Passan: The Sound of Silence

Not a lot of news coming out of Berea these days. The place is positively sleep-inducing, as the Browns prepare to head into the draft without picks until Round 4. No picks... that can't be the way this turns out, right? Savage won't be able to resist trading up... will he? Right? Right?


Listen. The silence inside 76 Lou Groza Boulevard in Berea is deafening.

You can almost hear the air move.

Moving dust makes more noise.

It's a strange feeling at this time of the year. Very strange. Weirdly strange.

Normally, the place is jumping with excitement, with anticipation as the National Football League college draft nears.

Yep, it's NFL draft time and the Cleveland Browns are going nowhere. Fast.

Fans of the other 31 franchises ramp up the excitement as the big weekend nears. All kinds of speculation as the interest intensifies. Everywhere except Cleveland.

No first-round pick. No second-round pick. Ditto the third round.

No drama. No mystery.

Sure, the club will bring in several players between now and the draft just for show. That's because it can. Nothing wrong with playing host to some first- and second-round talent that has as much chance of wearing the Orange and Seal Brown as you and I.

In the meantime, the scouts, coaches and General Manager Phil Savage rearrange the draft board from rounds four through seven for the 45th time.

And the public relations machine tackles the challenge of generating credible, positive and exciting news as the big weekend nears.

It isn't easy to get jacked up about a two-day event in which your favorite team will be a spectator the first day. That wonderful game of guessing who the Browns are going to take in the first round – and the arguments that ensue – will have to wait at least another year.

Or will it?

Outside the building, rabid draft fans, champing at the bit for any little nugget of information, can do nothing more than speculate as to what Savage has in mind for April 26.

What are the chances the Browns will get back into the action on the first day? Only two rounds on day 1 this year, so Savage has a much narrower window with which to operate.

Surely, he won't just sit back and watch his 31 peers rape and pillage the flesh market. OK, OK, a little hyperbole never hurt anyone.

Since Savage decided to sacrifice the Browns' first three picks for a future quarterback and reconstructing the defensive line, all he can do is watch and grit his teeth as players fall off the board.

Gotta stand by, however, just in case Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones comes scrounging for another No. 1 draft pick. He gambled last year with the Browns and lost, but Cleveland's much tougher schedule this year might spur him to take another shot.

The only fun for the fans now has them what iffing with Savage as the lead character.

What if he wakes up April 26 knowing he doesn't have a first-day pick and panics? What if a player he really wants drops low enough where he can trade up and take a stab at him? What if he decides to take Jones up again, should the Cowboys owner oblige, and swaps next year's No. 1? What if he can't help himself?

There are those who still cling to the notion that Savage has something cooking, but won't tip his hand. They fervently believe he works with smoke and mirrors and that deception is his game.

Right now, a lot of the talk hones in on the quarterback controversy and whether Savage is surreptitiously and cleverly trying to manipulate a certain incumbent quarterback's departure from Cleveland in a blockbuster draft-day deal.

Not . . . gonna . . . happen.

Some people actually believe Savage is cloak-and-daggering his way back into the first round this season. No way, they think, would he be satisfied with preparing for the fourth round on day 2.

That type of thinking grows stale.

Relax. Savage is comfortable right where he's at. He knows this team is better now than it was on Jan. 1. A whole lot better. So much better, in fact, many football people believe it has a solid chance to win the AFC North this season.

No, Savage is going to worry a lot more about how much stronger Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore become through the draft. All three teams need more help now than the Browns.

The Steelers' offensive line, which displayed substantial cracks last season, needs dramatic improvement. The Bengals' locker room mess drags down their abundant talent. And the Ravens have serious quarterback problems, not to mention a new head coach.

So if you journey past 76 Lou Groza Boulevard in the next few weeks, stop for a minute or so and listen. Listen very carefully.

What you'll hear are the strains of Simon and Garfunkel. The sound of silence.

Nothing wrong with that.

The OBR Top Stories