Thursday, May 31, 2018

Climb too steep for LeBron, Cavaliers

Let’s get this out of the way right out of the chute.

LeBron James is not only the best basketball player on the Cavaliers’ roster, he is the best basketball player in the National Basketball Association’s Central Division, the Eastern Conference, the entire NBA, the United States of America, the northern hemisphere and the entire planet.

That he has literally, figuratively, spiritually and just about any other appropriate word that ends with ly dragged and willed the Cavaliers to the NBA finals again for the fourth season in a row – or as long as he has been back in Cleveland – is a remarkable achievement in and of itself.

If there is any question as to whether James is not the best athlete ever to play for a Cleveland professional sports team, and the city has had its share of terrific athletes,
I’d like to hear it.

Bob Feller and Jim Brown come immediately to mind with regard to the Indians and Browns. But that’s about it. 

What LeBron has done since returning to the team that drafted him after a four-season hiatus in Miami, especially this season with a roster that is mediocre at best, is nothing sort of singularly outstanding, not to mention his eighth straight appearance in the league finals.

No one gave the Cavs a chance to get past the Boston Celtics in the conference finals and yet, here they are.

That said, let me be perfectly honest about this imperfect version of the Cavaliers. There is no way this one-man team will knock off arguably the most complete team in the NBA finals that begin Thursday night in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors.

They overcame a terrible losing stretch with a veteran roster early in the season, a massive roster overhaul midway through the season and still emerged standing in early June. All because of you know who.

And when the well-balanced Warriors in the next couple of weeks repeat what they did to the Cavs in the finals last season, count on James’ critics bubbling to the surface. No matter what he does, no matter how he plays, there will be knuckleheads who will find reasons to criticize.

He hogs the ball too much. He turns over the ball too much. He needs to be better at the free-throw line. He needs to be better in clutch time. He’s plays too selfishly.

All that is nonsense, of course. Ignorant blather from those who will complain about anything.

But when you are carrying the weight of your teammates on your back for as many as 40-48 minutes a game for 100 games now, that can have a deleterious effect on the outcome of games.

To get to this point. one has to understand the reason the Cavaliers got here was because James willed his teammates to play at a level beyond their normal talents.

Unfortunately, his virtuoso performances in the playoffs won’t help in these finals. If the Cavs win one game at home (as they did last season), it should be considered a significant achievement. That they are overwhelming underdogs is not surprising.

That still will not – and should not – diminish the achievements James has contributed to the cause this season, which many veteran observers label the best of his remarkable 15-year career.

LeBron most likely will play elsewhere in the league next season, undoubtedly where he will be appreciated more than his home area. I say most likely because there is the remotest chance he chooses to end his career where it began.

Whatever he goes, his legacy as one of the greatest players ever in the NBA – arguably the greatest (the great Michael Jordan never went to eight straight finals) – will remain untarnished even though he will be just 3-6 in the finals after the Warriors win.

The young kid from Akron, born with a gift for playing the game of basketball on a plane reserved for the greats of the game, has never misused that gift and ultimately taken it to heights that may not be duplicated for a long, long time.

If ever.

Friday, May 25, 2018

News and views

News: National Football League owners unanimously approve a new national anthem policy that gives players the option to remain in the locker room, but requires them to stand if they choose to go onto the field. If players who come out choose to take a knee, they and/or their teams will be fined.

Views: For gentlemen – and I used the term loosely – who are successful and presumably smart enough in life to be in a position to own an NFL team, the gang of 32 who comprise that fraternity is awfully dimwitted.

They had a terrific chance to once and for all get it right when it came to solving the annoyance of not standing for the anthem by adopting the only policy that would end the mini crisis.

They came close with what they believe is the best solution, but fell well short and have drawn widespread and well-deserved criticism for their latest action.

I’m old enough to remember when the national anthem was played at NFL games before the players came onto the field, before the starting lineups were announced. And then the league screwed it up.

I don’t remember when the current order was instituted, but it seemed to be OK until Colin Kaepernick a couple of seasons ago decided to kneel to protest police brutality across the nation.

