Forget the ‘Curse of Rocky Colavito'. That book, written by the Akron Beacon Journal's Terry Pluto, illustrates all of the bad events that took place with the Cleveland Indians since GM Frank Lane traded The Rock for Harvey Kuenn in April of 1960. The real curse of Cleveland sports teams can be traced to the drafting of Syracuse running back Ernie Davis in the 1962 draft.
Actually, Wide Receiver Gary Collins (who should get Hall of Fame consideration) was taken with the Browns first pick that year in a trade with Dallas. Davis was chosen later in the first round, with a pick that was sent to them from Washington in exchange for future Hall-of-Famer Bobby Mitchell.
Unfortunately, Davis never played a down for the Browns, as he was diagnosed with Leukemia shortly after reporting for the College All Star Game in Chicago. A year after the diagnosis, coach Paul Brown and owner Art Modell differed on what should be done with Davis, a dispute that might have been the last straw leading up to Brown's firing. Modell, knowing that Davis would never recover, had gotten clearance from several doctors to let Davis have the thrill of appearing in an exhibition game. Those doctors said that a token appearance wouldn't have any effect on the stricken Davis. Brown vehemently disagreed, and would not sign off on the appearance.
Fast forward to today, and take a look at what has happened to the Number One picks of the Cleveland Browns since their return in 1999. Fortunately, none have had to deal with anything like Davis had to deal with, but the success on the field for those seven picks has not been anything to crow about. Jeff Faine, picked in the fifth season, 2003, is doing well, especially this year when the offensive line has held up quite well. But the other six have failed miserably, at least to this point, in a Cleveland uniform.
Having said that, I think a good case could be made that Tim Couch has far-and-away been the most successful first round pick of the Browns since their return. Couch, who fell out of favor with Butch Davis, did lead the team to the playoffs in the fourth year of its existence. But after that, other than Faine, it has been pretty much downhill. Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren might wind up having nice careers in Denver or wherever else they go, but it didn't happen here. William Green has been a bust, for the most part, and Kellen Winslow will miss at least almost two years due to injuries, one on the field and other, foolishly, off of it.
Which brings us to this year's pick Braylon Edwards. Edwards, who made the game-breaking play in the win over Green Bay, and then picked up a ‘taunting penalty' against Indianapolis, which set the offense back, after gaining good field position in a close game, is out indefinitely (as this is written) due to an infection.
These last seven picks can certainly be traced to ‘The Curse', and you might want to include Don Rogers and Eric Turner in that category. Rogers, the 1984 pick, died of a cocaine overdose, while Turner died of stomach cancer while a member of the Oakland Raiders. The bad ones before that can be blamed on bad choices, led by the ‘Mad Dog in a Meat Market' Mike Junkin. After that, you can rank them anyway you'd like. That list would include Bill Belichick's last first round pick in 1995, LB Craig Powell out of Ohio State, a pick that totally surprised Buckeye Head Coach John Cooper. Also included on that list would be Touchdown Tommy Vardell, Clifford Charlton, and Willis Adams.
I don't know what we, as Browns fans, did to deserve the Curse of Ernie Davis, but it also includes Art Modell, who ran out of town with the franchise, only to win a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, as well as Bill Belichick, who has won three out of the last four Super Bowls with New England.
At the end of the 1994 season, nobody would have predicted either of those possibilities. But, after each draft day since 1999, nobody would have predicted the lack of production out of the Number One picks. Oddly, the most successful one to date, Jeff Faine, was taken with the 21st pick, far and away the lowest position that the team has since since they came back.
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