Too good to be true?
It all seems to be falling neatly into place.
The Browns secure the No. 1 selection in the 2018 National Football League college draft and four of the best quarterbacks, three of them underclassmen, declare for said draft.
The franchise that needs a quarterback the most, the one that has wandered aimlessly for the better part of two decades, the one that has never had a stud quarterback since returning to the NFL in 1999, is finally in position to turn this whole mess around.
It is a mess that has reached historic lows never before seen in the nearly century old league. It has embarrassed players, coaches, owners, fans, the NFL and an entire city that owned a once-proud professional football heritage.
And now that the prime pieces appear to be dropping into an alignment that portends rewarding those extraordinarily patient fans, the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel no longer is an oncoming train.
With UCLA’s Josh Rosen, USC’s Sam Darnold, Josh Allen of Wyoming and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield squarely in the crosshairs of new Browns General Manager John Dorsey's sights, the one stumbling block to success will finally be hurdled.
The capable Dorsey, who brings more wisdom and experience to his job than any of his predecessors with the new Browns, has been charged by owner Jimmy Haslam III to find a franchise quarterback.
And with the likes of Darnold, Rosen, Mayfield and Allen in a deep quarterbacks class, he has the opportunity to steer this franchise in the correct direction for a change.
The man knows how to cobble together winning football teams. As a scout, he was one of the prime reasons the Green Bay Packers have been so successful the last decade. And it took him only one season as general manager to resurrect the struggling Kansas City Chiefs.
The best part of the pending Browns resurgence is it cannot get any worse than the abject suffering this fan base has experienced for nearly two decades, the last half dozen seasons in particular. Under Dorsey, that will come to a screeching halt.
There is finally more than hope for next season and beyond. It is the realistic feeling that the ghosts of old Cleveland Browns teams past are finally stirring and the living nightmare that has haunted this franchise is about to disappear.
Never mind, for the time being, that the coaching situation needs to be fixed. Just know it will be and sooner rather than later. That’s one problem that will take care of itself in short order, hopefully before the start of the new season.
As for those quarterbacks, each brings a unique quality that will fit this new-look team.
Rosen is the cocky one with supreme confidence in his ability to make a successful transition to professional football. Having played his entire collegiate career as a pro-set quarterback, he is, by far, the most NFL ready to step right in and make a difference.
He is probably the best of the lot from a mechanical standpoint. There are few flaws in his delivery and he can make all the throws. But, and it’s a big but, Rosen also brings some baggage.
His outspoken, abrasive nature, according to reports, rubs teammates the wrong way. He is outspoken enough to declare he wants to be no part of the Cleveland sports scene and has all but urged the Browns not to draft him, which cannot sit well with Browns fans.
Darnold, on the other hand, is the quiet one, and the most inexperienced, having played a few games shy of two full seasons at USC. The red-shirt sophomore also might be the most gifted. His makeup is off the charts.
It has been written that he’s that rare type of quarterback who, when plays need to be made, will find a way to make them
According to an NFL personnel executive in the Los Angeles Times, “He’s got some incredible intangibles. That’s what you look for in a starting quarterback in the NFL. When Sam walks into a huddle, his teammates look at him and know they have a chance to win just because of him.”
It certainly didn’t turn out that way for Darnold and the Trojans against Ohio Sate in the Cotton Bowl game, though. His poorest game of the season is the one that will be remembered more by Buckeye fans than his scintillating game against Penn State a year ago in the Rose Bowl game.
One caution with Darnold. He is not the type who can step right in and look the part at the next level. He needs to be nurtured, to sit out at least one season, watch and learn from a veteran quarterback before taking over, much like Aaron Rodgers did in Green Bay with Brett Favre. Nobody knows that better than Dorsey, who was with Green Bay when Rodgers was drafted out of California.
What Darnold possesses in solid football instincts, he lacks in mechanics, but not to any sizable degree. That aspect of his game, such as his long delivery, for example, is easily correctable. Leadership qualities, which he has in abundance, are not taught.
Allen, the biggest of the top group at 6-5, 240 pounds, has arguably the strongest arm, but lacks accuracy (he’s in the 56% completion range). Sound familiar? The winless Browns suffered through that little scenario this past season. He is not a difference maker.
Mayfield is, but the Heisman Trophy winner cannot overcome his biggest weakness – his height. Barely an inch taller than six feet, he achieves his greatness with sheer grit and determination, qualities certain to draw the attention more than a few teams.
The only one of the group to play four seasons at the collegiate level, Mayfield is also the oldest (he’ll be 23 in April). He has been compared to Johnny Manziel by several observers, which could be viewed in a number of ways, only a few of which can be deemed positive.
What Browns Nation has gone through the last 19 seasons is somewhat reminiscent of the Indians wandering in their own little desert of futility for nearly four decades until the mid 1990s. It took them that long before Cleveland could once again be proud of its baseball team.
And it wasn’t until LeBron James came along to boost the Cavaliers to the top of the NBA world that that franchise gained national attention and won the city’s first championship since 1964. Now, it’s the Browns’ turn.
The Browns, the one Cleveland team that stimulates more conversation than their friendly sports neighbors, have languished far too long competitively as the third wheel in a three-wheel city. That is about to change.
This team is on the verge of drafting its franchise quarterback of the future, the one player who will finally provide the impetus to propel it where it was supposed to be when resurrected in 1999.
My personal choice is Darnold, who brings uncommon savvy for someone so young to the table. With the right head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, there is no limit to how good he can be. Unfortunately, they are not in place right now.
For the first time in recent memory, the future for this franchise is aglow with promise. The owner now needs to back off and let it finally happen because it wasn’t working the other way.