Now I’m not going to venture into the political morass that seems to be strangling this country, but the poor NFL owners, who never figured this would be something they would have to deal with, seem to be stuck in the mud with regard to the solution.

There surely have to be some current owners who have been around long enough to remember the days when the anthem was played when the players were still in the locker room.

Why not return to it? I’m not certain the players would object. Maybe it’s because I can’t think of a good reason why they would.

And while we’re at it, why not revive the tradition of holding the opening coin toss before the teams head to their respective locker rooms after warming up. Eliminate the necessary worthless and time-consuming toss (for television cameras) after the anthem and starter introductions.

That way, coaches know well ahead of time who kicks off and who receives so they can strategize before heading back out onto the field.

It’s so simple, so easy and makes so much sense. Maybe way too much sense. In other words, these so-called smart men have outsmarted themselves and complicated the situation.

They should seriously think about reviving the old method. Sort of what’s old is new again. That way, they could get rid of this nagging headache and move on with making their billions.

News: Mike Silver of the NFL network reported the other day that the Browns tried to trade the second of their three second-round picks (No. 35 overall) in last month’s college draft to the Philadelphia Eagles for backup quarterback Nick Foles and were rebuffed.

Views: Browns General Manager John Dorsey was asked if this was true. Here was his answer.

“We are very excited to have Tyrod Taylor as our starting quarterback. He’s our starting quarterback. I’m not going to talk about another team’s player. You know my policy on that. He’s with the Philadelphia Eagles and I don’t talk about him.”

In other words, yes.

Dorsey obviously believed talking about Foles at this time would be considered tampering, but it wouldn’t be because he was talking about a situation that reportedly took place almost a month ago and was well within the rules of what is considered tampering.

In order to answer the question directly, the GM did so in a manner that actually had nothing to do with the original question. Almost like a skilled politician.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Great timing for Hard Knocks

The timing of the Browns accepting HBO’s invitation to appear on this year’s Hard Knocks is exquisite.

Imagine the embarrassment and what would have eventuated had the Browns acceded to the cable network’s wishes a year ago.

Yep. The first winless season for what used to be one of the proudest National Football League franchises before the league bafflingly allowed it to move to Baltimore.

The embarrassment lingers like a bad dream. It should never be forgotten. And  welcoming HBO is the right thing to do at this point. It is time.

And why is that?

These are not your Cleveland Browns of the last 19 seasons. Far from it. The losing stench that has permeated this dysfunctional franchise for nearly a generation is about to disappear due mainly to massive roster surgery by General Manager John Dorsey.

Who are these guys? This doesn’t look much like the football team that made the wrong kind of history last season. Crawling into Dorsey’s mind will unlock some of the mystery of all the off-season moves.

It all comes along at a time when the Browns need a bright, shiny new coat of Seal Brown and Orange to erase the notion the words Cleveland Browns mean loser, bad football, embarrassing football.

It is a chance for them to show the nation what a comeback really looks like. The spotlight will shine brightly on many position battles.

The culture is changing in Cleveland with regard to its pro football team and after considerable thought, Dorsey felt comfortable with allowing the nation to see it through the HBO lenses as the curtains in Berea are peeled back for the reality series.

There is actually real, honest-to-goodness hope the light at the end of the tunnel for the first time in a long time is not the locomotive of the proverbial oncoming train.

There are too may good stories to ignore for the weekly five-week series, not the least of which is the feel-good yarn of a franchise picking itself up off the scrap heap and charting a new and improved direction with a multitude of new faces.

At the same time, the great fans of the Browns will finally, through the unfettered access HBO has gleaned, get a chance to see the inner workings of their beloved franchise, off the field as well as on.

The network will, of course, dwell heavily on the players from a personal and professional viewpoint for the six weeks that stretch from the opening of training camp to the final exhibition game.

The Emmy Award winning series, now in its 13th season, will film tens – maybe hundreds – of thousands of feet for the five-episode run-up to the 2018 NFL season. And there is no end to the terrific story lines the Browns can provide for HBO, starting with the aforementioned cultural turnaround.

Position battles, always a compelling part of training camp, will be among the inside looks viewers will see on an episodic basis. Count on the producers injecting some soap-opera like drama into those battles.

