Cleveland Browns Going for Broke

Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku
Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - A four-year, $56.75-million, $28-million guaranteed contract for David Njoku? Are you serious? What strange game are the Cleveland Browns playing?

Njoku finished 24th among NFL tight ends and second among Cleveland Browns tight ends, behind Austin Hooper, with 38 receptions last year. He has caught 60 passes over the last three years. Njoku ranked 11th in DVOA and 12th in DYAR among tight ends in 2021, but teammate and nominal Browns TE3 Harrison Bryant finished eighth in DVOA and 14th in DYAR, so it's hard to argue that Njoku was irreplaceable. Njoku was also a frequent flier on Trade Deadline Rumor Airlines for several years. Now he's making near-Travis Kelce money.

The Njoku extension comes on the heels of the Browns re-signing Jadeveon Clowney to a reported one-year, $10-million contract, even though it was pretty obvious that there were no other serious bidders for Clowney's services.

The Browns also liquidated a stunning amount of draft capital and $230 million guaranteed for Deshaun Watson, of course. Paying top dollar for a franchise quarterback makes sense, though the Browns topped top dollar, at least in terms of guarantees, by an unhealthy margin. They acquired Amari Cooper from the Dallas Cowboys and finagled his contract so that he's affordable this season but costs them $23 million in cap space in 2023 and 2024, should they decide to keep him. Cornerback Denzel Ward signed a reported five-year, $100.5-million contract in April: not a bad deal for a rising star at the position, but another indication that the Browns decided to spend money like a best man on Bourbon Street this offseason.

The Browns think they are competing for Super Bowl LVII. But really, they are competing in the Flat-Broke No-Future Wild-Card Challenge.

The Flat-Broke No-Future Wild-Card Challenge is like Brewster's Millions, or like one of those video game challenges where the players purposely hamstring themselves to unlock an unusual achievement. The goal is for a franchise to burn as many resources as possible to win precisely 10 games, leaving itself in no position to build on that success in 2023 or beyond.

Each of the teams competing in the FBNFWCC (that acronym really rolls off the tongue, so it's sure to catch on) thinks they are the Los Angeles Rams or Tampa Bay Buccaneers, boldly shifting into Win Now mode. The Rams, of course, had Super Bowl-caliber proven veterans such as Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, and Andrew Whitworth in place before they switched to hyper-aggressive trading tactics, and the Buccaneers added Tom Brady, not some guy last seen outside of the courtroom leading his team to a 4-12 finish. The FBNFWCC teams aren't really emulating the last two Super Bowl champions. They are merely overspending and overreaching, playing the notes without hearing the music. They're not building bad teams by any means, and their offseasons may look brilliant to casual fans. But close inspection reveals that the party is only going to be mildly fun, while the hangover promises to be a monster.

Here are this year's top participants in the Flat-Broke No-Future Wild-Card Challenge, in ascending order of whether they will win the coveted Vinny Cerrato Trophy by losing in the first round of the playoffs, then immediately declaring bankruptcy:

Third Runners-Up: Denver Broncos

2022 Broncos Odds Report: -160 to reach the playoffs, +250 to win the AFC West, +850 to reach Super Bowl LVII.

How Does the Roster Look? Like something they really should have tried harder to put together circa 2018.

What the Broncos Think They are Doing: Overlaying Russell Wilson onto a lineup with an exciting young offense and a championship-caliber defense.

What the Broncos are Really Doing: Overlaying Russell Wilson onto a lineup with an exciting young offense and a defense which has been collapsing like an old barn for years. The Broncos defense finished third in points allowed but 20th in DVOA thanks to a variety of pace-of-play/field-position distortions. Check out the Football Outsiders Almanac 2022 (coming soon!) for more details.

Fate of the 2022 Broncos: The Broncos are third runners-up because they have a puncher's chance of actually reaching the Super Bowl. But they're far more likely to discover that their defense just isn't capable of holding its own in a shootout against the AFC heavyweights.

What Happens to the Broncos in 2023? The Broncos are $6 million under the projected 2023 salary cap, per OverTheCap.com. Bradley Chubb and Dalton Risner extensions will likely eat up any future flexibility they may have. The Seahawks possess the Broncos' first- and second-round picks in 2023. So the Broncos will be trying to run things back with the same roster for a few years.

How this Story Ends: With two or three playoff appearances before the Broncos' young nucleus turns into an old nucleus and Wilson transitions from his late prime to his early decline.

