The afterglow of a Cleveland championship and ensuing parade has yet to diminish. The city remained in a fervor days after the Cavaliers finally broke the 52-year curse. It was truly a special moment for the city and an amazing experience.
Yet, the inevitable happened. Even those at the parade openly asked: Can you imagine what this city will be like when the Browns finally end their Super Bowl drought?
This is the love the city has for its football team. Unfortunately, it’s the furthest away from actually playing at a championship level.
Before we go into the team and its players, we’ll start with one Browns-related question as it pertains to the Cavaliers parade:
1. Why was Bernie Kosar treated as an afterthought? The renowned quarterback became a late addition to the festivities, but whatever thought process that placed him on the same float as Machine Gun Kelly—who performed throughout the procession—did a major disservice to one of the city’s favorite sons. Jim Brown had his own vehicle (rightly so) as did Josh Cribbs (what?), but I talked to multiple fans at the parade who completely missed Kosar due to the setup.
2. Since the NFL offseason is in full swing, it’s been a light week for news. A highlight still occurred when the leagues’ players voted Joe Thomas the NFL’s 23rd best player for the “Top Players from 2015.” It should be considered an honor to be thought of as highly as Thomas is by his contemporaries. But it can also be construed as a slight. Thomas is the game’s best left tackle. He’s been consistently dominant for so long at a premium position that he’s often taken for granted. There is no reason a future Hall of Fame player at a premium position who still performs at a peak level shouldn’t be counted among the top 10 or 15 players in the league.
3. One can argue Thomas’ overall status continues to be affected by his station. The future Hall of Fame offensive lineman dominates year in and year out on one of the league’s worst teams. This affects perception, and it’s had an effect on Thomas over the years. At least twice in the last three years, significant rumblings about a potential departure manifested. At those times, sources stated Thomas wouldn’t be adverse to a trade. He’s never actively pursued or asked for a trade, but he became fed up with the situations. No one can blame any of the players for the massive amounts of frustration they’ve endured; Thomas included.
4. Last week, former Cleveland Browns and longtime NFL assistant coach Howard Mudd commented on the league’s current state of offensive line play. Over the last two years, an argument developed within NFL circles stating college football isn’t properly preparing young athletes for the next level. The argument predominantly centers on quarterbacks and offensive linemen. Mudd will argue it falls on the NFL coaches to teach them and “JUST COACH 'EM UP.” The proliferation of spread offenses at the collegiate level isn’t going away any time soon. It then falls NFL staffs to develop a player’s talent.
5. The previous point is particularly important for the Browns as they attempt to replace Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz. Cameron Erving clearly has the inside track at center, but this year’s two offensive line selections are relatively raw in regards to NFL technique. Both Shon Coleman and Spencer Drango came out of spread systems. Those systems were completely different from each other, but both created holes within these prospects’ games. Coleman was rarely asked to take a deep set in Auburn’s run-first scheme, while Drango relied heavily on Baylor’s quick sets and passes to hide his lack of athleticism. Even so, the Browns expect the recent draftees to compete for the starting right tackle spot. Everyone will benefit from having a veteran coach like Hal Hunter now leading the way, especially after the unit basically played without a line coach last year due to Andy Moeller’s dismissal.
6. Fans quickly grew enamored with the free-agent pickup of center Mike Matthews. The son of Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews clearly has familial ties to the Browns due to his Uncle Clay’s legendary career in Cleveland. However, expectations should be tempered. When going back to the film, Mike Matthews is an undersized technician who was easily thrown off blocks, particularly against NFL-caliber prospects (as clearly seen in Texas A&M’s contest against the Alabama Crimson Tide). The latest Matthews to grace the NFL has a shot to make the roster based simply on a lack of depth behind Erving, but his overall potential is limited.
7. The Browns placed a heavy emphasis on football character in this year’s draft. No one in their massive 14-member class is considered anything but football junkies. But let me provide an example of why these things can be misleading. The Cincinnati Bengals’ Geno Atkins is one of the league’s premier defenders. Originally, Atkins fell all the way into the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft before Cincinnati selected him. Many pointed to his lack of size as a major question mark at the time, but it went much deeper. Teams openly and loudly questioned whether he had a passion for the game. Now, he’s counted among the league’s best defenders. Don’t believe everything you hear about prospects before or after they’re drafted. Only once in the decade-plus I’ve been covering the draft did a prospect do something considered so heinous he never received an opportunity to be drafted or even play in the NFL.
8. Aug. 1 is only 37 days away, and many Browns fans remain curious about Josh Gordon. Make no mistake: The organization has done everything in its power to distance itself from the mercurial talent. Everyone in the front office and coaching staff understands how talented Gordon truly is, but it’s an issue of trust at this point. Whether the league eventually allows Gordon to play again, his future will likely be with another organization. The Browns are fully prepared to realize their youth movement at wide receiver after selecting four targets in the draft.
9. Ricardo Louis quickly became the forgotten man among the Browns’ rookie receiver class. Corey Coleman is clearly the appointed star and the team’s No. 1 target the second he steps onto the field after being the first wide receiver drafted. Rashard "Hollywood" Higgins has a cool nickname, and he’s more polished than his fellow rookies. Even Jordan Payton left UCLA as the school’s all-time leader in receptions and has ties to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Those things make the latter two picks far more interesting than Louis even though the organization selected the Auburn product a round higher than both. It comes down to expectations. Louis isn’t viewed a polished prospect, and that’s OK.
10. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ Allen Hurns is a good comparison for Louis. Hurns originally went undrafted, but he recently signed a four-year, $40 contract extension. The Miami product isn’t a complete NFL wide receiver, though. He makes his living as a vertical threat after being an underdeveloped prospect coming into the league. Louis will likely be used in a similar fashion, and he’s by far the superior athlete. Hurns is 6’1” and near 200 pounds with 4.55-second 40-yard-dash speed. His vertical measured 31” at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Louis, meanwhile, stands 6’2” and weighs 215 pounds with 4.43-second 40-yard-dash speed and a 38-inch vertical. It’s not much of a stretch to envision Louis developing into a consistent deep presence, too.