So last week on my podcast (The Don’t Stop Believeland Sports Podcast) Ty, Tim and myself discussed some of the all-time biggest draft busts, along with some of Cleveland Sports biggest draft busts. It gave me the bright idea, to look back over the years and see how the Browns could have avoided their disastrous and embarrassing return to the NFL.
In case you have been living under a rock for the past 17 years, I have some news to tell you. The Cleveland Browns are not very good at football. Having a record of 87-197 since their return in 1999 the Browns have reached an all time low losing all 12 of their games up to this point this season (0-12). It’s getting harder to watch every week, with the stadium filling up with the opposing team’s fans, and the Browns throwing out a roster that barely above that of a High School team, I decided I would take a look back and see what could have possibly been different. I am going to do my best to try and build a continuous roster of “could’ve been Browns” by doing this on a weekly basis.
So I’m starting from the beginning. 1999 The Browns first year back as an expansion franchise although the great fans of Cleveland fought to keep the teams colors and history in tact. As an expansion franchise the Browns were automatically awarded the #1 overall pick. With that pick the Browns selected Tim Couch a QB out of the University of Kentucky. Couch has historically been mentioned as a draft bust (although none of us on the DSB Podcast even mentioned his name!) and I don’t think that’s a fair label to make for Couch considering the lack of talent around him, and the fact that to this day he is still the best QB the Browns have had as an expansion franchise.
So now lets look back at what could’ve been:
Of Each of the Players in the 1st round these are the ones that I have narrowed to be my #1 pick for the Browns;
Jevon Kearse- DE, Florida: Kearse was selected 16th Overall by the Tennessee Titans, he last played in 2009. During his outstanding career “The Freak” as he was appropriately nicknamed accrued 204 tackles, 74 sacks and 16 forced fumbles. Kearse was one of the most feared DL in the game and would have made a huge impact on the Browns defense.
Donovan McNabb- QB, Syracuse: McNabb was drafted 2nd overall by the Philadelphia Eagles. McNabb threw for 37,276 yards and 234 TD’s and led the Eagles to a Superbowl (they lost but still) McNabb clearly was the most successful QB taken in the 1st round of the 1999 draft, and would have been a much better peiece to build a franchise around.
Edgerrine James- RB, Miami (FL): Selected 4th overall by the Indianapolis Colts, This pick could have really given the Browns “the Edge” (yes, I realize that was an awful pun). James ran for over 12,000 yards and 80 TD’s alongside Peyton Manning in that Colts backfield. His success may not have been nearly the same behind the O-Line in Cleveland, but I sure wish we would have found out.
Honorable Mentions: Champ Bailey, Torrey Holt, Ricky Williams, Daunte Culpepper.
My Choice- With the first pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, The Cleveland Browns select……Donovan McNabb, QB, Syracuse. When building a Franchise a QB is the absolute key to future success. With McNabb being a bit more mobile maybe he would have been able to escape some of the punishment Couch took behind that O-Line, and would have gotten the franchise off to a better start.
With the Browns first selection in the 2nd round, they took Kevin Johnson, WR from Syracuse (same school as Donovan Mcnabb ) I think they were trying to give Couch a weapon, although being a pretty decent WR he was unable to help the offense strike fear in opposing defenses. These are the players they should have considered:
Jon Janson-LT, Michigan: Janson was selected 37th overall by the Washington Redskins and was one of the most consistent Left Tackles in all of Pro Football. Adding him to sure up the O-Line to protect Donovan McNabb.
Dre Bly-CB, North Carolina:Selected 41st overall by the St. Louis Rams, Bly was a quick Corner who had over 100 pass defensed in his career and 43 INT’s. He was a game changer in the secondary and would have most likely been a fan favorite in Cleveland.
My Choice– With the 32nd pick in the 1999 NFL Draft the Cleveland Browns select Jon Janson, LT, Michigan. As I mentioned before protecting Donovan McNabb is 100% my reasoning behind this pick. A LT is a very crucial position (although Joe Thomas hasn’t exactly won a ton of games in his career)
Because the Browns were an expansion franchise they were awarded compensatory picks including one in the 2nd round where they drafted Rahim Abdullah, LB, Clemson. Here is the pick I would have made instead:
My Choice– With the 45th pick in the 1999 NFL Draft the Cleveland Browns select: Peerless Price-WR, Tennessee; Price was originally picked 53rd by Buffalo Bills. I know that defense is something that I have yet to address but hindsight being 20/20 and knowing the kind of careers the players I’m picking end up with, it makes it easy to stack up the offense. Price was FAST and really only had about 2 good seasons, but he is a much better option than anybody thats left in the 2nd round.
in the 3rd round the Browns selected Daylon McCutcheon which I was tempted to keep as the pick. But the further I looked there is one player that I couldn’t pass up on, so with that being said..