And the Moral of the Story Is: A team with an outstanding defense should not fall into the trap of settling for "good enough" at quarterback, as the Broncos did for several years in the late 2010s. The Broncos invented the modern "F*ck it, let's grab an established quarterback and go to the Super Bowl" tactic when they signed Peyton Manning. It's great to see them trying again with Wilson, but there's a chance they waited too long.

Second Runners-Up: San Francisco 49ers

2022 49ers Odds Report: -225 to reach the playoffs, +165 to win the NFC West, +750 to reach Super Bowl LVII.

How Does the Roster Look? A lot like the 2021 roster, except with a guy who has thrown 101 passes since his sophomore year of college at quarterback and their top playmaker trying to either force a trade or abandon the part of his game that makes him truly unique.

What the 49ers Think They are Doing: Swapping out Jimmy Garoppolo for Trey Lance in the thick of the Super Bowl chase, the way the Chiefs swapped out Alex Smith for Patrick Mahomes back in 2018.

What the 49ers are Really Doing: Trying to thread a very fine needle while piloting a speedboat during a thunderstorm.

Fate of the 2022 49ers: Lance turns out to be more like a typical first-year starter than the Next Mahomes. Deebo Samuel turns into just another solid slot receiver once he's no longer obligated to line up at running back a dozen times per game. The 49ers defense is more of a top-10 unit than a top-five unit. The 49ers end up fitting snugly in the same tier as the Eagles, Saints, and Vikings.

What Happens to the 49ers in 2023? The 49ers are $30 million under the projected 2023 salary cap. That's not bad, but there are no Deebo Dollars on the ledger right now, and the 49ers will have other business to tend to as they try to keep their core intact. (Mike McGlinchey is due for an extension, for instance, and it's time to get ahead of Nick Bosa's financial expectations.) The Dolphins possess the 49ers' 2023 first-round pick, making future upgrades tricky.

How this Story Ends: Lance develops into a quality starter while the 49ers juggle pieces around him. Just as everything is about to come together, Lance is due for the extension that forces the 49ers to make tough choices at other positions.

And the Moral of the Story Is: Spending three first-round picks for a quarterback prospect is a dangerous gambit, especially with a playoff-caliber veteran roster that might have benefited from some immediate help in the draft. (Imagine, for example, how Micah Parsons might have helped the 2021 49ers in the playoffs.) It may be possible for a team to rebuild with the left hand while contending with the right, but that's a juggling act best attempted after there's a Super Bowl ring on the finger.

First Runners-Up: Cleveland Browns

2022 Browns Odds Report: +190 to win the AFC North, +1000 to reach Super Bowl LVII. Odds to reach the playoffs were not posted at press time.

How Does the Roster Look? Depending on who stays healthy in Baltimore and what you think of the Bengals additions on the offensive line, it looks like the second- or third-best roster in the AFC North.

What the Browns Think They are Doing: Analytics! It's analytics because they SAY it's analytics!

What the Browns are Really Doing: Engaging in some classic owner-driven wishcasting. Pay David Njoku like Travis Kelce and he becomes Travis Kelce! Pay Clowney like he's a former first-overall pick and he'll play like one! Pay Watson like there's nothing at all to worry about and…

Fate of the 2022 Browns: Let's assume Deshaun Watson doesn't get suspended, because we live in the darkest timeline. The new Deshaun/Amari Cooper/Njoku/crossed fingers passing game takes time to gel, while the soft-up-the-middle defense finishes in the middle of the pack and struggles against opponents such as the Ravens and Patriots. Remember when the Texans had Watson AND Clowney AND DeAndre Hopkins AND prime J.J. Watt but kept getting bounced out of the playoffs? That's the Browns upside.

What Happens to the Browns in 2023? They were $20 million over the estimated 2023 cap before the Njoku extension. The Texans own their first- and both of their third-round picks (including the supplemental pick the Browns earned for hiring general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in 2020) in 2023. In fairness to the Browns, most of their core is signed through 2023, so whatever window of opportunity they are in will stay open for another year.

How this Story Ends: The way all Browns stories end: with a dramatic, sweeping regime change, probably after the 2023 season ends in bitter disappointment.

