John Dorsey and the Cleveland Competency Project
There are few cities in professional sports that have had to deal with incompetence more than Cleveland. The city, located in Ohio, had been host to some of the worst franchises in professional sports until the last several years. Recently, their fans have been blessed with success from the Indians and Cavaliers. The Indians were the American League Champions in 2016, and nearly won game seven of the World Series. In the next season, they won the AL Central thanks to a winning streak for the ages. The Cleveland Cavaliers were blessed by the return of LeBron James, who brought a winning culture back with him. He created one of the best teams in the NBA, and has carried them to three-straight NBA Finals appearances, including one improbable win over the best regular season NBA team in History.
The city of Cleveland has been home to several of the best athletes in the NBA and MLB since 2015, but the success has not translated to the NFL. The Cleveland Browns have been the laughing stock of the league for nearly the last two decades. The last time they made the playoffs was in 2002, and they lost in the first round. In 2002, they won 9 games, and since then, they have won more than nine games one time, when they won 10 in 2007. Calling them an embarrassment might be an understatement. They have been able to land a franchise quarterback, as is evidenced by the infamous Browns QB Jersey.
Now, having a quarterback to build around is quintessential for success in the NFL. There are really two roads to success in the NFL, the first of which is to build around the strengths of a franchise quarterback, and the second way is to have a defense great enough to make a average offense outscore other teams on a consistent basis. The Browns have not had success moving down either path, in fact, they saw the fork in the road, and instead of choosing a path to follow on the path to more success, they had an aneurysm and died en route becoming food to the hungry pack of wolves that are the 31 other teams in the NFL.
The Browns have missed out on several top quarterbacks in recent years that have led their teams to success, Carson Wentz and DeShaun Watson are the first two examples that come to mind, and have instead chosen players who burn our relatively quickly. The most recent example of their inability to draft a quarterback was last year, when they passed on Mitchell Trubisky, DeShaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes II and instead got DeShone Kizer. However, they did have a solid draft other than the fact that they missed out on the best quarterbacks in the draft. They got some very good players to help build a foundation with. They drafted Myles Garrett with the number one overall pick, and he has the potential to be one of the best pass rushers in the league. He picked up seven sacks in 11 games last year. They also picked up Jabrill Peppers and David Njoku, who have the potential to be very solid players in the NFL.
Regardless of the solid draft, they still found themselves without competency at the most important position on the field, quarterback. They ended up going 0-16, a step down from their 1-15 finish in the prior season. After their lone win in 2016-17, the team celebrated like it had just won the Super Bowl, and after their 0-16 campaign in 2017-18, the fans threw a parade. Ownership was fed up with the lack of success, and the team fired their general manager, and replaced him with John Dorsey, who was the GM of the Kansas City Chiefs from 2013-16. He was able to build one of the best teams in the NFL during his time in Kansas City, and came into Cleveland with the goal of “recreating the success this franchise once had.”
Dorsey meant business, and in the last 48 hours, he pulled off four trades that made the Cleveland Browns a significantly better football team right now, but also a significantly better football team in the future. The first of these moves, was to acquire Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins. Landry is one of the best young receivers in the game, and has over 4,000 receiving yards in his four seasons, with 22 touchdowns. The Browns sent two draft picks over to Miami in return, a fourth-round pick this year, and a seventh-round pick in 2019. Landry is under contract for one season, because the Miami Dolphins used their franchise tag on him, but the odds are that Cleveland will try to extend him. Landry now is joining a receiving corps that also has a bona fide number one receiver in Josh Gordon. That duo could potentially be deadly, especially if they have a quarterback who can get them the ball consistently.
That quarterback is going to be Tyrod Taylor. Just under two hours after the Landry trade, John Dorsey pulled the trigger on a trade with the Buffalo Bills to land the former Pro Bowl quarterback. The Bills were never too high on Taylor’s abilities, and that was evidenced last season when they replaced him with Nathan Peterman, who was disastrous. The Browns gave up the first pick in the third round of the draft this year (65 overall pick). During the last three seasons, Taylor has been a model for consistency at the quarterback position. He had a completion percentage above 60% during each of the last three years, and never threw more than six interceptions. He, like Landry, also only has one year left on his contract, which means that he is in a perfect position to be a bridge to a young quarterback taken in this year’s draft. This also takes the pressure off of the Browns in terms of taking a quarterback and immediately throwing him into the fire. Now, a young quarterback can learn under Taylor and Hue Jackson and have more success, because the traditional “trial by fire” approach in Cleveland has been a disaster. Who knows? Maybe they might not even have to draft a quarterback first overall, and could instead focus on other key positions.
The Browns then traded for a young, exciting cornerback from the Green Bay Packers in Damarious Randall. They sent their starting quarterback from the 2017 season, DeShone Kizer, to the Packers in return. This was a very nice trade as well, as he is a very nice young player who has picked off a total of 10 passes in his three seasons. He also has played in five playoffs games, and has two interceptions in the postseason. He will fit in very nicely with the young Cleveland defense, and should help to give the offense a couple more possessions throughout the season.
The Browns then made a fourth trade, sending Danny Shelton to the Patriots along with a fifth-round pick this year. In return, they received a third-round pick next year. This trade is the least significant of the four, but it is still worth mentioning.
Free agency has yet to begin, and the Browns have the most cap space available in the NFL, so it is safe to say that more moves are on the horizon. The Browns also have two of the top four picks in this year’s draft, and John Dorsey appears to be ready to put this team back on the map. I won’t go as far as to say that the Browns could make the playoffs this year, but if Dorsey keeps making significant moves and has a solid draft, the Browns could surprise a lot of people next year, and I am excited to see it.