The Cleveland Browns want you to believe that they will field a competitive team this season.
Will that actually happen? Anything’s possible, but the organization finds itself in the same gruesome position it’s always in: a few bright spots on the roster will be drowned out by numerous holes and a lack of talent at the most important position in the game. The Browns will just never become an actual contender if they don’t stop shooting themselves in the foot. Whenever they take a step forward – such as drafting a player with exceptional upside like Danny Shelton – they take two big steps back.
Two of those backward steps occurred in the past few days, as the Browns solidified their 53-man roster to enter the season. In an unsurprising move, 2015 fourth-round pick Vince Mayle was not only left off the main roster, but he cleared waivers and couldn’t even make the team’s practice squad. The 24-year-old receiver had an abysmal camp and preseason, adding up to a completely wasted pick for the Browns.
Mayle couldn’t even beat out quarterback-turned-receiver Terrelle Pryor, who pretty much never saw the field, appearing in just one preseason game thanks to a lingering hamstring injury.
In a slightly more surprising move that developed over the past few days, the Browns traded running back Terrance West to the Tennessee Titans for a conditional seventh-round pick (or, in other words, nothing). Thanks to the lengthy hamstring injury to rookie Duke Johnson, West was embroiled in a competition with Isaiah Crowell for the starting job, yet neither back seemed all too eager to want it. West just appeared to want it less, and the 2014 third-round pick, who the Browns moved up to acquire, is already shipped away to become some other organization’s problem.
The list of Browns missteps each year is absurdly long, and it’s the reason for the team’s sustained ineptitude since 1999. Just look at the past four years:
In 2014, the team drafted a stalwart offensive lineman in Joel Bitonio. But they also completely wasted their first round by selecting cornerback Justin Gilbert and quarterback Johnny Manziel, two utterly useless pieces to the roster.
In 2013, the Browns used their first-round pick on linebacker Barkevious Mingo, who has been hurt for much of his brief career. The rest of the draft class has been nonexistent, including the forfeited second-round pick that was used to select the now-suspended Josh Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft.
In 2012, the Browns made the infamous first-round selections of running back Trent Richardson (who was cut by the Oakland Raiders last week) and quarterback Brandon Weeden.
The list just goes on and on and on and on. Year after year, the Browns negate any successful personnel moves with a bevy of spectacular high-profile failures, institutional missteps that last through every regime change, every front office that promises things will finally be different.
For the 2015 season, the Browns are pinning their hopes on what should be a fast-improving defense. But how much will that matter when the running back position – initially thought to be a strength – now looks painfully thin and the quarterback position is, as always, a disaster? To their credit, the Browns have been very good at finding diamonds in the rough (like Tashaun Gipson, K’Waun Williams and Crowell), but until they can hit home runs on high draft picks at the skill positions, the song will always remain the same.
And as of right now, it doesn’t look like this season will be any different.