And the Moral of the Story Is: Leaving actual morality aside, the whole point behind drafting and developing homegrown talent is to stay ahead of the market when re-signing your own players. The Browns need to be frugal and judicious if they hope to build around Watson for multiple seasons. Spending premium dollars on Njoku (and Ward, who now has a top-of-the-market contract) will prevent the Browns from adding pieces in 2023 and 2024, when they will be feeling the crunch from the draft picks they traded away.

The Moral of the Story Always Is: When the doofus owner shows up and starts issuing quarter-billion-dollar decrees, everything the actual football professionals are trying to accomplish is gonna turn into gibberish.

Frontrunners: New Orleans Saints

Don't act even a little surprised.

2022 Saints Odds Report: +125 to reach the playoffs, +350 to win the NFC South, +2500 (gulp) to reach Super Bowl LVII.

How Does the Roster Look? Like a 2019 Pro Bowl group picture that fifth-alternate selection Jameis Winston photobombed.

What the Saints Think They are Doing: Extending the championship window for a team that hasn't had a losing season since 2017.

What the Saints are Really Doing: General manager Mickey Loomis is like late-career Francis Ford Coppola, burning millions and millions of dollars because that's what he did on Apocalypse Now, so it's sure to turn Tucker: A Man and His Dream into a masterpiece.

Fate of the 2022 Saints: A wild-card berth is in the bag as the Saints nab four easy victories from the Panthers and Falcons, while their veteran defense drags some of their tougher competition down into field-goal festivals, allowing the Saints to go .500 against mid-tier opponents such as the AFC North teams. Then the playoffs come, and the Saints must try to keep up with the Rams or Buccaneers with Winston throwing 4-yard shallow crosses to Jarvis Landry.

What Happens to the Saints in 2023? The Saints are $58 million over the estimated 2023 cap, and Loomis is running out of ways to MacGyver his way into the black. The Saints already have over $200 million in cap liabilities for 2024, much of it prorated bonus money for aging veterans such as Cameron Jordan and Demario Davis. The Eagles possess the Saints' 2023 first-round pick and 2024 second-rounder. Every avenue toward improvement has essentially been sealed off.

How this Story Ends: The Saints become the Falcons.

And the Moral of the Story Is: When your Hall of Fame quarterback retires and your head coach quietly slips away to find himself, that's the universe telling you it's time to rebuild. Take the universe's advice. Your mid-2020s will thank you.

How to Build a Super Bowl Team (Updated for 2022!)

There are three methods for building a Super Bowl team, and none of them work.

  • Method 1: Build slowly and carefully through the draft. Discover a franchise-caliber quarterback and nurture him like a rare orchid. Execute one or two tactical free agency strikes. Leapfrog from doormat to wild-card team to Super Bowl contender to champion, and get it all done before that quarterback and all of the guys who grew up beside him start demanding nine-figure contracts.
     
  • Method 2: Once you have drafted a Pro Bowler or two, trade your remaining picks for All-Pros, win instantly, party on the beach.
     
  • Method 3: Get hired. Complain that the last regime left the roster in such shambles that it will take you over a year just to fix the "culture." Noodle around in free agency and the draft, signing guys from your former team and rookies who remind you of guys from your former team. Half-heartedly select a quarterback in your second or third draft. When your team still can't muster a wild-card berth in Season 3, point to the mess you inherited and how important the evaluation process is for your kinda-sorta quarterback of the future. Continue with the excuses and half-measures until you get lucky or fired.

None of these methods work for a variety of reasons. One reason is because the last two decades have taught us there are only two proven methods of building a Super Bowl roster:

  • Proven Method 1: Employ Tom Brady or a very close facsimile.
  • Proven Method 2: Scattered, anecdotal examples.

The second reason none of the non-Brady methods of building a Super Bowl team succeed is because each method is a silly strawman argument disguised as a strategy.

We can eliminate Method 3 right away, even though it remains the most common team-building tactic in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers are rolling to the end of a Method 3 experiment this year. The Detroit Lions are in Year 2 of Cycle 2 of Method 3, they just don't know it yet. The New York Giants are hoping to escape a similar fate; Joe Schoen and Brian Daboll appear to be heading in the right direction, but it can be hard to distinguish smart rebuilding from noodling when a new regime takes over a true Superfund project. The Atlanta Falcons are quietly drifting along in Method 3 while no one pays them any attention.

