Now they all want to come to Cleveland
The city of Cleveland has not been considered one of the elite landing spots in the National Football League the last 19 seasons because losing seems to have taken up permanent residence there.
Being drafted by the Browns has been like a sentence to NFL hell with no chance of experiencing winning football. In 19 seasons since the resurrection in 1999, this franchise has enjoyed just two winning seasons and occupied the basement 15 times.
With no AFC North titles and a lone season with double-digit victories (10 in 2007), is it any wonder many players who enter the annual college draft do not list Cleveland as one of the places they prefer to land?
That attitude, it would appear, has changed if the words of the top four quarterbacks in this year’s draft class are to be taken seriously, especially with the Browns taking dead aim on selecting one of them in an effort to finally land their franchise quarterback.
All of a sudden, Cleveland isn’t such a bad place to play football. Take it from Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen.
All four were presented the same question by the media at the NFL Combine a few days ago in Indianapolis. What do you think about playing in Cleveland? they were asked. It didn’t seem to bother any of them.
Mayfield was the most vociferous. The brash Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, known for his supreme self-confidence and devil-may-care style of quarterbacking, practically campaigned for the Browns to take him with the No. 1 overall pick.
“I think if anybody is going to turn that franchise around, it would be me,” he said. “They’re close. They’re very close. They have the right pieces. I think they need just one guy, a quarterback to make that difference.”
Remember this? “I wish you guys would come get me. Hurry up and draft me because I want to be there. I want to wreck this league together.”
Yep, that was Johnny Manziel texting Browns quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains during the 2014 NFL draft. Loggains showed owner Jimmy Haslam III the text and the boss said, “Pull the trigger. We’re trading up to get this guy.”
Manziel was correct about the wrecking. He just didn’t know at the time it would be his professional football career.
Darnold was somewhat more reserved than Mayfield, but still welcomed the opportunity should the Browns take him.
“I think turning a franchise around is obviously a hard thing to do,” he said, “but I’m always accepting a challenge and I think it would be an amazing thing to do. It’s another opportunity to show why I’m a good quarterback.”
Rosen, on the other hand, tried to walk back an earlier ESPN report that indicated he would prefer to play anywhere but Cleveland.
“I’ve never said anything about not wanting to play in Cleveland,” he told Michael Silver of the NFL Network. “I don’t know where that came from. There is absolutely no foundation in reality in that report
“I don’t know anything about Cleveland. I’ve never been there . . . so it’s impossible to form opinions when you haven’t really done any research on the actual place. I’m probably going to visit there, hang out with them, then whoever picks me I’ll be excited to play for.”
Allen had two different takes when asked. “I want to be the guy that turns around the Cleveland Browns,” he said in late January at the Senior Bowl, then was more cautious at the Combine.
“I don’t know because I’ve never (turned around a team) before,” he said, “but I’d go in there with everything I have and try to instill a winning mind-set and that type of attitude, try and become a leader of the team with . . . the understanding of what we needed to do to try and turn things around.
“I love football. Everything I can do to play this game I’m going to do and if they are willing to step out on a ledge and take me with the No 1 overall pick, I’m going to give them everything I have.”
The goal of all four, of course, is to be the prestigious top overall selection and there is nothing wrong with lobbying the Browns to be that young man. But they will have competition from the best non-quarterback in the class.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley had all the right answers when asked the same question by the media. You could tell he was either coached very well or had studied hard about the Browns.
He knew the Browns had a new offensive coordinator, had won only one game the last two seasons and were in their fair share of games. “You want to be a part of something like that,” he said. “Something that will leave a legacy. Being a part of something special.”
Five different opinions of players worthy of consideration as the first overall selection, all saying the right things because they want to be that pick.
Now it’s up to Cleveland General Manager John Dorsey to parse those words, factor in how they would fit into his plans for his new team and make what is hopefully a wise decision and a positive impact on the immediate future.-->