Levine: Let's hope it's a smoke screen

Les talks about the Browns top pick, training camp locations, and competing in 2005..

According to published reports, Utah's Alex Smith and California's Aaron Rodgers have visited the Browns in Berea in the past few days, and Auburn's Jason Campbell will show up some time next week.  In addition, GM Phil Savage attended Charlie Frye's workout in Akron last week. 

Certainly, one of the options that the Browns will have with the third pick of the draft is to take Smith or Rodgers---although my guess is that the San Francisco 49ers will take the local player, Rodgers.  But, hopefully, the option that is being used with the wooing of the QBs is to make other teams think the pick is a realistic choice, which would improve the Browns trade bargaining power on or before draft day.

If nothing else, the picks of Tim Couch by the Browns, David Carr by the Texans, and probably even Phillip Rivers by San Diego and Eli Manning by the NY Giants, should have proven that a quarterback is NOT the way to go when you have ‘earned' the top choice.  Teams in the NFL have the ability, mostly through free agency as well being the recipient of supposedly an easier schedule, to rebound rather quickly from disastrous years. 

Look at the Browns, who have made so many positive personnel moves since the hiring of Savage and Coach Romeo Crennel

With the addition of some astute draft choices, coupled with the free agent pickups, in addition to the return to health of Kellen Winslow, Jr. and Sean Jones, there is no reason to think this team cannot compete for a division title.  However, if the Browns use that top pick for a QB he will stand with a clipboard this season, and get on-the-job training next season. 

Even if Smith or Rodgers is the right choice, this team can't wait that long to produce results.  And most NFL observers will tell you that you really don't get full benefits out of a quarterback until his fourth or fifth year.  That is not a good ‘risk/reward' decision.  With the people that the Browns have picked up and let go, there is no reason to wait until the tenth year of the return of this franchise to be ready to compete.

It may sound unrealistic to go from 5-11 to playoff contention in one year under a new system, but it can be done.  But not if the Browns pick a quarterback with the third pick in the draft, rather than trading down to get more picks, or taking Braylon Edwards, Mike Williams, or the best linebacker on their draft board. 

Everything that they have done puts them in a better position to compete.  Picking a QB in the third spot would send out a mixed signal, and that is not necessary at this stage of the game.


The feedback that I have received from fans concerning a potential move of training camp to Columbus is unanimous---DON'T DO IT! 

I know Rich Passan covered this last week, but I want to put in my two cents. 

In a previous column I asked you to tell me why you still are Browns fans, despite the relative lack of success of the franchise since 1989, coupled with the move after 1995.  Almost unanimously, your responses told me that being a Browns fan is traced back to your parents and grandparents love of the franchise since 1946. 

I can totally relate to that.  My earliest Browns memories include my father taking me and my brothers to see the team practice during the season at League Park, as well as training camp in Hiram.  I, in turn, took my son to Kent State and Lakeland.  These are cherished memories for both of us.  He hasn't seen much success since the 80's, but his love of the team continues.

On the other hand, the Browns are waiting for the right time (i.e. when they have better results on the field) to move their entire facility downtown.  That makes perfect sense, even before they show that improvement.  Their thought is that it would be easier, for economic reasons, to get what they want and need downtown if they have a better image in the community. 

Thousands of fans turned out to see the team in Kent and Lakeland, while the crowds have been sparse in Berea.  Randy Lerner and John Collins would be well-advised to understand the positive effect of keeping the team here, rather than go after corporate dollars in Columbus.  There is enough mending of fences that need to be done here, before looking elsewhere.


‘More Sports & Les Levine' can be seen M-F from 6-7pm and 11pm-midnight on Adelphia Channel 15 in northeast Ohio.  E-mail msandll@aol.com or www.leslevine.com

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