Cleveland Browns: Phil Savage
The toughest question to answer: Does one include Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards as top draft picks even though their careers flamed out quickly in Cleveland? Both had exceptional seasons, but in the long-term were they productive and dependable when they only played a short time with the Browns?
Here is one list, starting with ...
Player: Ryan Pontbriand
Position: Long snapper
When: Fifth round, 2003
By: Butch Davis
A lot of people chuckled when Davis made a long snapper the fifth-round pick in 2003. Including Pontbriand. And me. I can still hear Pontbriand talking in disbelief that he was even drafted. “I’m only a long snapper,” he said, “and I must be pretty good at it.” Then he laughed. But until a couple years ago, Pontbriand was as dependable a player as the Browns had on the team. When he was released in 2011, placekicker Phil Dawson said he had witnessed perfection for the previous eight seasons.
Player: Daylon McCutcheon
When: Third round, 1999
By: Dwight Clark and Chris Palmer
Smart, steady, dependable -- and also the first owner of the “teeny tiny break” (more later), McCutcheon was a very good Cleveland Brown for seven years. He started 96 of 103 games, and always played bigger than his 5-foot-10 size (Radio analyst Doug Dieken immediately dubbed him “McMunchkin.”) McCutcheon was honest, a good teammate and dedicated to winning. That it didn’t happen a lot in his tenure was not because of his failing. As for the teeny tiny break ... many Browns fans remember that happened with quarterback Kelly Holcomb and the “teeny tiny break of a non-weight bearing bone” in his leg, after which Davis said Holcomb might play the following week. The original “teeny tiny” break, though, belonged to McCutcheon. Davis said the corner had a “teeny tiny” break of his thumb. When the media saw McCutcheon in the locker room a few minutes later, he had a a cast the size of Gibraltar after having six screws and a plate surgically placed in the thumb.
Player: Josh Gordon
Position: Wide receiver
When: Second round, supplemental draft, 2012
By: Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur
Player: Andra Davis
Position: Middle linebacker
When: Second round, 2002
By: Butch Davis
Dependable, steady, team-oriented, humble ... Andra Davis gave the Browns seven very good years, and in one was voted the team’s Player of the Year by the local Pro Football Writers. While guys like Edwards and Winslow had flashier seasons, Davis had a more consistent and dependable Cleveland career. He might not have had the impact of a Brian Urlacher, but he was a good player in different systems.
NUMBER 7 (tie)
Players: Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard
When: First and second round, 2011
By: Tom Heckert
Player: D'Qwell Jackson
When: Second round, 2006
By: Phil Savage
The logical choice for a team that needed a middle linebacker was Jackson, the best player on the board, from Maryland. The Browns wound up with a quality player and person. Jackson played seven years for the Browns, overcame injury and contributed every season he was healthy. His only flaw was being too nice on the field when it came to teammates’ mistakes, but in the aggregate he was a big plus for the team for many years.
Tomorrow: The top five
There actually is optimism about the Cleveland Browns in the NFL.
The latest comes form someone who’s been through the Browns meat grinder. Former General Manager Phil Savage, now the guy in charge of the Senior Bowl, had some posts on Twitter recently that should make Browns fans happy.
When someone who knows the game as well as Savage says it, it matters. What he says matters about 1,760,429 times more than any Johnny Manziel statement about winning over the Dawg Pound.
On Feb. 13 Savage tweeted in response to a question that the Browns are “on (the) verge of (a) breakthrough to respectability now.”
Go back to the day Ray Farmer was promoted to General Manager, Savage offered these Twitter thoughts as to why Farmer could succeed (without Twitter shortcuts on wording):
In my opinion, here are three advantages new Browns’ GM Ray Farmer will have over his six predecessors beginning today. Farmers has 1) Been working with the organization for a year and know the roster; 2) Does not have to deal with non-football CEO-type, 3) has three picks in the top 35. And, with Ray Farmer’s reputation as a good person, more teams/agents/players are going to be willing to deal with the Browns.
He concluded with the hashtag: Road to respect.
What a road that has been.