Before I get in to my concerns, I want to give at least some backdrop on me. For those of you that have followed me for years, you know that I tend to be one of the most positive writers covering Cleveland sports. I don't lend to the negative narrative that is so prevalent over many that over our beloved teams. For those that haven't followed my writing over the past 5 years or so, this is more the exception than the norm from me.
When the Cleveland Browns Organization hired Hue Jackson to run the team, I was more than pleased. The Cleveland Browns have been a mess on the field, on the sideline and in the front offices. We got the head coach that the 49ers and Giants wanted. He hired Kirby Wilson, who the Vikings wanted to keep to coach Adrian Peterson. He hired Ray Horton, who the Titans wanted to keep on as their Defensive Coordinator.
The Front Office did what no Front Office before them would, a complete teardown and rebuild. Instead of signing veteran free agents for big money in an effort to compete quickly, the Browns let their young guys walk. They turned the #2 overall pick into a whole plethora of picks. In their first Draft they added 14 players. Their free agent buy was a low risk, high ceiling Robert Griffin III.
I was feeling real good.
Everything was setting up the way I had hoped.
Then three different situations happened and I have something of an itch that just needs scratched. A burning question about what do the "new" Browns really value?
First, the quarterback competition that took place early in Training Camp sparked a slight flicker of concern. The end result is what I expected, and really wanted, but how the Browns decided to go with Griff was interesting. Feedback from those at camp ranged from RG3 looking great to the competition was very close to some saying that Josh McCown would have won a fair battle.
In the end, RG3's upside, age and proven history won out, even if some didn't think he actually won the competition.
By itself, not the biggest thing in the world and probably the right decision for the team but what does it tell us about what the Browns value?
Then I watched as 1st Round bust, so far, Justin Gilbert was given chance after chance to not just make the team but get playing time. Results were far less mixed than those of RG3/McCown, Gilbert has looked mostly bad.
While Gilbert was given his shots, a much better player and corner, Pierre Desir, was pushed to Free Safety. While I believe Desir could be a great starting FS, he is at worst a solid 2nd corner. At this point, the Browns are more likely to cut Desir than to give him a shot at corner where he can be very good.
While 1st Round picks often get chance after chance from the Front Office that drafted them, Gilbert was not drafted by this regime. Desir, a 4th Round pick, doesn't have the speed, size or physical gifts that Gilbert does yet he has been a far better player.
Rolling the dice one last time on a physical talent like Gilbert is one thing, burying a talent like Desir is another. Mark #2 that drew concern from me.
What does, seemingly, choosing Gilbert over Desir say about what the Browns value?
Finally, this week's issue with K'Waun Williams was the end of a few weeks of the team valuing new addition Jamar Taylor over Williams. Those watching, as well as information given to our Insider Lane Adkins, say that Williams and Taylor were in a dead heat for the slot corner position.
Taylor, the former 2nd Round pick, stands 5'11" and still possesses the talent that led to him being picked that high. He struggled with the Dolphins but, now in his 4th season has a fresh start with the Browns. His value was so low out of Miami that the Browns dropped 27 spots in the 7th Round of this year's NFL Draft.
Williams, on the other hand, was a very good slot corner for the Browns the last 2 seasons after going undrafted. His quick feet and football IQ put him in position to succeed. His concussion issues are documented, even under-reported.
The Browns picking a former 2nd Round pick that flamed out in Miami over a very good, but injury prone, undrafted corner isn't the end of the world but it was the final straw. How they have handled the situation, with the suspension and fine, added to the drama value but isn't my concern.
The itch that needed scratched, that was under the surface, finally grew to the point of this article scratching that itch.
These three issues, as well as a look at many of those the Browns drafted, has given me clear insight into what the Browns value and it is two-fold.
First, the Browns value physical talent. Speed, size, length, et al. The Browns value many things that are measured at the NFL Combine. By itself, this is not a terrible thing. Athletic ability is an important aspect of being a professional football player.
However, that can't be the be-all, end all. Football IQ, game feel and work ethic can't be measured, can't be coached. McCown, Desir and Williams showed those things. That doesn't mean RG3, Gilbert and Taylor don't but they haven't shown them so far.
Second, the Browns value their coaches. You can't teach the types of Combine measureables that they value but, if you believe strongly in your coaches, you may believe you can make players out of it.
The Browns seem to believe that their coaches are good enough that they can take the raw clay that is physical talent and make it something that wins football games. It is a level of arrogance that some believe is required to coach on the NFL level but it is arrogance none the less. Believing your coaching can take a raw player and make him a true football talent. That coaching can overcome lacking or limited football IQ, game feel and even work ethic is the height of this arrogance.
This thought is not unique to the Browns, many teams have bet the farm on physical talent and coaching. It is clear that the new Cleveland Browns value these two things. Besides draft picks, it is the first real insight I've gleaned into what this new regime is all about.
Maybe it will work. I loved the hire of Hue Jackson. I love the rebuild from the ground up mentality. I love having highly gifted players after years of having few, if any, to watch on Sundays.
I don't like the dependence on physical gifts and coaching at the expense of real competition, of talented players like Desir and Williams and the minimization of the unmeasurables of the sweet art of football.
Time will tell if their approach is right, if they will adjust or if they will perish.
Analyzing what the Browns value was an itch I had to scratch. I feel better now.
What do you think the Browns value? What have you gleaned about the new Browns so far?null