The cameras will love following Baker Mayfield, the club’s controversial No. 1 draft choice, constructing numerous story lines for the Heisman Trophy winner’s transition to the professional game. Homing in on his brash personality could be a daily staple for the cameras.

Another lingering story line could be Mayfield’s hopefully-muted attempt to unseat Tyrod Taylor as the club’s starting quarterback before he takes a regular-season snap. Coach Hue Jackson maintains that won’t happen, assuring the veteran he will start.

It certainly doesn’t hurt when Taylor says, “I came here to win football games.” If nothing else, he ingratiates himself to fans of the club who love hearing boastful talk like that.

Look for talkative wide receivers Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry to put their talents and loquacious personalities on display. On defense, there is the garrulous Myles Garrett, who is as fascinating off the field as he is on. The fact he is the key to an improved pass rush will not go unnoticed.

Then there’s Jackson, who never runs away from a camera and microphone. The story line for the head coach is obvious. It will be interesting to see him attempt to slither out of the notion he is arguably not only the worst head coach in Browns history, but maybe the worst in the history of the NFL.

Cameras will also zoom in on Jackson’s coordinators, neither of whom can be classified as shy. Gregg Williams on defense and Todd Haley on offense are vocal and impressively direct with the men they coach. If it’s on their minds, it’s on their lips.

To round out the presentation, producers will also delve into the personal lives of several Browns, veterans and rookies alike.

Cameras will eavesdrop on the brain trust of the team in their ivory tower. Dorsey’s reconstruction of the roster is certain to catch the attention of those in charge at HBO. And it will be interesting to see how and his aides handle the delicate chore of paring the roster.

And then there’s the boss. Or should I say bosses. Count on Jimmy Haslam III and his wife, Dee, to play a somewhat prominent role in this real-time drama. If the producers don’t address why Haslam retained a coach who is 1-31 in his two seasons in Cleveland, that’s a dereliction of journalistic duty.

As for the positional competition, there is no end of good series HBO can explore. For example . . .

Can Taylor stave off what most observers expect will be a strong challenge from Mayfield? Who will partner with rookie Denzel Ward at cornerback? Can rookie running back Nick Chubb step right in and reduce Carlos Hyde’s role? Will Shon Coleman fend off rookie Austin Barnett’s challenge at left offensive tackle? Or will Barnett move right in and take over? Is strong safety Jabrill Peppers’ final landing spot? And who will return punts and kickoffs

The scenarios are endless for the cable network, which should boast terrific ratings because the fiercely-loyal Browns fans are renown for spurring strong television sports ratings. The series very well could wind up as the most watched Hard Knocks ever.

In the end, what do the Browns have to lose by finally acquiescing to HBO’s wishes?


Saturday, May 5, 2018

Not yet

Talk about being premature.

After Baker Mayfield’s first practice with the Browns Friday, coach Hue Jackson declared Tyrod Taylor is his starting quarterback. Period.

Well of course he is. It’s early May. Nothing is set in stone in early May when it comes to rookies. These kids are barely getting their football feet wet.

“He (Mayfield) has a lot of characteristics we love,” Jackson said. “That’s why he’s here. (But) let’s pump the brakes a little bit because he’s got a ways to go and has a lot to learn.”

Why even suggest at this time that this is the case? Unless, of course, someone in the media broached the subject because the rookie looked good. Thinking like that now is either naïve or ignorant.

“I’m not going to back off of this,” Jackson stressed. And he shouldn’t. “We can keep writing this narrative. Tyrod Taylor is the starting quarterback of this team and that won’t change.”

So there.

But the coach had better get used to it as summer approaches and the seriousness of the situation heats up. He might eventually regret declaring now that there won’t be competition at the position once training camp begins and sticking with that notion.

A lot will depend on how quickly Mayfield, purported to be a quick study, absorbs offensive coordinator Todd Haley’s playbook.

It will be interesting to see whether Jackson gives Mayfield a chance in camp and exhibition games to unseat Taylor or rigidly rejects that possibility no matter how well he plays.

As suggested in this space a few columns ago, it would not be surprising if word comes down from on high (General Manager John Dorsey) to level the playing field if the rookie plays like a veteran early on.