One of the best things about Method 2 is that it underscores the gimme two years to change the culture lie of Method 3. A team can be aggressive and jump-start its success right away instead of wailing and gnashing its teeth indefinitely. As the Flat-Broke No-Future Wild-Card Challenge illustrates, that aggressiveness comes with a great deal of risk. But taking the Broncos as an example, which would you have rather heard and seen from the George Paton/Nathaniel Hackett regime: Golly, this team has forgotten how to win, so let's twaddle with Drew Lock and sign some Packers backups while waiting for the stars to align at quarterback?; or RUSSELL WILSON LFG BABEEEEE? Thought so.

The Las Vegas Raiders and Miami Dolphins did not quite crack our first segment, but each engaged in some Win Now offseason tactics when each (particularly the Raiders) could easily have declared the need for a long-and-dreary culture change. Neither the Raiders nor Dolphins are likely to reach the Super Bowl this year, but neither team totally mortgaged its future, either. And at least we give a sh*t about them.

Method 1 is both the analytics-approved and old-school-football-approved method for building a Super Bowl contender. It's also fiendishly difficult to pull off. And it comes with built-in delayed gratification that appeals to both coaches/GMs (don't fire us this year, we're building for two years from now) and folks in my sewing circle (my opinions are 100% correct, I'll collect the receipts in 2025).

The NFL has conditioned everyone from executives to fans to be highly skeptical of Win Now practices and the damage they can do to "team chemistry" for decades. As I yuk around with the FBNFWCC, there's a risk that I am just substituting "future assets" for "team chemistry" and not giving teams like the Broncos or Browns a fair shot. Which is one reason I made sure to give the Broncos a fair shot.

If we are thinking analytically, we should probably evaluate every team's short and long-range plans against the backdrop of a dynamic market. If Method 1 has been the prevailing wisdom for decades, and it's backed up by the latest thinking in analytics, then the likely result has been an overvaluing of draft picks and future cap space in recent years, creating potential bargains for Method 2 teams.

For example, the Rams acquired Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions in exchange for Jared Goff, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Lewis Cine, and a 2023 first-round pick that probably won't be very high. That's a triumph for the Rams once we replace the somewhat-fetishized "draft capital" with actual names. The Rams also acquired Jalen Ramsey in exchange for picks that became K'Lavon Chaisson and Travis Etienne, plus a fourth-round pick that changed hands a bunch of times: another bargain for the Win Now team taking what's supposed to be a dangerous risk. The issue with the teams in our first segment is not that trading away future first-round picks is necessarily terrible, but that those teams remain so fundamentally flawed in the present that they will regret the lost chance at an easy upgrade in the near future.

Of course, if Win Now tactics are becoming more popular, then the market might correct itself in the other direction. The Davante Adams/A.J. Brown/Hollywood Brown/Tyreek Hill trades may all be illustrations of just such a correction, especially with the escalating costs of a star wide receiver's contract piled atop the draft picks the Raiders/Eagles/Cardinals/Dolphins gave away. If the costs of a Win Now surge become prohibitive, building more traditionally will become a better option.

We witnessed an appealing churn of talent this offseason. The NFL is far more interesting when powerhouses such as the Chiefs and Packers are forced to shed talent while middling contenders such as the Browns, Dolphins, Raiders, and Broncos can at least try to suddenly streak into contention. There may be less churning once the COVID-fueled cap austerity measures are behind us, but other forces are spurring big-name player mobility, most notably the fact that franchise quarterbacks are no longer bound to their teams in perpetuity. While some Win Now strategies make zero sense (Saints) and others are counterproductively risky and expensive (Browns), building a strong roster to attract a franchise quarterback instead of trying to unearth one now is sound. There's a chance of becoming the Minnesota Vikings, of course, but the Vikings are starting to look more like a worst-case scenario than a cautionary tale.

The main reason why no Super Bowl construction method actually works is that 96.875% of NFL teams do not win the Super Bowl each year. No wonder so many Method 3 coaches and executives have made careers out of not really trying! The rise of Win Now tactics should be celebrated to a degree, even if it produces a lot of expensive, jerry-rigged, would-be Dream Teams for every Rams or Buccaneers. It's better to build a team that can at least talk about the Super Bowl if a few things break right than one that's all about delayed gratification and waiting for some window that might never open.

And if any of the nouveau Win Now teams reach a conference title game, they could find a homegrown contender such as the Buffalo Bills waiting for them.

