post-draft manual requires it. (End sarcasm alert!)

So unless Banner and Lombardi do something extremely bizarre, like selecting someone far higher than most experts project, a large majority of the fans then will begin a love affair with the new Brownies. Never forget, though, that this club has drafted the likes of Mike Junkin, David Veikune and Brian Robiskie in the first two rounds of the draft.

How much worse than most of their predecessors can Banner and Lombardi be? They have to be pretty bad to be compared to Dwight Clark, Butch Davis, Phil Savage and Eric Mangini. Not including Tom Heckert Jr. with this group since he experienced a modicum of success in his two seasons in Cleveland.

Then again, as someone once said: Ya never know.

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