It’s a situation that definitely bears watching, Jackson’s declaration notwithstanding..

Thursday, May 3, 2018

College draft leftovers . . .

It is becoming increasingly clear that Baker Mayfield talked his way into making himself the top pick in last week’s National Football League college draft.

There is no question the brash young man from Oklahoma University is not only a record-setting, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, he is also one terrific salesman.

When the Browns’ brass began narrowing a pretty good field of quarterbacks before the draft, two of those signal-callers separated themselves from the field because of their impressive statistics.

It eventually came down to Mayfield and Sam Darnold, polar opposites in many ways. And when the truth spilled out, one can understand why Mayfield was the clear choice. Not necessarily the correct choice, mind you, but the most logical one considering all the reasoning behind it.

Mayfield is 23 years old and a five-year veteran of college football. He played four seasons unlike many quarterbacks who turn pro, often times unwisely, as soon as they become eligible.

He is smart, savvy and knows how to say the right things. Combined with his outgoing personality, he is a very impressive young man, one who gets your attention right away. It’s difficult not to like him.

Combine that with his equally impressive statistical performance the last three years with the Sooners and it is understandable why it would be difficult to eliminate him from consideration because he is smallish at a half inch over six feet.

And that is what ultimately propelled him to the top of the Browns’ list, unanimously from what has been reported, as the days counted down toward the lottery.

Darnold, as it turned out, never had a chance. At 21 (he’ll be 22 next month), he is a nowhere near as smart and savvy and NFL ready as Mayfield. Yet.

He had an impressive two seasons at USC. His stats were every bit as good as Mayfield’s, plus he was a half inch shy of 6-4. Many signs pointed toward him being the slam-dunk choice to be the No. 1 choice of the Browns.

Two problems, both of which most likely cost Darnold his slippage to the New York Jets at three. The California kid is much more laid back than the effusive Mayfield. To the Browns, that apparently was a negative.

Darnold also reportedly did not do well with the white board when it came to testing his football IQ. Mayfield nailed it.

“He’s as good from a football IQ standpoint as I’ve ever been around,” said Browns front-office executive Alonzo Highsmith, who admitted he was in Darnold’s corner until evaluating Mayfield.

The great separator for Highsmith, who spoke recently at a Canton luncheon, was his initial impression of the new Browns quarterback. “You watch the workouts; you watch everything,” he said, “and Baker blew me away. Highly, highly intelligent. Highly competitive.”

But it was Mayfield’s “power to affect other people” that swayed Highsmith into the John Dorsey camp. “I thought of all the quarterbacks I watched, he stood out far and above the other guys,” Highsmith said. “When he walked into a room, you knew he was there.”

Impressive stuff. Gives greater understanding to the thinking behind a most controversial choice.

I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. The reasoning for taking Mayfield over Darnold makes logical sense. My only argument is that Darnold’s ceiling is much, much higher than Mayfield’s. I believe he will be the better player in the end.

Dorsey inherited a mess and wants to turn that around pronto. Not bit by bit, Now. And Mayfield gives him the best chance to do it now.

All the kid has to do is win the starting job in training camp, then go out and back up his bravado and prove all his detractors wrong.

Now let’s see how long it will take Browns fans, especially those who root for Ohio State, to forgive Mayfield for planting the Oklahoma flag in the ground at midfield following the Sooners’ victory over the Buckeyes last year in Columbus.
*       *       *
Never let it be said Dorsey is not a man of action. It hasn’t taken the Browns’ general manager long to retool this sad franchise’s roster in the image he envisions.

In the four months since the end of the 2017 regular season, there have been 27 departures from the list of 73 names that comprised the final roster and 20 new additions. That does not include the new nine-man draft class.

Leaving were six defensive backs, two defensive linemen, three linebackers, four offensive linemen, three quarterbacks, three running backs, two tight ends and four wide receivers.

Arriving are five defensive backs, three defensive linemen, one linebacker, three offensive linemen, three quarterbacks, one running back, two tight ends and two wide receivers. The current roster totals 75 with the new draftees.

