That nagging feeling
Ever get that feeling of impending bad news?
You just know something terribly wrong is going to happen, but you can’t put your finger on it. You don’t know when. You don’t know what. You just know. And it gnaws at you.
You try to figure it out in an attempt to head it off and it just isn’t coming to you. It frustrates the hell out of you.
It is a terrible, helpless feeling.
Then you realize what it is and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Talk about helpless.
That’s sort of where I am right now with the Browns and their plans for the upcoming college football draft a week from tonight deep in the heart of Texas. More specifically, the first overall pick.
This is unquestionably a pivotal draft for a franchise that has struggled – that’s putting it mildly – since returning to the National Football League in 1999 following an unwarranted and underserved three-year absence.
A team with a fan base that has been subjected to unmerciful embarrassment in the last 19 seasons has finally positioned itself to have a legitimate opportunity to restore the franchise’s good name.
By owning two of the first four selections in a quarterback-rich lottery, they will be able to finally secure that elusive – due largely to the ineptitude of previous front offices – future franchise quarterback.
There is no question General Manager John Dorsey will grab one of those quarterbacks as he embarks on his quest to restore the famed legacy of the Browns prior to the move to Baltimore nearly two decades ago.
And that is where that feeling – the one of impending bad news – kicks in. It is a recent arrival, but has caused some dyspepsia because of the direction Dorsey appears to be headed with regard to that quarterback.
Word is leaking out as we plunge into the final week of smoke screens that invariably lurk at this time of the NFL year.
Dorsey reportedly has narrowed his choices for the top pick in the draft to Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, a couple of California kids. Unless this is the mother of all smoke screens, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen are headed elsewhere.
Allen, if the rumors are true, appears to have nudged in front of Darnold with a week to go. Thus that feeling.
(Full disclosure: I am a Sam Darnold fan. Have been since watching him in that classic Rose Bowl victory over Penn State. Thought I was watching the future Browns quarterback. Shocked, but happy, he declared this year.)
So when I hear Dorsey, who I greatly respect as a talent evaluator, is leaning in Allen’s direction despite numerous red flags, I get the sense this franchise will never again be relevant.
Makes no difference who runs the front office for this franchise. He is destined to make the wrong move at a critical time because, well, because he can’t help it. Destiny works that way.
If Allen turns out to the No. 1 pick, it will be just another chapter of Murphy’s Law continuing to dog this franchise. It’s the classic “if something can wrong, it will.”
When most of the evidence points not only to why Darnold should be the choice but why Allen shouldn’t, Dorsey appears to side with the physical freak: A quarterback who can launch a prolate spheroid 80 yards. How many 80-yard pass plays (on the fly) can new offensive coordinator Todd Haley stuff into his playbook?
Asked Thursday at a pre-draft news conference, Dorsey was asked what he looks for in a quarterback. “Does he have accuracy; does he have a strong arm, red zone; at the end of a game, does he win,” he replied. “That’s what I look for.”
Accuracy is something Allen does not possess. He was a career 56% passer at Wyoming, 56% for two straight seasons. Darnold completed 65% of his passes at USC in two seasons (63% last season).
Allen, of course, has the stronger arm, although there’s nothing wrong with Darnold’s arm. He can’t throw a football 80 yards, though. As if that really makes a difference.
As for winning, Dorsey was unequivocal in his response. “The only thing I really care about is does he win,” he said. All right, let’s examine the facts.
Allen, plagued by shoulder problems last season, started 25 games in his Wyoming career and won 16. Darnold, who took over as the starting USC quarterback four games into the 2016 season, started 24 games and lost four.
So why, as we have been (smoke screen alert) led to believe, is Allen the frontrunner? Simple math gives that one to Darnold, at least in Dorsey’s world.
Allen threw 44 touchdown passes and was intercepted 21 times in 643 attempts. Darnold completed 57 touchdown passes and was picked off 22 times on 846 throws. These statistics do not lie.
The great separator between the two is Darnold is a much more accurate passer because he delivers the ball on time, whereas Allen holds on to the ball too long and then relies on his arm to get the ball where it needs to be and is often late. It’s a timing thing with Darnold far out in front as far as anticipation is concerned.
As for Darnold’s biggest red flag, ball security, Dorsey deemed that correctible with coaching.
Unless he pulls off the biggest con since Henry Gondorff and Johnny Hooker nailed Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting, it looks as though Dorsey has decided Josh Allen is the Browns’ quarterback of the future.
There’s a very good chance he will be this year’s JaMarcus Russell, the top pick in the 2007 lottery by the Oakland Raiders who lasted just three seasons in the NFL. He could throw the football only 75 yards.