Heading into week 16, the winless Cleveland Browns are in the drivers seat to land the 1st overall pick, and thanks to last years draft day trade with the Houston Texans, they have a high chance at a second top five pick. The Browns drafted former Notre Dame quarterback Deshone Kizer in the second round last year, hoping he could be their quarterback of the future. Based on his performance as the starter so far this season, in which he has been intercepted 19 times and lost 7 fumbles, it appears he is not the answer at quarterback for the struggling franchise. That combined with new general manager John Dorsey coming in, it’s extremely likely that the Browns will be looking to take a quarterback with one of their top picks, likely Darnold or Rosen.
Every player dreams of being the first overall pick. It’s an honor. It means you are the best player in your draft class. It means a struggling franchise believes you are the missing piece they need to go from the bottom of the league to a title contender. It means you will be the most talked about rookie in that upcoming season. It means fans will be storming the gates at training camp, so they can see you, their new hero.
It also means that you’re expected to win and produce immediately. It means if you struggle, the fans will turn on you, and start chanting for the next big thing. It means you have the shortest leash of anyone in football. No one cares if the 15th or 16th pick doesn’t produce immediately, but they’ll call for the 1st picks head if he throws a few picks.
In all likelihood, if Darnold or Rosen, or both, declare for the draft, one of them will be selected by Cleveland. Now the two quarterbacks must weight their options and decide what is the best move for them; enter the draft and risk ending up in Cleveland, a dysfunctional franchise that goes through quarterbacks like a guy with the flu goes through tissues, or go back to school, and risk not only injury, but millions of dollars in draft stock?
My advice, stay in school, or pull and Eli Manning, and publicly state that you will not play for Cleveland. Manning, before the 2004 draft, told the San Diego Chargers, who held the number one pick, that he would sit out the entire season if they drafted him. San Diego had put together only 4 winning seasons since 1983 at that time. The Chargers ended up drafting Manning anyway, only to trade him to the New York Giants less than an hour later. Should Rosen or Darnold enter the draft, that could be an option for them. Manning and his inner circle did not want to play in San Diego because he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to have a productive career there based on the state of the franchise, and considering the Browns may be in worse shape then the Chargers were, the young quarterbacks wouldn’t be in the wrong in some eyes if they pulled that move.
If this were to happen, or if either stays in school and says it is because they didn’t want to end up in Cleveland, there will be those that will demonize them. They’ll be called selfish, non-competitive, everything you can think of. People will say that these two don’t believe in themselves enough to believe they can win in Cleveland, and it will be looked at as a huge knock on them as football players.
To those people, I have only one question, if you were in their shoes, would you want to go to the Browns? This team has had 28 starting quarterbacks since 1999. Quarterbacks go there to watch their careers die. The team has won 4 games in the last 3 seasons. This team has a history of misery. The last few years, it’s been debated whether or not college teams could beat them. Coaching staffs have been shifted in and out every other year, and the front office just underwent major changes once again. There is no stability in that organization, and no clear direction. Why would a young, top quarterback prospect want to risk landing there, when they instead force their way to a different team, or could stay in school and be the big man on campus for another year, and play another season at a position where injury risk isn’t as high as others? Let people call you soft, a non-competitor, afraid of a challenge. Let them call you whatever they want, I’ll call you smart.
The NFL isn’t going anywhere, and neither Darnold or Rosen will fall much if at all if they stay in school, and neither guy appears to be in a situation where they need an NFL paycheck immediately. They’re chances of having a long, productive career in the league are much higher if they land in a better situation than Cleveland.
Now if they declare and are up for the challenge, hats off to them, but I simply won’t blame a player for watching out for their own interests.
So, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, if you think it’s in your best interest to not end up with the Browns, then do whatever you have to do. Stay in school, say you won’t play for them, do whatever it takes, because I will back up your decision 100%, and I think most of the country will to.