And with the season still more than four months away, count on the roster dynamic changing even more as the restless Dorsey plows his way toward crafting the competitive team he believes Cleveland pro football fans deserve.
*       *       *
A not-so-sudden thought: Remembering what Dorsey said in his last news conference before the draft and the impact of the answer to one of the questions.

The GM was asked what he looks for in a quarterback. His reply went something like this: Accuracy, strong arm, red zone performance and does he win at the end of the game.

For some reason, maybe because I wanted to believe it, I thought he was talking about Darnold. Wrong. He was talking about Mayfield, but many of us were too dumb to realize it at the time. Darnold checks all those boxes, too, but falls short in the leadership category.
*       *       *
Here’s another thought to chew on: Mayfield is the second coming of Drew Brees, not Johnny Manziel. He’s a much more talented Manziel and has some of the positive characteristics of the New Orleans Saints quarterback.

First of all, both are from Austin, Texas, and played their high school football there. Both check in at a shade over six feet tall. Both are right-handed and have a strong arm. And both have that charisma and leadership coaches love. The only difference between the two is Brees was drafted in the second round in 2001.

Now 39, the former Purdue quarterback beat the too-small-to-play-in-the-NFL odds and has carved out a Hall of Fame career that has seen him throw for 488 touchdowns, more than 70,000 yards and win a Super Bowl.

Anyone who has watched how he gets his team emotionally and physically ready to play with a fiery speech in the huddle before each game sees how important leadership is to a team. He epitomizes New Orleans Saints football. If that’s what Dorsey sees in Mayfield, Browns Cleveland fans are in for a wild ride.
*       *       *
When defensive coordinator Gregg Williams urged Dorsey to draft Denzel Ward over Bradley Chubb with the fourth choice in the lottery, he sent two signals. One, he desperately wanted a shutdown corner. Two, he believed the pass rush will be better than last season.

For some reason, Williams loves defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who played the first 10 games last season before suffering a broken foot. The pro sophomore, drafted to be an edge rusher, has only 9½ sacks (four last season) in two years.

His problem is inconsistency. He’ll play well for two or three games in a row, then disappear for a few games. Maybe it’s the result of scheming, but he just doesn’t seem to stick out on a weekly basis.

There are no dangerous threats to opposing quarterbacks on the roster except Myles Garrett, far and away the club leader in sacks as a rookie last season with seven despite playing only 11 games. It appears as though Williams is counting on Ogbah to step up, which falls under the category of wishful thinking.
*       *       *
Finally . . . With the drafting of defensive end Chad Thomas in round three, it appears as though Carl Nassib and Nate Orchard are on notice to take their games to a higher level. Both were terrific pass rushers in college, but have been neutralized by NFL offensive linemen. . . . Speaking of offensive linemen, Spencer Drango, Rod Johnson and Shon Coleman fall into the same category with the drafting of Austin Corbett and arrival of free agents Donald Stephenson and Chris Hubbard. . . . Might as well place wide receivers Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins in the same boat now that Antonio Callaway was drafted and Jeff Janis was signed as a free agent. . . . Question of the week: What are the odds Hue Jackson remains as the Browns’ head coach for the entire season?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Too many gambles

John Dorsey wasn’t done gambling after stunning the world of professional football by taking quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first pick of the National Football League draft Thursday night.

The Browns’ general manager rolled the dice big time in round four, trading up higher into the round with the New England Patriots to take controversial wide receiver Antonio Callaway from the University of Florida.

And then with his final selection of the club’s nine-pick, three-day extravaganza in the sixth round, he took a chance on Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback Simeon Thomas.

Both men arrive in the NFL with significant baggage, especially Callahan, whose off-the-field problems caused several teams to remove his name from their draft boards even before the lottery commenced.

Callahan, suspended by the school for the entire 2017 season after he and eight teammates were involved in a credit-card fraud scheme, also failed a drug test at the Indianapolis combine, became embroiled in a sexual assault case at school but was never criminally charged and has a history of smoking marijuana.

The speedy wideout, who probably would have been ranked as high as perhaps round one without the baggage, has been taken under the wing of Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown, a fellow Floridian, as he attempts to straighten out his life.