Comments

80 comments, Last at 07 Jun 2022, 2:18pm

1 The Broncos are $6 million…

The Broncos are $6 million under the projected 2023 salary cap, per OverTheCap.com. Bradley Chubb and Dalton Risner extensions will likely eat up any future flexibility they may have.

Hahaha! Yeah, no, the biggest issue the Broncos have in 2023 is that it's Russell Wilson's last year. Normally you'd be able to just push money forward (on a 2-year basis from 23-24 they've got $120+M) but you can't push Wilson's money forward without extending him, that just asks him to hit free agency. So realistically you're only going to free up ~$10M or so there. Oh, and obviously, that'll eat at least half of the 23-24 cap space.

I think I'd put the 49ers as the third-runners up rather than the Broncos because at least in their case they've got cash. The Saints are so hosed the fact that they're OK with draft picks doesn't matter, and both the Browns and Broncos functionally don't have either. (Note that this isn't high praise for the 49ers, I don't like the prospects of any of these teams).

Edit: it's also worth looking at multi-year money totals, because teams have become so flexible about distributing cap space. It's not totally fair because the number of players isn't equal, but you gotta start somewhere. So rough total cap space through 2024:

49ers:  $130M
Broncos: $120M (but no QB in 24)
Browns: $7M
Saints: -$14M (yes, the Saints are negative in total through '24)

So to me this is why I'd put the 49ers first - if Lance actually develops into a "good" starter they're in solid shape, whereas the Broncos/Browns/Saints are going to have to juggle no matter what happens.

2 Let me say right away that I…

Let me say right away that I like Tanier and I sympathize with how hard it is to write novel and interesting takes on nfl storylines deep into the offseason. I am emphatically not THAT GUY. The guy who likes to snipe at others, whine and nitpick strawman articles because I have endless time on my hands and enjoy being a troll.

However, since Tanier's premise starts with the Browns folly and how it tops out at plucky wildcard fodder and is distinctly NOT the Rams, I feel compelled to argue otherwise. To me, Tanier is falling victim to the post hoc narrative of - the Rams won the Sb, therefore their moves worked ex ante as well.

"The Rams, of course, had Super Bowl-caliber proven veterans such as Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, and Andrew Whitworth in place before they switched to hyper-aggressive trading tactics"

1) Kupp had never had a full healthy season as the teams primary starter and that he had never had a season anywhere close to what he produced last year, whether by standard receiving metrics or advanced metrics like DVOA. Absolutely no one saw this last season coming.

2) Andrew Whitworth was a million years old when he got the Rams, was coming off an injury marred prior season - which meant it was a miracle he stayed healthy all year and was a good despite his advanced age. 

So that really leaves only Donald as a blue chip asset that you can count on. Ramsay was another, but that came with a 2 first round pick cost. 

Now compare that to the assets Cleveland has on its roster:

Garrett, Ward, Cooper, Bitonio, Teller, Conklin, and Chubb. And now Watson.

If I am being intellectually honest, I like the Browns roster this year far more than I liked the Rams roster coming into the 2021 season. And I don't think that's a stretch either. I am just refusing to be clouded by access to the results. About the only thing I prefer with the Rams is their coaching by a mile. 

If I had more certainty about what kind of QB Watson is going to be this year and more faith in their coaching staff, I'd be much more bullish about their SB odds. But given the talent on this roster, I think they definitely have a chance at it. 

3 So that really leaves only…

So that really leaves only Donald as a blue chip asset that you can count on.

To be fair, Donald's a better player than literally anyone you listed. I like the Browns roster this year too, but there's no one who's first-ballot Hall level. Garrett's probably the closest but that's way early. I would've stressed the overall team construction and the coaching staff rather than just a few players.

But also to be fair to Mike he's talking not just about '22 but about the future, and the Browns are severely constrained in the future. '22 is their best shot at it.

4 Donald is better than any…

Donald is better than any player in the NFL, so every comparison to him is going to be unfair. Garrett is so good that its at least in the neighborhood.

Also, I don't disagree about the Browns, only to say that their future championship equity doesn't appear that much different than the Rams own bleak future championship equity. 

The only difference, to me, is that the Rams won the Sb so if they top out as wildcard losers for the next two years and then go through a Saints like nuclear meltdown with McVay retiring or bolting; it will all be considered a huge success and Les Snead and McVay will get future gigs.