My Choice-With the 62nd pick in the 1999 NFL Draft the Cleveland Browns select Joey Porter, LB, Colorado State. Porter was originally 73rd overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Yes, that’s right. I HATED Joey Porter on the Steelers, but you and I both know if he was a Cleveland Brown we would have loved his feisty attitude and not to mention he was a good player. He had almost 500 tackles (498) 98 sacks, and 25 forced fumbles in his career. He would be the cornerstone that the Browns built their defense around.
The Browns also received the 76th overall pick where they drafted Marquis Smith a Safety from USC.
My Choice– With the 76th pick in the 1999 the expansion Cleveland Browns select…Martin Gramatica, K, Kansas State. Gramatica was picked 80th overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Yeah, a freaking Kicker in the 3rd round. The worst part about this pick that it means that there never would have been a Phil Dawson era in Cleveland, which was almost enough to make me not do it, but for a young team that probably won’t score many points, to have a kicker with a good leg could be beneficial. So that is what made me select a kicker in this spot.
In the 4th Round the Browns selected LB Wali Rainer with pick number 124.
My Choice- with the 124th pick in the 1999 NFL Draft The Cleveland Browns select….Josh Bidwell, P, Oregon: Bidwell was orginally selected 133rd by the Green Bay Packers. For the same reason I selected a Kicker at 76 i select a Punter at 124. Special Teams is way more important when you have a bad offense, it can honestly make the difference in a game if you can win the field position battle.
In the 5th Round the Browns selected WR Darrin Chiaverini (who?) with pick number 148.
My Choice– With the 148th Pick in the 1999 NFL Draft the Cleveland Browns select Roderick Coleman-DL, East Carolina: Coleman was picked 153rd overall by the Oakland Raiders, and in his career he had 269 tackles, and 58.5 sacks. He made the Pro Bowl in 2005 with the Atlanta Falcons. Don’t worry I’ve never heard of him either, but a 5th round Pro Bowl, DL….I wouldn’t be mad about it.
In the 6th round the Browns selected Marcus Spriggs, DT from Troy.
My Choice– With the 174th Pick in the 1999 NFL Draft the Cleveland Browns select, Desmond Clark, TE, Wake Forrest. Clark was originally picked by the Denver Broncos with pick number 179. Clark scored 27 TD’s in his career and could provide some solid depth at the TE position going forward for the Browns.
The Browns also had pick 187 where they selected Kendall Ogle, LB from Maryland. And James Dearth, LS, Tarleton State with pick 191.
The Browns selected RB Madre Hill from Arkansas with the 207th pick.
My Choice– I would have packaged a deal with picks 187,191, and 207 to trade BACK with the Green Bay Packers so that I could pick at 213. And with pick 213 in the 1999 NFL Draft the Cleveland Browns select Donald Driver, WR, Alcorn State. Would this trade make any sense at the time? no, absolutely not. Would anyone question me after Donald Driver shows the NFL that he is an absolute beast? no, absolutely not.
That would conclude my expansion draft with the Browns. This is the players that I personally would use from the 1999 NFL draft to build the foundation of the Browns. Clearly I am at an advantage of knowing how their careers turned out, but the point of this is to look back and see what the Browns could have done differently to avoid becoming the laughing stock of the NFL 17 years late. I’ll tell you right now looking back through this draft, even as a pretty hardcore Browns fan I never even heard of half of the players that the Browns drafted in 1999. So obviously missing in the draft has been a huge part of the problem.
Stick with me as I will be updating this weekly, including next week where I will review the 2000 NFL draft and see who the Browns could have drafted and add them to my roster to see what kind of team we potentially could have had. Hope you enjoied this and make sure if you are a Browns fan to check out my podcast, at http://www.dontstopbelieveland.podomatic.com
Here is where I’m going to keep my continuous Draft Roster of players that could’ve (should’ve) been Cleveland Browns.
QB- Donovan McNabb (99)
WR- Peerless Price (99)
WR- Donald Driver (99)
TE- Desmond Clark (99)
LT- Jon Jansen (99)
DT- Roderick Coleman (99)
LB-Joey Porter (99)
K- Martin Gramatica (99)
P- Josh Bidwell (99)