Thomas had all kinds of problems staying eligible to play because of academic problems and a university suspension for being involved in an on-campus dormitory theft. He played what amounted to one full season in his four years there. He’s t tall (6-4), That’s all.

It seems as if Dorsey places more importance on what a player does on the field than off. He overlooked the numerous problems that have plagued these young men and apparently determined how they perform on a football takes precedence.

For example, his No. 1 pick pled guilty to public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing and resisting arrest and had to serve 35 hours of community service for an incident in Fayetteville, Ark., 15 months ago. The resisting arrest charge was dropped and a plea bargain was reached on the other charges.

Drafting players with character issues is a risk not many general managers are willing to take because too much luck is involved. Dorsey got lucky, for example, when he grabbed the troubled Tyreek Hill in the fifth round for Kansas City a couple of years ago and he has turned into one of the NFL’s most dangerous (from a football standpoint) players.

As for the rest of Dorsey’s Cleveland haul, it’s not difficult arguing the selection of Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward with the fourth overall pick. That call, as it turned out, was made by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Dorsey had Ward and North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb ranked equally on his board and Williams broke the tie because he desperately wanted a shutdown corner adept at press coverage and the Nordonia High School product fit the profile.

I don’t quarrel with the Ward pick, just where he was selected. I believe Chubb is a better, more impactful player and would have fit in very well along the defensive line.

He would have been the wiser choice, bookending with Myles Garrett to give the Browns arguably their pass rush since returning to the NFL in 1999. Forcing opposing quarterbacks to unload before they want makes it much easier on the secondary.

Williams believes with Ward ostensibly shutting down the opponent’s top receiver, he can scheme differently in an effort to confuse opposing quarterbacks.

The second round, probably Dorsey’s best overall round (loved both choices), produced offensive lineman Austin Corbett from Nevada and Georgia running back Nick Chubb, I see both men making significant contributions to an offense that will be decidedly improved.

Corbett, a Joel Bitonio physical clone at 6-4, 305 pounds, was the fastest rising offensive lineman on the board. He is versatile enough to play all five positions, but will be tried initially at left tackle in an attempt to fill the vacancy left with the retirement of Joe Thomas.

It would not surprise me if the Browns ask Bitonio to put on about 10 or 15 pounds, then move him over one spot to tackle from left guard and slip Barrett in next to him. Other than these two, the club has no one good enough to play the second-most important position on offense.

Chubb, taken two picks after Barrett, is the Browns’ future feature running back. The 5-11, 227-pound bulldozer, whose style is reminiscent of Earl Campbell, is a hard man to bring down. His rookie season will be spent alternating with Carlos Hyde.

After swapping the last pick of the second round, Dorsey nailed his edge rusher at the top of round three with Miami of Florida’s Chad Thomas, who has Bradley Chubb size but not the talent. He is more athlete than football player and figures to be a situational player.

The most intriguing third-day pick, other than the controversial Callahan, was Memphis inside linebacker Genard Avery in round five. At 6-1, 250 pounds with size 10 hands, amazing strength and a 4.59 clocking in the 40, look for him to give Joe Schobert a battle for the starting job at middle linebacker.

The most curious pick was Texas A&M wide receiver Damion Ratley at the top of round six. Ratley is big (6-3) and wiry (190 pounds), but not every productive with only 47 receptions in three seasons. Have no idea what Dorsey and his guys saw in him.

A much better choice there would have been 6-5 Notre Dame wideout Equanimeous St. Brown, who caught 58 passes for 961 yards and nine touchdowns in 2016 when DeShone Kizer was his quarterback at Notre Dame. His production fell to 31-468-4 last season when Kizer led the Browns. Green Bay took him near the bottom of the round.

Overall, Dorsey’s first Cleveland draft yielded some surprises, some puzzlers, a head scratcher or two and a lot of talent at the top. But that top pick, especially one so polarizing, adversely affects the final grade.

The selection of Mayfield and two other potential problem players knock down that grade a notch. While I like the Chubb, Barrett, Ward (even though it was too high) and Avery picks, Dorsey’s numerous gambles make me somewhat hesitant to reward his efforts with a higher grade.

