Since 1999, the Cleveland Browns' track record with general managers has been one abject failure after another.
Dwight Clark (1999-2000)
Butch Davis (2001-04)
Phil Savage (2005-08)
Eric Mangini (2009)
Cleveland fans have been first-hand witnesses of their amazing draft-day exploits. Some of their greatest hits include Gerard Warren instead of LaDanian Tomlinson, Chaun Thompson instead of Anquan Boldin or Osi Umenyiora, Kamerion Wimbley instead of Haloti Ngata, no picks in the first four rounds in 2008, Alex Mack instead of Clay Matthews and David Veikune instead of LeSean McCoy. I'm know I'm missing a few other doozies.
It hasn't been much better in free agency. Those same men have brought you picks ups like Donte Stallworth and a $35 million contract.
The Browns latest general manager is Tom Heckert. He was hired Jan. 11, 2010 and instantly was faced with an aging roster that, most importantly, was lacking in talent.
In two seasons as general manager, the wins have yet to arrive. That said, we can't yet say for certain if Heckert will join the aforementioned names of the ghosts of failed general managers past. Heckert's job is just getting interesting.
For now his major focus has been the draft, where he has been at the helm the last two Aprils. Heckert's drafts have been heavily focused on the defensive side of the ball. The Browns' defense showcased some positive efforts last season and it was thanks, in part, to Heckert's first- and second-round draft picks in the last two Aprils.
In 2010, the Browns selected a cornerback and a safety with their first two picks. A year later, they selected a defensive tackle and a defensive end. The result? The Browns' defense allowed the fifth fewest points per game in 2011. Moreover, five of the Browns' eight players from their 2010 class started at least one game last season and seven players from their eight-player class started last season. Some of that was out of necessity, as the Browns are one of the youngest teams in the NFL, and they had a simple lack that overall depth of talent.
But consider this, the Browns have had two first round picks and four second round picks the last two drafts. Four players were from the defensive side of the ball in Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard. The two offensive players were Montario Hardesty and Greg Little. Aside from the injury-prone Hardesty, those players are not only starting, but have been contributed.
Not bad when you consider the amount of first- and second-round busts the Browns produced under the previous regimes or if you think back to the recent debacle that was the 2009 NFL Draft.
The Browns collection of talent needs to begin somewhere. Heckert believes that the draft is the most important way to acquire that talent.
In 2013, the Browns will be forced to spend 95 percent of their salary cap, as per the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That was not the case last season nor is it in 2012.
The Browns, who are well under the cap, were not aggressive last offseason and don't expect much to change this year. Heckert is not a go-for-broke type GM like Phil Savage. Think patience. I know that is a word Browns fans get sick at the sight of, but Heckert's plan is not a quick turnaround.
He is aware the Browns need offensive playmakers. He said so toward the end of the 2011 season, but throwing money at the hot free agents is not his M.O. The Browns are building for long term and not looking to repeat the one-year wonder like 2007.
Last season, Young wasn't an impact player and Jackson got hurt. Heckert took to resigning current Browns players and we'll see if that trend continues this offseason with the likes of Peyton Hillis, Phil Dawson and D'Qwell Jackson.
The only grade to give Heckert at this point is incomplete because, well, the Browns' roster is just that. He seems to be an improvement over past Browns GMs when it comes to the draft, but the Browns roster is far from complete.
He has not been an abject failure, but the Browns' timid approach to free agency may lead some to be concerned.
This is one of the biggest offseasons in Browns' history. There are a lot of moving parts from signing their own talent, to selecting the right players with their two first-round picks and, finally, figuring out this quarterback issue. Heckert will be at the center of it all. Considering some of the positive moves he was involved with during his time in Philadelphia, Browns could be much worse off.