Passan: The Silly Season

Rich shakes his head at the manic mocks and rampaging rumors...

Phil Savage calls it the "silly season," that time of the National Football League year where anything goes.

The NFL's annual trek into Wonderland, a.k.a. the college football draft, has an unusual effect on pro football fans. It makes them think, act and talk in ways they wouldn't ordinarily.

Fans become so immersed in the machinations of the draft, common sense takes a vacation. They leap on rumors, many of which begin and then fester on the Internet, and transform them into some semblance of reality.

The Browns are going to trade up; no, the Browns are going to trade down; Savage will do anything to draft Louisiana State quarterback JaMarcus Russell; no, wait, make that Brady Quinn of Notre Dame because Fighting Irish coach Charlie Weis knows Romeo Crennel and says Quinn and the Browns would be a "match made in heaven"; the Browns will finally address the running game and draft Adrian Peterson; no, wait, Peterson is injury-prone; Cleveland will draft offensive tackle Joe Thomas because everyone know that the Browns' offensive line needs all the help it can get.

Wait, there's more.

Statistical analyses by so-called experts show that teams don't win Super Bowls unless they have a great quarterback. No, wait, make that a great running back. Hold on, change that to a stud offensive left tackle.

On and on and on it goes. Everyone's got an opinion.

Fans go so far as to suggest exotic trade scenarios that make perfect sense to them. And only them.

Arguments bust out hourly on this Web site as the most zealous fans of the draft, many of whom pore over all the latest draft stuff on the information highway, weigh in with their latest opinions.

All in the interest of helping the Browns gain a semblance of respectability.

Nothing wrong with that. But if Savage or any of his minions pop in on this site, I'm certain they get a big kick out of those opinions. Mine included. Helps break up the day.

The draft gurus are in lottery heaven as practically anyone who cares hangs onto every word they offer. In his latest mock draft, Todd McShay of Scouts, Inc. changes his mind and says the Browns will draft Adrian Peterson. Pro Football Weekly agrees. For now.

Mel Kiper Jr. switches gears in his mock and declares the Browns will grab Quinn. Fox Sports says this, CBS Sportsline says that.

It is downright entertaining to see these guys change their mocks on a week-to-week basis. It's gotten so confusing, it's hard to figure who to believe.

And what does all it mean? Absolutely nothing. Not your opinion, not your best friend's opinion, not my opinion, not your worst enemy's opinion. They all mean nothing.

At around 12:30 p.m. a week from Saturday, the only opinion that will count is Savage's. That's when rumors grind to a halt and reality sets in.

It has been speculated by the multitudes that there will be a plethora of trading at the top of the first round. Makes sense for the Oakland Raiders to drop down a few spots, pick up an extra draft choice or two and still get their man. Same with the Detroit Lions, perched right behind the Raiders at #2.

If that fails to eventuate, Cleveland fans are licking their chops at the possibility that the Browns, sitting at #3, will trade down and hit the mother lode, picking up a barrel full of draft picks.

And yet, it wouldn't be surprising at all if absolutely nothing took place at the top of the first round and the Raiders, Lions and Browns do not trade out of their positions. Until then, let the Rumor Machine roar.

It doesn't take much for a rumor to wind up as a fact in the minds of many fans. And Savage is correct. It does get silly.

Everyone takes sides. Everyone has a camp. Thomas, Calvin Johnson, Quinn, Peterson and Russell. All pimped by a variety of OBR posters. All very good football players.

Russell, his fans point out, has, by far, the stronger arm between the two quarterbacks. Quinn, despite arguments to the contrary, plays winning football, counter his guys.

The Irish were 10-3 this season, losing only to Michigan, Southern California and LSU, three pretty good teams. And that's primarily because the Norte Dame defense gave up more than 40 points a game in each of those losses, the result of a weak secondary and practically no pass rush.

No question that Russell clearly outplayed Quinn in the Sugar Bowl as the Tigers all but disemboweled the Irish.

Quinn threw 467 passes with 37 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Granted five of those picks came in the losses to Michigan and LSU. But they are telling statistics. With any help from his defense, he might have won at least one of those games.

Now I don't want this to sound as if I'm suggesting Savage pick Quinn a week from Saturday. Quite the opposite.

I am, and will continue to be, a Peterson guy because I believe the Browns need help the most on offense in the running game.

Hopefully, Savage will pay no attention to the Charlie Weises of the world and make decisions based on what his discerning eyes tell him.

Whichever way he moves, you can be certain of one thing: The Browns will draft a very good football player in the first round. One who can be expected to come in and make a major contribution.

Nothing wrong with that.

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