If the Browns lose in the divisional round in a heartbreaker and suffer a similar fate to what I have described above, Stefanski will maybe get another shot at coaching, the GM maybe as well, but nothing is guaranteed. Such is the vast disparity in outcomes by virtue of getting lucky in the postseason. 

11 With the Rams, you could see…

With the Rams, you could see how the process could work. It was reasonable. It was like the Bucs going all in on Brady.

The Rams had gotten to the SB with a run-first offense and a fungible JUGS machine at QB. The concept of trying to spin future nobodies into a better QB with more or less the same system around him was a reasonable one. There's never a guarantee -- in a league with full parity, no one's chances are better than 3-1/8th%.

As it turned out, their concept was sufficiently resilient to survive the running game entirely imploding and finishing the season with exactly one healthy body capable of catching a ball.

13 See I disagree about a few…

See I disagree about a few things here.

Firstly, the Rams did not get into the S with a QB playing like a Jugs machine. He had two seasons with a DYAR and DVOA ranked 6th in the league. This is something Matt Stafford has at times flirted with, but has literally never done it even once. The Rams were clearly convinced of Goff since they extended him. It only comes with total hindsight that Goff's play was a mirage. His fall from grace is frankly quite stunning and there isn't a whole lot of examples of Qbs who put together two nearly top seasons falling to unplayable without injury or age being a big factor.

Also, I feel compelled to point this out. The Rams were a very good team. But they were the 3 seed and got to enjoy both the nfc championship and Sb at home. As a third seed, they were actually favored over the AFC team. That's extremely good fortune; the more likely good outcome is that they fall short of winning a sb and this entire narrative changes.

Instead of being heralded as mavericks taking calculated risks; the spin instead paints them as drunken gamblers who pissed away everything on a long shot. 

21 Well, the only really proven…

Well, the only really proven template is

Template 1:

1)Get a young all-world QB  2)build around them 2)Reach the postseason a bunch of times and get lucky at least once.

Of course, that first step is basically luck. You also need a coach that is up to the task. Generally speaking, if you have a great QB for like 6-10 years, you can usually break through at least once more often than not. That first step is a doozy and it's tough to keep up team quality with a good QB hurtin your draft position every year.  That first step is basically all luck, and you still need playoff luck. 

The final factor hear is it's hard to tell if your young QB is really good, or just good.  The end result is you basically have to treat all of them if they are really good as you don't know till it's to late. 

Other templates are:

Template 2:

1)Build a good team except a QB.  2)Hope you can somehow get your hands on an elite QB via trade or FA by being an attractive destination. 
A bit a challenge as you need luck for step 2 and need your owner to not get frustrated and fire the coach/FO while waiting.  You also tend to have a really short window with this one, so it's quite difficult, since elite QB never chance teams till they are old unless there is some other factor going on. 

The on bonus is you can often draft better when a "QB away" so it's easier to build the rest of the team. It's possible this model may become more prominent. Historically, QB rarely change teams till the twilight of their career, the contract boom may change this. It would be interesting to see if we end up with a franchise QB changing teams before age 30 without another factor (health or off-field usually). I don't think it will happen, but I suppose it's in play. 

Final one

Template 3:

1)Reach the posteason a bunch of time with a good enough QB and team and hope to get hot at the right time. 

You still need a certain amount of quality at QB and the rest of the team,  it is also hard to distinguish a team that "could get hot and go all the way" vs "perpetual early playoff exit". You probably want an elite coach here but again, it's hard to evaluate coaches independent of their team. Again, hard to keep up the quality with playoff draft slots every year. 

Another factor is...make a bold move and have it work. (The Rams getting Von Miller last year frex). Risky, but can put a team over the when it works and kill you in future years when it doesn't. 

 

 

 

 

26 Well, the only really proven…

Well, the only really proven template is

1)Get a young all-world QB  2)build around them 2)Reach the postseason a bunch of times and get lucky at least once.

How 'proven' is this?

2021: Stafford (not young), Burrow (all-world? Are we sure of that?)

2020: Mahomes (fits template), Brady (not young)

2019: Mahomes (fits template), Garoppalo (not all-world)

2018: Brady (not young), Goff (not all-world)

2017: Brady (not young), Foles/Wentz (not all-world)

2016: Brady (not young), Ryan (not young)

2015: Newton (not all-world), Manning (not young).

 

It seems that Mahomes and (maybe) Burrow are your only recent examples that fit the template.

