The Browns' decision to pass on Carson Wentz in the draft combined with the rookie's sterling performance against them in Week 1, a potential season-ending injury to Browns starter Robert Griffin III and comments from Browns official Paul DePodesta intimating the Browns didn't believe Wentz would be a "top-20 quarterback" have created a tempest in Cleveland. As it turns out, not everyone involved in scouting quarterbacks in Cleveland before the 2016 draft was in agreement.
According to numerous sources with knowledge of the situation, several of the more seasoned scouts and evaluators the Browns parted with prior to the draft -- an unusual time to release such employees -- actually preferred Wentz to quarterback Jared Goff and believed him to be the greater pro prospect. It was clear to many in the organization dating back to December, when the Browns held intense draft meetings, that the newly-empowered analytics department, soon to be spearheaded by DePodesta, strongly preferred Goff. And new coach Hue Jackson and his offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, were not high on Wentz but prized Goff, sources said, and made that clear to the rest of the organization.
The Browns opted to release six members of the organization -- many of them experienced, old-school scouts -- just three weeks before the draft. At the time, they were bailing on the quarterback market in the draft (and Wentz in particular) and shopping their second-overall pick to other teams. Many of those men, a group that included former general managers and personnel directors, had never met DePodesta personally before being let go, and, with their contracts set to expire after the draft, they were going to be let go in 2016 as part of downsizing anyway.
But the timing of their release raised eyebrows then and continues to generate chatter now given the high-profile way in which their quarterback decision has played out and the fact that the segment of personnel they let go were more pro-Wentz than others.
Wentz has played just one game, and will surely face some hurdles in his rookie season, but the reviews on his debut were overly positive. The Browns could end up with the first pick in the draft, and evaluators are already gushing over Notre Dame junior quarterback DeShone Kizer. The Browns will almost certainly be taking a passer very high in 2017.