Les: Would You Give Two Wins for AJ?

Les Levine examines the strange world of the NFL draft...


Remember how happy Romeo Crennel, his staff, and players, along with Browns fans were last season when the team won two out of its last three games to finish with a 6-10 season? Sandwiched around the 41-0 shellacking by the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, the Browns beat the Oakland Raiders, 9-7 and finished the season by beating the Baltimore Ravens, 20-16.

It was good for those `inside the building' as the front office refers to the Berea headquarters, to finish up with a couple of wins in the last three tries, to make it psychologically easier to work out in the off-season.

It probably would be impossible, even if Phil Savage wanted to do it, to trade up from the twelfth spot in the first round, but as a Browns fan, would you trade those two wins from the end of last season, for the opportunity to take, or at least be in position to trade up, to get Ohio State's A.J. Hawk? Houston would still have the first pick, their reward for winning only two games, and I don't know exactly how the tie-breakers would shape up if the Browns finished with four wins, instead of six, because five other teams had four wins, but the Browns would have no lower than the sixth choice in the draft, and possibly higher than that.

I would never suggest that a coaching staff or players would buy into the concept that they can better themselves by losing (unlike the NBA, where the Los Angeles Clippers got the home court advantage in this year's playoffs by virtue of losing their final game of the season, instead of winning it). For example, how would you like to be a linebacker on this team, knowing that you might be out of a job by the selection of Hawk?

But that doesn't mean fans aren't entitled to think like that. Not that fans thoughts should enter into the thinking of Phil Savage this weekend, but the vast majority of fans would want the Browns to pick A.J. even if they had the top pick in the draft. Other than, perhaps, Kellen Winslow, Jr., the Browns haven't taken the "people's choice" since they returned in 1999. Before that, you might have to go back to the pick of Eric Turner in 1991, or, certainly, Bernie Kosar in the supplemental draft of 1985 to find picks that were universally hailed by the majority of fans.

I am still amazed how many people will follow the entire draft this weekend. It is the result of the great PR machine of the NFL that keeps the league in the spotlight throughout the year. After a month or so off after the Super Bowl, the league stays in the news with the Senior Bowl, free agent signing period, Combine, Draft, Quarterback Camp, and mini-camp, until official training camp begins. Nothing, including the `Hot Stove League' in baseball compares to the year-round news of the NFL, fabricated or otherwise. Sheer genius.

Not to belabor the point, or show my age or length of service as a Browns fan, but do you know when the 1957 draft was held, when the greatest of them all, Jim Brown, was selected by the Browns? There were still two games left in the regular season when that draft was held.

Think about that. In those days, the draft was mostly handled by the head coach. Remember how upset Paul Brown was when Art Modell made the Bobby Mitchell trade for the rights to Ernie Davis? It was a totally different dynamic in the NFL back then. It would be unthinkable that a head coach today, in the middle of game-planning with a couple of games left in the regular season, would be capable, or interested in planning for all that goes into the draft.

Do you think that Paul Brown ever envisioned that the NFL would become a twelve month sport, and that his son, Mike, the owner of the Cincinnati Bengals, and other owners would be involved in a two-day draft, televised continuously? And that cottage industries, led by the Mel Kipers of the world, would sprout up into multi-million dollar enterprises? I doubt it.

Les Levine is the host of 'More Sports & Les Levine', which can be seen M-F from 6-7pm and 11-midnight on Adelphia Channel 15 in northeast Ohio , and ‘Cleveland Rants' is seen and heard after Indians games on FSN Ohio and WKNR . Les is also the lead Sunday columnist in the Lake County News-Herald and Lorain Journal.  E-mail msandll@aol.com or www.leslevine.com

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