29 Not that I disagree, But I…

Not that I disagree, But I think using the super bowl win or super bowl participation as the standard of measurement is incredibly flawed.

The goal is to keep making the playoffs such that you have a real chance at some point.

Thus when you look at it through that lens, there are lots of examples. 

32 It's also worth noting that…

It's also worth noting that the whole "young QB" advantage is just growing over time as QB contract continue to vastly outpace cap growth. So looking at historical comparisons isn't a great indicator. It also helps to say "find a cheap great QB" instead of young. Usually those two things are the same, but occasionally you get weird cases like Brady.

Brady's literally been one of the biggest advantages for teams to win the Super Bowl because he's just so ungodly cheap. I mean, he's a slam-dunk top 5 QB who hands his team a 5-6% bigger salary cap every year.

34 Brady in 2016-2019 fits…

Brady in 2016-2019 fits. Those are just the tail end of the template instance that got instantiated in 2000. Brady getting multiple wins out of a template is the exception, but that is basically his middle name at this point. 

The point of starting with a young QB is you get a ton of chances to break through. They won't be young by the end of it. There is a reason Marino is famous for not winning a SB, it's pretty rare for a guy that good to be unlucky enough not to do so. 

Really, its the same a template 3.  Reach the post season a bunch and hope to get lucky. It's just, having an all world QB really helps with the luck factor in the post season. 

To put it another way, assuming you have a 10% chance to win the SB every year(Good teams are usually 10-20% range).  Your chances of not winning one in 10 years is 34%.  Raise that to 15% per year and you have about an 80% chance of winning at least one in 10 years. 

Of course, having single elimination games is part of all this. 4 good games at the right time win you a title. In other sports...you win a series.  

 

35 There is a reason Marino is…

There is a reason Marino is famous for not winning a SB, it's pretty rare for a guy that good to be unlucky enough not to do so. 

There's a whole generation of AFC HOF QBs who never won a ring. Kelly never won one, either. Even Elways had to hold on to the bitter end to get it.

\Hell, Moon never even got to a SB

80 A whole generation of AFC HOF QBs

There is a reason Marino is famous for not winning a SB, it's pretty rare for a guy that good to be unlucky enough not to do so. 

There's a whole generation of AFC HOF QBs who never won a ring. Kelly never won one, either. Even Elways had to hold on to the bitter end to get it.

Hell, Moon never even got to a SB

 

And Fouts.

Add you can add in some multi-time Pro Bowlers, like Kenny Anderson, Dave Krieg and Boomer Esiason

The fetishization of championships as a necessary piece to a HOF QB's career is a fairly recent development.  I think it was imported from NBA fandom.  After Michael Jordan, could a player in a team sport really be great if they hadn't won any championships?

28   Another factor is...make a…

 

Another factor is...make a bold move and have it work. (The Rams getting Von Miller last year frex).

The Rams traded a second and third round pick for Miller, who was already on pace for double-digit sacks with Denver last year (OK, with an ankle injury, but that's manageable risk). That's a pretty low bar for "bold."

36 Well, they only had him half…

Well, they only had him half a year too. It would definitely look bad if they hadn't won. Not saying it was a bad move. Just a risky one. Sort term upgrades can put you over the top, but can also kill you in the future if they don't work. 

38 I mean, maybe four or five…

I mean, maybe four or five bullet points down, sure. But compared to the early Goff signing, the Ramsey trade, the Stafford trade, and the (first) Cooks trade, it's pretty minor. You want a list of bold trades the Rams have made, that one's pretty far down the list.

22 People were suspicious of…

People were suspicious of Goff in real-time, but it wasn't until the NFCCG that his ceiling became apparent. He's not unplayable -- he's just about average. He's still not a bad QB -- he just isn't a world-beater. He'd probably be fine running the 49ers.

The 2020 Bucs were a 5-seed. They lucked into getting Washington, and then Drew Brees's arm falling off at halftime. Most SB champs are fortunate -- even the best teams usually aren't favorites against the field.

The Rams decided that so long as they had to play an expensive QB, they might as well pay for one who can win when nothing goes right. (This calculus was somewhat different than what the Bucs made, but they were starting with a high-ceiling/low-floor QB, not a high-floor/low-ceiling QB) Which worked out, because that happened twice in the playoffs.

