After the NFL Combine that Robert Griffin III had, it was only natural that the quarterback from Baylor would be squarely in the spotlight while the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins and others decide whether or not the Heisman Trophy winner is worth the bidding war.
As it stands right now, it is looking like the Browns would need to give up at least their two first round picks in 2012 in addition to other picks, depending on what offers the Rams receive from Washington, Miami and elsewhere.
In the small picture, all of this is to move up two spots. In the big picture, it's to move up two spots to acquire a potential franchise-changing quarterback. The Browns obviously need help at more than just QB; the team has holes at wide receiver, running back, on the offensive line, in the secondary, at the linebacker position and could always use more help on the d-line.
But as we've seen in the playoffs, it's a quarterback's league. The Cleveland Browns haven't had a truly successful quarterback since returning in 1999, and have only drafted a signal-caller once in the top 10 since the franchise rebooted.
It's a name that gives Browns' fans pause, and rightly so. He was a bust, and is a cautionary tale about quarterbacks without strong foundations around them.
The thing is, the Browns have tried to overcorrect in building that foundation, and still haven't made a push into the playoffs. There's little to be lost from giving this thing a shot. Moving up to take Brady Quinn was a calculated risk, but he never offered the sort of talent that Griffin has. Quinn at best was a game-manager, much like Colt McCoy, and was the kind of player who could be successful if the team was already in motion and just needed a little shove.
Taking a quarterback in the top five, and especially trading up to take said quarterback, is a dangerous proposition. I realize that, but it isn't as precarious as it seems. As long as the price doesn't get too high, the worst that can happen is he flames out, and the Browns go 4-12 again.
How is that any more disastrous than now?
The team is treading water and wasting the best years of the core group of players it struggled so mightily to acquire in the first place. Year after year we've seen the Browns trade down to make smarter, more risk averse moves. The team got burned by Couch, Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren, and swinging and missing on guys in the first half of the first round (especially if you decide to add Kellen Winslow II and Braylon Edwards into the mix) has the city and the front office rightfully spooked.
The problem with perpetuating the Browns' mentality year in and year out is that the team misses out on game changers. I have no problem with making draft day trades to improve the roster at large, and get more quality players, but the front office whiffed on some of those guys too. Willie Green, Jeff Faine, Quinn, and to a large degree, Kamerion Wimbley didn't go as planned, and many of the second and third round picks from 2000 through the end of Eric Mangini's tenure flamed out as well.
Putting money on red over and over again may give you good odds, but you can still lose money. Sometimes to build up a big enough chip stack, you have to bet on double zero and hope the ball settles in the right pocket. It only takes one big hit to give the team enough flexibility to build around.
Do I believe Griffin is that guy? Too early to tell. Do I believe the Browns owe it to themselves and the city to take that risk? Absolutely.
The price tag is scary, but the potential reward of getting a dynamic quarterback who can make plays when the pocket breaks down, throw the long ball, get out in space with his legs, hit intermediate routes and make the team around him better far outweighs the advantages that drafting Trent Richardson, a wide receiver like Chris Givens or Kendall Wright and a defensive or offensive tackle do in the first 40 picks.
Take a look at the playoff teams in 2011. Denver used a wave of momentum, an upstart defense and a gimmick offense, Houston has spent almost a decade constructing its team to finally make the playoffs and was an injury to its star quarterback away a potential championship run, and Cincinnati had balance. Outside of those three, an elite quarterback was what separated the ordinary from the special.
Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Tom Brady, Matt Stafford, Matt Ryan and Ben Roethlisberger are all in the first tier. Alex Smith was a former No. 1 pick with a phenomenal defense behind him.
It's clear that a high-quality quarterback makes a difference in the NFL. Of course, you run the risk of drafting a guy like JaMarcus Russell, but that's on scouting. RGIII is far from what Russell was. He has no red flags, is poised and seems ready to lead a franchise, much like Cam Newton did for the Panthers.
Newton was the only true difference between a team that won two games in 2010 and a team that won six games a year later. Carolina's defense was abysmal, but the Auburn QB kept the team competitive in many of the losses, something the Panthers were severely lacking the year before.
The Browns have plenty of time to stay bad. It's not like that's anything new. They have a chance now to make a statement and to go for broke. Maybe it will turn out being another in a long line of draft-day failures.
Or maybe it will work.
The only way the Browns will know for sure is if they are willing to take the chance.