Here’s why the Browns’ rebuild has failed

Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Browns completely revamped their front office and coaching staff after a sorely disappointing six-win 2019 campaign. Cleveland entered the season with Super Bowl aspirations, only to fall flat under one-and-done head coach Freddie Kitchens.

This is a clear indication that the Browns’ hopes of rebuilding after two decades of irrelevance has failed. Here’s why.

It starts at the top: Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is considered one of the worst at his position in the NFL. He’s been hands-on, and it has not worked out.

  • Cleveland boasts a 21-75-1 record since Haslam took ownership about midway through the 2012 season. That’s not a coincidence. He’s led a fledgling ship in nearly every way possible.
  • The Browns are now on their sixth head coach in seven-plus seasons since Haslam took over. That includes both Kitchens and Rob Chudzinski being one and done.
  • This same span has seen Cleveland go through five different general managers. Most recently, John Dorsey was fired after yet another disappointing season in Ohio.
  • Without a sense of continuity in the front office and coaching staff, the Browns have been doomed to fail under Haslam. That’s the first point we must make in looking at how their rebuild has failed.

The 2016 blockbuster: The deal to move down from the No. 2 overall pick for the eighth selection in that year’s draft has proven to be an unmitigated disaster.

  • Back in 2016, Cleveland moved the No. 2 overall pick in that year’s draft to the Philadelphia Eagles for a package containing the No. 8 overall pick, a first-round pick in 2017 and change.
  • Cleveland ultimately moved the eighth selection to Tennessee for the 15th pick. It took receiver Corey Coleman. He played exactly one season in Cleveland, catching 23 passes.
  • It was a sign of things to come. Indirectly, Cleveland acquired 10 players in the trade with Philadelphia. Only Denzel Ward remains on the team.
  • What’s even more shocking is the fact that Cleveland dealt the 2017 first-round pick it acquired in this trade to the Houston Texans. They ended up selecting a player by the name of Deshaun Watson.
  • When it comes to historically bad trades, this has to rank in the top three. And in reality, it halted Cleveland’s rebuild in a big way.

Major missteps: Free agency, trades and the draft. These Browns have not done themselves any favors from a player personnel perspective.

  • Looking back as far as 2016, the Browns have continually struggled both adding free agents and when it comes to retaining their core guys. This included Cleveland losing stud offensive linemen Mitchell Schwartz and Alex Mack that year. Both are still playing at high levels.
  • The following year saw Cleveland sign guard Kevin Zeitler to a five-year, $60 million contract. He was traded to the New York Giants after just two seasons with the Browns.
  • Back in 2018, Cleveland traded for Jarvis Landry. It ultimately signed the receiver to a five-year, $75.5 million extension. While Landry has played well, that’s a vast overpay. This doesn’t even take into account the signing of free-agent bust E.J. Gaines. Heck, Cleveland signed a player in Mychal Kendricks who never suited up for a team after being charged with insider trading. Think about that for a second.
  • All said, the Browns have struggled big time finding the right mix in both free agency and via trades. The latest example of this was the blockbuster trade for Odell Beckham Jr. last March. He’s coming off a career-worst season and could very well be back on the trade block.

Baker Mayfield: After an historical rookie season back in 2018, Mayfield regressed big time on the field. There’s also issues with his perceived lack of maturity.

  • Mayfield’s struggles on the field last season coincided with one-and-done head coach Freddie Kitchens being in way over his head. That’s the harsh reality of the situation.
  • As it relates to the former No. 1 overall pick, he took a major statistical step back last season. He threw 22 touchdowns compared to 21 interceptions after boasting a 27-14 TD/INT ratio as a rookie in 2018.
  • There’s now valid questions about Mayfield’s maturity and the way he conducts business. That includes ongoing feuds with a number of media personalities.

Mayfield’s struggles could have been seen coming a mile away. Cleveland had eight quarterbacks start games in the three seasons prior to his arrival. The team has not hit on a quarterback since selecting Bernie Kosar back in 1985. That’s not hyperbole. In fact, look at their recent history of selecting players at this position in the first round.

  • 2007: Brady Quinn, 12 starts
  • 2012: Brandon Weeden, 20 starts
  • 2014: Johnny Manziel, eight starts

Bottom line

No matter who has been general manager or manning the sidelines in Cleveland since they re-entered the NFL back in 1999, nothing has panned out for the Browns.

While there might be some sense of optimism under first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski and general manager Andrew Berry, caution should be the name of the game here.

For some reason, the Browns seem to be cursed. The hope is that this duo changes the dynamic big time in Cleveland. But based on history, that seems highly unlikely.