Make it a C+

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

It all depends on Mayfield

Rarely does the success or failure of a college football draft hinge on the performance of one young man. Such is definitely the case with the Browns.

Three years hence, the time frame usually allotted to render final judgments of the efforts of those in charge of the future, we will know whether John Dorsey and his cohorts were correct when they boldly selected a polarizing young quarterback to craft the fortunes of this franchise.

There is absolutely no question whatsoever that when the Browns made Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield their choice with the prestigious top pick of the draft last Thursday night in Arlington, Texas, a great many residents of Browns Nation recoiled.

Trusting an undersized, brash to the point of being cocky, troubled-off-the-field, extremely talented young man from Austin, Texas, was without question a bold move, one that caught most of the professional football world by surprise.

After the initial shock subsided and Dorsey explained the reasons behind the move, it came across as more or less a plea to “trust us, we know what we are doing, Have faith.” It had a familiar ring.

We have heard that before from the too-numerous previous Browns front offices in the last 19 years that implored fans to be patient. Trust us, they all said. And it has wound up as 19 years of frustration because that trust was never rewarded.

So why, then, should we trust this crew, especially after such a controversial start? Well because this crew has something the others did not: Impressive résumés. They bring a wealth of not only experience to Cleveland, but success as well.

So when Dorsey & Co. (Messrs. Eliot Wolf, Alonzo Highsmith and Scot McCloughan) made Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward (and not defensive end Bradley Chubb) their top two picks in round one, benefit of the doubt nevertheless creeps in.

And then when they hit on ten strikes with their first two picks in round two with Nevada offensive lineman Austin Corbett and Georgia running back Nick Chubb, seeds of doubt rapidly fade away.

There is an excellent chance all four young men will become strong contributors to the cause. Ward and Corbett will start, while Chubb (Nick, that is) figures to be in the mix at running back with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson Jr.

And then there is Mayfield, who says he understands why coach Hue Jackson has slotted him behind Tyrod Taylor and Drew Stanton on the quarterback depth chart. Caution: Do not take Mayfield’s acquiescence to that notion seriously.

As ludicrous as this sounds, it would not surprise more than a few Browns fans if Mayfield is the starting quarterback in the season opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 9 at home.

Jackson has already declared Taylor is his starting quarterback in that game. Period. And the veteran Stanton is his backup. Period. He did not say that is subject to change.

If in training camp this summer Mayfield displays the same energetic approach to football that appealed to Dorsey and is provided the opportunity to show what he can do in camp and exhibition games, anything goes.

It will be interesting to see how much exposure Jackson gives his rookie quarterback. How many reps he’ll get as opposed to the two men in front of him. How fair will the quarterback competition be?

Or will there be a competition at all? Depends, in large part, how close-minded Jackson is.

Methinks pressure from on high will filter down to Jackson and Mayfield will get the chance to do what Russell Wilson did in Seattle when he was a rookie in 2012: Surprise everyone and win the starting job, dramatically changing the culture of the Seahawks.

The original thought by just about everyone except Dorsey and Mayfield supporters was that whoever the general manager grabbed as his quarterback of the future with the initial pick would be just that. He would sit a year, learn and be ready to go in his second year.

I get the impression Dorsey would like nothing better than to watch Mayfield come right in and take immediate charge of the situation. A large part of his football personality is his strong leadership qualities, probably one of the main factors that led to the decision to draft him.

The GM does not want to tamp down the kid’s enthusiasm, his desire to come right in and play well enough to take the starting job away from Taylor. That would please him no end if that occurs.

It has been too long since fans of the Browns have had good reason to be optimistic. Dorsey is gambling big time that Mayfield is that gifted quarterback who can come in and make an immediate impact on not just the offense, but the entire team.

Mayfield, who relished the idea of coming to Cleveland and reversing the fortunes of this woebegone franchise, has a good shot at doing just that.

Regardless of how the other eight players selected behind him perform as the Browns undergo a dramatic change from the Sashi Brown regime, how the kid from Texas performs will determine whether this draft was a success or failure.

Tomorrow: Thoughts on the other eight picks and the final grade.