Passan: Answering the Critics

Rich Passan touched off a firestorm of criticism in multiple discussion forums when he expressed lukewarm enthusiasm for the Browns 2005 draft. Rich responds to the criticism this weekend, and offers more thoughts on the draft...

It has been said one has to have alligator-thick skin to be a columnist, a person with strong opinions. Especially if those opinions fly in the face of the zealous and very protective fans of the Browns.

Never let it be said I keep my opinions to myself when I have a forum to share them.

Last week, I dared to criticize the first draft of Browns General Manager Phil Savage. Had the temerity to give it a C.

Considering the vitriol that flowed freely on this Web site for two days following the column, one would have thought an act of sedition had been committed, a sacrilege of monstrous proportions.

It generated more than 100 responses and over 5,100 views to a thread in the Watercooler forum.

Some posts got very personal. Others stuck to the subject, some in a rather intelligent manner.

After absorbing venomous blow after venomous blow, I discovered I:

  • Don't understand football.
  • Should stick to hockey (that guy's got a long memory to remember I once wrote about the sport).
  • Should move to Michigan.
  • Was deliberately trying to rile up the fans.
  • Have been a sourpuss and a whiner for years.
  • Used weak and flawed arguments.
  • Was related to Stephen A. Smith.
  • Had a sagging image as a sports aficionado. Haven't been on radio lately, have you? (Ouch!)
  • Wrote the worst piece of garbage ever seen on this site
  • Was compared to Skip Bayless and Jay Mariotti (actually that's a compliment because they're award-winning writers).
  • Am a hater.
  • Should be banned (from this Web site).
  • Have a naïve sports mind.
  • Was just doing (my) "schtick". No one actually believes the crap I wrote down.

And that's a sample of the nicest ones.

One poster even brought in Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to display his anger. Great article Rich . . . for me to poop on.

Well, you get the picture.

A couple of posters took the fight outside the box and carried it on for several pages. A few others had the nerve to at least stick up for my right to share my thoughts with you and have my thanks.

I chose to remain silent until now because had I immediately responded, I most likely would have wound up with carpal tunnel syndrome just trying to keep up with all the posts. It would have been an exercise in futility.

Know that I didn't want to write a dissenting piece about the draft. I wanted Savage to emerge from his two days of drafting by hitting a home run or three.

A negative response to the negative piece was expected. The enormous outpouring of vituperative posts that followed was not.

And I assure you it was not a deliberate attempt to infuriate. In all the years I have been writing and expounding on radio, I have never intentionally tried to provoke anyone. That's not my style.

I write what I feel. I write what I think. If you like it, fine. If you don't, that's fine, too. I can't change. I don't expect you to, either.

I still stand by what I wrote. That includes the following that most of you chose to ignore: I'd like nothing more than to be proven wrong about this draft. When we all revisit this draft in three years, I'd be thrilled to say, "Wow, was I wrong about Savage." Right now, I can't say that.

For the record, my draft would have been Mike Williams in the first round (but no quarrel with Braylon Edwards), Dan Cody in the second round, outside linebacker Darryl Blackstock in the third round, quarterback Kyle Orton in the fourth round and offensive tackle Wesley Britt in the fifth round, although I did like the pick of David McMillan.

It is my opinion (obviously not shared by many) that Orton will be a better pro quarterback than Charlie Frye. Most of you believe the Browns got a steal when Frye, who is a nice quarterback, was there in the third round. Fine. I believe the Chicago Bears got a steal when Orton was there in the fourth round for them.

In the sixth round, I would have been stunned to see Michigan safety Ernest Shazor still on the board and grabbed him pronto. Savage passed on him. Nick Speegle would have been fine as the second sixth-round pick. And you can't tell me Jonathan Dunn was the best offensive tackle in the seventh round when Michael Munoz was there.

Williams, Cody, Blackstock, Orton, Britt, Shazor, Speegle and Munoz. I don't think that's a bad draft. Do you?

How many of you believed the secondary was an area that needed to be improved when Savage entered the Browns' war room last weekend? How many were surprised that two of his first four selections were defensive backs?

The secondary is not where games are won and lost. They are won or lost in the trenches, the offensive and defensive lines. You build an offense from the inside out, from the line back, not vice versa. Same way with the defense.

Putting pressure on the quarterback lessens the pressure on the secondary. Makes their jobs easier. The Browns need a pass rush. That was not fully addressed last weekend.

I understand where you're all coming from. You care. You really care. Your passion for this team shows with every post you take time to type.

At the same time, you have to understand this is a game. It's an escape.

Yes, it involves a team that is a part of our fabric, one that should never have been pulled out of Cleveland in the first place. And yes, there is an uncommon loyalty to this team that spreads throughout the globe. But it's still only a game.

If you understand nothing else, understand this: I'm a Browns fan. Always have been, always will be. I want to see the team do well. I honestly do.

I'd love to praise them all the time. But I also have to be forthright when the club makes moves with which I disagree. That's what I did last week.

And will do again if and when the situation warrants.

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