Do I care if the Browns win any of their last five games? Yes. To be honest, a potential 6-10 record seems more important for the team’s future than the opportunity to get the #1 pick in the draft. That might sound crazy amidst the excitement the #1 pick brings, but there are three reasons I would rather not win the right to make that pick:
1) Historically, the Browns have had no good fortune in Round 1 of the NFL draft. You would have to go all the way back to 1991, when the team chose one of the best safeties I’ve ever seen in Eric Turner, to find a guy the Browns picked in round one who carved out a Pro Bowl career and actually lived up to his potential. As far as the overall #1 pick, not many would line up to extol the success we had in 1999 and 2000 with the Tim Couch and Courtney Brown picks. Throw in the fact that out of the last 10 picks we’ve made, only 3 players are still on the current roster. Based on these observations, the less we tie up in a high pick in terms of money and expectation, the better off we are.
2) Confidence is the biggest motivator for future success. This team needs proper motivation. Motivation to take serious steps in the offseason to prevent this type of losing season from ever happening again. The great thing about our schedule is that we can steal some wins but maintain some level headedness about it considering the level of talent of our upcoming opponents. Honestly, there may be no way we can beat San Diego and Pittsburgh. But, wins over Kansas City, Oakland and Jacksonville can leave the fans happy enough to walk away from 2009 without too much unresolved anger but not let the organization off the hook for making tough GM, coaching and personnel decisions.
3) Opportunities abound when you are managing picks in the first round that aren’t #1. We saw just this year how a #5 pick could be used to multiply bodies, even if the jury is still out on the players that pick garnered. Truth be told though, this team needs to reload in major ways across the board and multiplying the times your team gets to the podium is essential. That is why the last five games matter. Our future depends on it. The players and coaches should think about that when they suit up over the next few weeks. What they do matters. All the work they have put in during practice and the hard lessons they have learned on game day should have prepared them for this push. Time to talk is over; finding ways to win has to begin.
Not to mention that these last few games may be the only chance some of the players on this roster have to ensure jobs in 2010. Brady Quinn, Jerome Harrison, Brandon McDonald and a few others have to prove they are up to the challenge. Fans need to see growth in their ability to compete at this level. Mediocrity may be good enough to be a backup, but going forward we have to find and develop guys who can make plays, make Pro Bowls and make this team a perpetual playoff contender.