Through 40 years of Cleveland Browns’ fandom, I’ve arrived at one irrefutable truism about the NFL team I love that never loves me back.
Through inexplicable come-ahead-losses and last-play defeats -- including one where my squad was lined up to attempt a game-winning field goal with scant seconds left, only to have said kick blocked and returned for a walk-off six; and another where The Boys celebrated a win with one unfortunate soul gleefully tossing his helmet upon time’s expiration, only to incur a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct that moved the opponent into position for a game-winning field goal -- this I’ve come to know as certainty:
“I don’t know what they’re going to do, but whatever they do, they’re going to screw it up.”
Such are my sufferings, and that of my favorite so-called professional football franchise, that the aforementioned commandment isn’t an only child. It also has an evil twin, which goes:
“Just when you think it can’t get worse, don’t underestimate them.”
Those two bookends of buffoonery came crashing into my respective temples shortly after 8 p.m. Thursday with the advent of what I’ve come to know, as a Browns’ fan, as, Super Bowl Thursday.
That’s what the NFL Draft is for me, since my colors have never darkened the doorstep of any of the previous 52, you know, actual Super Bowls.
In real life, Super Bowl Sunday is followed by Back-to-Work Monday, but in my life as a Browns fan, Super Bowl Thursday is almost always followed by another miserable holiday, Browns-mas.
That’s when you wake up hoping to unwrap the player equivalent of a new bicycle and instead get socks or underwear.
Or, sometimes, both.
Often, the socks come with gaping holes and the underwear chafe like sandpaper.
Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward are my socks and underwear this year, after my Browns spent the first and fourth overall picks, respectively, on the Oklahoma quarterback and Ohio State cornerback.
Mayfield and Ward may prove good players….great players, even. (See how gullible I remain?) But they leave me searching the discarded paper I wrapped around those draft slots, hoping against hope for transformative players I just don’t see in Mayfield or Ward.
On the bright side, my Browns now have incredible depth at point guard in the 6-foot-not-quite-1-inch Mayfield and the 5-11 Ward.
I wanted USC quarterback Sam Darnold and North Carolina State pass-rusher Bradley Chubb in Round One.
I deluded myself into thinking I’d get both of those players, or certainly one, but in hindsight I realize that new Browns GM John Dorsey did a phenomenal job keeping me in the dark as to what he was going to do.
And -- if you’ve been paying attention -- what happens when I don’t know what the Browns are going to do?
Yes, whatever they do, they screw it up.
There are those, Dorsey, for one, who strongly believe Mayfield will become the transformational force with the Browns that he proved at Oklahoma.
You can sell me on his 70% completion rate, his 83-14 TD-to-interception ratio the last two seasons and on his burning competitive desire.
After all, I’m a Browns fan, I’ll buy anything.
I just can't get this out of my mind.
In a division where hulking quarterbacks in Baltimore and Pittsburgh have won Super Bowls, and in a league where Michael Vick is the last QB taken in the first round who measured under 6-1, history flies in the face of Mayfield being the outlier the Browns front office says he is.
Doubting Ward’s selection is solely a factor of the position he plays and the No. 4 spot in which he was taken, relative to the availability of the pass-rusher, Chubb, who was there, waiting to make my fantasies come true.
But instead of watching Myles Garrett and Chubb terrorize opposing quarterbacks (hahahhahahaha, you picked a baaaaad time to get old, Big Ben), the Browns left Chubb on the vine for the Denver Broncos to come along at No. 5 and pluck him to play opposite Vonn Miller.
Ward was a fine player at Ohio State, but he’s very small at a position where successful players have gotten markedly bigger in recent years, and where the rules make the designation, shutdown corner, more fantasy than reality.
Pass rushers shut down great quarterbacks and receivers far more often than any individual defensive back.
That’s not Ward’s fault. It’s just the reality of the league right now.
I hope he proves me wrong.
I hope Mayfield proves me wrong.
I hope Dorsey is a genius and I’ll be sorry I ever doubted him.
And, even if I’m right and they’ve totally blown it again, maybe this will be rock bottom.
Surely, it can’t get any worse, right?
Oh, yeah. I forgot.
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