Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Berea brimming with confidence

When Sashi Brown and the Browns’ top brass in Berea enter the war room for the first round of the annual National Football League college draft sometime Thursday, they will do so with extreme confidence.

Even though it will be the first time for a majority of the residents of that room, self-assurance abounds.

“We’re set, locked in, know who we’ll be taking,” Brown declared on Cleveland radio Tuesday. “And if that player is not there, or if we get another offer that just blows our socks off, we’ll know how to react to that.”

His aim is to “stay calm and keep an open mind and then make great decisions. Go into the draft knowing the players you want, have conviction and don’t worry about what might have been. Just make the best possible decisions for yourself. Be prepared for every type of scenario that might come up.”

At the same time, observers around professional football will watch with keen interest to see if the Browns, after way too many years of draft frustration and ineptitude, finally conduct a draft that makes sense.

“We know eyes are on us,” Brown said. “This is an important draft for us. . . . But we’re confident we won’t repeat some of our errors of the past. I think the key for us now is trusting our information and making sound decisions.”

Sort of sounds like what decision makers of the past said prior to the draft. You remember their names: Dwight Clark, Butch Davis, Phil Savage, George Kokinis, Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert Jr., Ray Farmer and Mike Lombardi.

They are the brainiacs who have helped the Browns take up semi-permanent residence in the AFC North basement. The only things that change are the names and faces. The sadly awful results represent the only consistency in this organization since 1999.

In his latest MMQB offering, Peter King of Sports Illustrated sharply noted the Browns’ recent abysmal drafting failures after praising the most recent deal with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“So Cleveland did very well in this deal acquiring a first-, third- and fourth-round picks this year, a first-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018 for moving down six spots in the first round . . . But the Browns have made four trades involving first-round picks in the past five years and every one has been an abject failure. The deals netted Cleveland Phil Taylor, Brandon Weeden, Owen Marecic, Greg Little, Trent Richardson, Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel – and the only player left . . . is a cornerback whose days are numbered there, the terminally disappointing Gilbert. That is an amazing run of ineptitude.”

Kind of puts things in perspective.

Until he actually sits in the driver’s seat and experiences the rhythm of the draft, Brown has no clue as to what is going to happen, his confidence notwithstanding. The unpredictable nature of the lottery is such that decisions sometimes must be made not only on the fly, but with precious little time to make them.

Unless Brown and his minions are so totally and incredibly prepared that they have alternative plans B through F every time they are placed on the clock in the three-day extravaganza, there will be a lot of scrambling, especially if the team directly in front of them grabs a player they want.

Decision time goes quickly. In the opening round, teams are given 10 minutes to make their choice. That shrinks to seven minutes in round two and five minutes the rest of the way.

It is entirely possible the Cleveland war room crew has conducted numerous dress rehearsals along the way, injecting every inevitability into a variety of scenarios in order to avoid making silly mistakes because time ran out.

The pressure is clearly on Brown & Co. to show the rest of the pro football world that not only have the names and faces changed in Cleveland, the times have changed, too, as analytics take center stage.

What have they got to lose? Considering what preceded them, absolutely nothing. They certainly can’t be any worse than their predecessors. Or can they?

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