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Posted by Sep - 21 - 2013 0 Comment

Cleveland_BrownsThis past week in Berea, there was a seismic shift in the foundation of Cleveland Browns football. A third overall pick touted as a franchise back was traded 17 games into his NFL tenure, and a 3rd string quarterback with one more NFL start than you have leapfrogged the backup to replace an injured starter. Yes Browns fans, you have been through more rebuilds than you care to admit to and deserve to have endured. But make no mistake, Joe Banner is taking this rehab project down to the studs. This isn’t bringing a few of “his guys” and running them out on the field as their careers wind down a-la Eric Mangini. Joe Banner, and almost-invisible-friend Mike Lombardi are pulling out all the stops in their effort to rebuild this struggling franchise for the umpteenth time. Fans and players alike are reeling, and questions abound as to what moves are still to come. Who is next to be traded? What are they looking to accomplish, and for the love of all things holy, when are we going to start winning?!

Go back a couple years when Joe Banner set about the task of find a new franchise to work for. His power struggle with Andy Reid in Philadelphia lost, Banner said to anyone who would listen that he wanted to rebuild a franchise. He was looking for a pet project, and Cleveland certainly had to be on his radar given how often the front office was being turned over. Fast forward to a shotgun marriage between him and Jimmy Haslam III, orchestrated by billionaire matchmaker Roger Goodell and you have new residents at 76 Lou Groza Blvd. once again. But this newlywed couple wasn’t looking to accept the fresh paint and new carpet the previous owner had laid down. No, they saw a fixer-upper no matter what the previous owner or real estate agent said. And in short order, they have started the demolition phase of this rehab. And if you have ever done this in your home, you know there is always a little collateral damage when tearing things out. It is hard to be surgical with a sledgehammer, and Joe Banner is not afraid of that risk.

In talking with a lot of folks over the last several days, it appears that most people not names Mike Holmgren see the logic and value in trading Trent Richardson for a 1st round draft pick next year. Even if the Colts make the playoffs, the Browns would sit on two very valuable picks in the first round, as well as extras in rounds three and four. Richardson has largely underachieved in his 17 games as a Brown, despite continued optimism that he would someday blossom into the back the Browns have sorely lacked since their return. But if they have lacked something greater, it is a franchise quarterback, and Banner knows that regardless of the rest of the roster, you don’t win in the NFL without a quarterback.

What has Browns fans peeved is the abrupt and ill-conceived timing of the move. A few short weeks ago, the Browns were looking like a well-oiled machine in their first two pre-season games, fans and media alike were talking up the Browns as a potential surprise team, and a team to watch in 2014. Before we are even out of September – let alone to Halloween (the usual point at which the Browns are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention) Browns fans will be watching Louisville, Clemson, and UCLA games as intently as their hometown team. That is if they are even watching the Browns at all. A vocal minority of fans are claiming to disowning the team amid their latest rebuilding project, no longer capable of handling the emotional stress associated with it, and the losing surely to ensue.

Here is what the the fans need to understand about these moves, and ones surely to come before May 8, 2014. These moves needed to be done. With each exchange of “leadership” (and I use that term quite loosely in describing previous Browns front office types), there has been roster turn over but never a wholesale upgrade in talent. Nothing typifies that more than the first two picks in the 2012 draft. The aforementioned Richardson – a great kid certainly – hadn’t shown signs that he was ever going to be anything close to what an elite NFL back is. Brandon Weeden’s struggles have been well documented, and when you see the scout team QB filling in for you while you heal from injury, what does that tell you about that they think the team is missing in your absence? Had these moves been done in August, or after January 4th next year, fans would have been more accepting of them. There is where Banner’s apparent lack of appreciation for what Browns fans have endured and are now recycling through is earning him well-deserved criticism. If you go to the APL, adopt a beaten dog, bring it home, and the first thing you do is spank it for something it can’t control how do you expect it to be loyal to you? Banner continues to state that he doesn’t want to show his hand to potential competition in the NFL. I get that. But that also has you walking a fine line with your much maligned fan base. This is an area that Banner wasn’t known for handling particularly well in Philly. But it is something he will need to improve at as he attempt to improve this franchise. Browns fans deserve better. But Banner also deserves the chance to make this team better. The next 14 weeks of football may not be exciting to see on Sundays. But the days in between will have fans on the edge of their seats.

Categories: Cleveland Browns, Featured

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