DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - It takes a village to raze a football team. That would be "raze," not "raise" -- as in, to completely destroy.
And while Jimmy Haslam and his villagers believe the destruction was necessary, before they build from the ground up, this is a collapse of historic proportions. So as they close in on only the second 0-16 season in NFL history, we ask the question: what was the single biggest mistake made by this organization that led to this mess?
Bud Shaw of Cleveland.com says it was completely gutting the roster.
"I think it's stripping the roster in an unprecedented way," Shaw said. "We had the owner say this is gonna be a multi-year rebuild, and then it became a self-fulfilling prophecy, because of the people they let go, and my biggest argument all along was that they were letting guys go (Mitchell Schwartz, Travis Benjamin, Taylor Gabriel) who were in their prime. We all know there are going to be injuries, but when you gut your team like this, and start playing with 19 rookies, you have no chance."
Adam the Bull, co-host of Bull and Fox on 92.3 the Fan, says the Browns had to gut the roster and blames a blast from the past: an over-hyped, under-performing party boy who didn't pan out.
"The first thing I think of is drafting Johnny Manziel," Bull says. "Now, that didn't happen this year, but I think where we are now with the Browns, all goes back to the draft of Johnny Manziel. That was a huge mistake, and the Browns should have known it at the time."
Adam the Bull says the collapse that followed, from blowing up a 7-4 season in 2014, to the eventual firings of General Manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine, can all be traced to Manziel.
"That set this all in motion," says Bull.
Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer also puts in on the Farmer regime, but for drafting a different player.
"Cameron Erving," says Pluto.
Erving, a 1st-round pick out of Florida State in 2015, has been overwhelmed while trying to replace Pro Bowler Alex Mack at center.
"It dovetails back to the mishandling of Mack several years ago," says Pluto, referring to the Browns' failure to sign Mack to team-friendly long-term deal. "I went through, ever since they came back in '99 -- every offensive lineman they drafted in the first or second round has started, except (Erving)."
Actually, Erving starts. He just doesn't succeed, and multiple quarterbacks have physically paid the price because of it. Considering the Browns' track record of drafting quality linemen, including perennial Pro Bowler Joe Thomas, Mitchell Schwartz, and Joel Bitonio, the miss on Erving looms as a large one.
"Actually, (drafting offensive linemen) is the only thing they ever got right, except Cam Erving, who's hopeless," Pluto said.
I agree that the Sashi Brown group is recovering from the previous regime's past sins, but they're also accountable for their own. They passed on Joey Bosa, passed on Carson Wentz, and went for quantity over quality with 14 picks, and came away without a difference maker. They can't make the same mistake again next April, or the answer to this question next year will be far easier to find.
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