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Once-proud Browns franchise still appears rudderless, incompetent

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider

Coach Pat Shurmur denies reports there were any trade discussions regarding QB Colt McCoy. (US Presswire)  
Coach Pat Shurmur denies reports there were any trade discussions regarding QB Colt McCoy. (US Presswire)  

NEW YORK -- This is how running back Trent Richardson landed in Cleveland. The story begins with phone calls. Lots of them.

The entire NFL knew the obvious -- that the Minnesota Vikings were in a key spot. Richardson was going either third or fourth and everyone also knew the Vikings weren’t taking him. They already have a stud running back. Maybe you’ve heard of him.

Teams called the Vikings to get a feel for their intentions and right away they knew the team was selling a bushel of B.S. According to several team executives who spoke with the Vikings, the team was attempting to convince anyone who listened they weren’t going to take USC tackle Matt Kalil, an attempt at subterfuge that actually had started days earlier.

No one believed the Vikings. “They were trying too hard,” said one scout.

The Vikings at one point told one interested team that at least a half-dozen other teams had inquired about trading up. That was actually true but when Minnesota started telling teams what compensation other franchises were offering, everyone was convinced the Vikings were mostly bluffing. No one believed them. Except one team.

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The Browns bought what the Vikings were cooking and suckers were born. Cleveland was convinced at least several teams were prepared to leap them when by all accounts that wasn’t going to happen. Even one day later, some teams around the league remain totally perplexed at the Browns giving up three picks to move one spot when they didn’t have to.

While Vikings general manager Rick Spielman deserves the praise he’s received for snookering the Browns, the entire episode leads to a critical question.

Do the Browns know what they’re doing?

It’s a simple question and I dare anyone to answer it with great conviction.

While Cleveland media and fans are acting like the Browns pulled off one of the great draft day trades in the history of mankind, and blasting anyone who dares wonder aloud about the move, the question remains pertinent.

The entire league wants the Browns to do better (well, except for maybe the Steelers). This has long been one of the great and historic teams in all of sports. If you appreciate football history, you appreciate the Browns. What’s happened to this franchise has been a cruel joke.

Many have long been waiting for someone to change Cleveland’s fortunes and the thought was that guru Mike Holmgren, now running the team, was that guy. That was two years ago. In Holmgren’s latest move the Browns used valuable resources in this draft to move one spot and pick a running back in a passing league. A back who is very good but a back the legendary Jim Brown reportedly called average.

Holmgren has been in charge of the Browns for two years and so far there’s been little he’s done to distinguish himself. The team has won nine games in those two seasons and there’s little indication Holmgren has done anything to reverse the ugliness. Tom Heckert, the general manager, is good but Holmgren is still the top guy.

The Browns have completely flubbed the quarterback position. Is Colt McCoy the guy or not? Is it now Brandon Weeden, who is three years older than McCoy?

The reaction of the Cleveland brass to rumors that McCoy might be traded has been almost comical. Coach Pat Shurmur denied to ESPN there were any trade discussions regarding McCoy. But Holmgren told a reporter for Cleveland’s WKNR that “I don’t know. He might be here. We’ll see.”

Well, OK then.

Holmgren deserves more time and this isn’t to say he won’t be successful. It’s just hard to say. Two years isn’t a long time but it’s enough to get a feel and that feeling leads to the original question.

Do the Browns know what they’re doing?


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