16 The suggestion that McVay might abandon

a sinking Rams franchise in 2025 or beyond points to the latest wrinkle in the NFL's increasingly fluid labor markets. Top coaches no longer wait to be fired to become free agents. Instead, they "retire", citing health or burnout or the desire to spend more time with family (as if!). Bruce Arians did this when the Cardinals started to bottom out, and it worked out OK for him. Sean Payton chose out this year. Might Bill Belichick auto-eject in the near future? What odds does Draft Kings offer on the question?

Owners would be smart never to allow these coaches to reach lame duck status, because then their teams could at least recoup draft capital should a franchise head coach ever want to get back in the game.

66 The Browns aren't the Rams

When the Rams got Stafford many of us had them as top SB contenders. Your comparison is nowhere close to me because the Rams were in the SB with Goff. Many would say Mayfield is better than Goff yet were they really close to being in the SB two years ago? I mean they were ecstatic just to win a playoff game, you would've thought it was the SB. 

I'm a 49er fan and believe that Lance is an upgrade over JG. Before the trade, I was hoping we would trade for Stafford. Whatever you think of him, he's the number one reason for Kupps ascension....Watson is not on the level of Stafford and now there's a real question to Watsons leadership skills. I can't imagine being in the huddle with him. In fact he's the reason for the whole indictment against the Browns. He's why I think they are a perfect candidate for this article. 49ers? Not so much.

 

Also somebody said about Myles Garrett. If you ever actually watched him....Yea, he's on his way as a surefire HOFer and is already one of the best I've ever seen. To me hes the one who started the transformation of the Browns, not Baker Mayfield

68 Nah. Watson is better than Stafford.

Leadership is too vague of an on field term (that's surely just being said because of the off field stuff). Hard to argue Houston was a much better org too (even w/early Detriot when they had Calvin>=Nuk)

And Cleveland was literally winless with Garrett before Baker lol. Man, homie really shouldn't have played injured because it's ruined his rep. 

Recency bias is absolutely killer.

73 I'll admit Browns fans were…

I'll admit Browns fans were excited for a playoff win, and as a fan I wasn't expecting a win against the Chiefs, but I think "one blown call away from the AFC Championship" is certainly in the mix for the Super Bowl. They were legitimate contenders who were close enough to have a real shot. 

Losing a game because an illegal hit caused your receiver to fumble through the end zone from the half yard line, giving the opposing team barely enough time to drive for a field goal, may be the Brownsiest loss ever though.  

75 I don't think I've seen the…

I don't think I've seen the username, so welcome to the boards, sir.

I agree but as you probably know, the counterpoint to the Chiefs game that people make is that because the Sorensen hit on Higgins was midgame it wasn't really "deciding," not to mention that for ~1/3 of the Chiefs' possession time they only had Chad Henne.

I think besides questioning Baker even before the injury meltdown, people were also considering the Browns a "pretender" going into 2021 because their '20 schedule that got them 11-5 was very weak.

My homer prediction going into 2021 was 10-7 or 11-6 just because of the harder schedule; people were rightly excited about all the defensive FA signings (as well as healthy Greedy/Delpit) and a "year in the system," and thus counting extra wins far beyond 10 or 11, but even that was irrational exuberance.

76 I was on the pessimistic…

I was on the pessimistic side of the Browns and put actual money on them going under in 2021. And a lot of that pessimism was driven by Baker, the coaching staff, and just overall regression after a turnaround season. I guess I've been down on the coaching staff ever since I saw how Stefanski called the Vikings playoff games in 2018.

I do think, in retrospect, I had them pegged incorrectly. Either Bakers shoulder or clashes with Stefanski, the Browns passing game was far worse than it should have been while the rest of the team turned out way better.

78 Well, even after accounting…

Well, even after accounting for harder schedule, no one could've predicted the Justin Reid INT tackle nor the late-season mass COVID outbreak, but still, 9.5 seemed awfully low going in.

Granted, the previous times that the Browns exceeeded very modest expectations, they declined to a much worse level the following year than in the 2020-2021 timeframe! (02-03 was 9-7 then 6-10, 07-08 was 10-6 then 4-12, 14-15 was 7-4 en route to 7-9 and 3-13.)

14 If '22 is the Browns best…

If '22 is the Browns best shot, then I feel sorry for them because at the absolute minimum Watson is getting 6 games and the WC in the AFC this year will be stiff. No, I think the Browns best shot will be later down the line, as the relative impact of the Watson contract diminishes over time.

In any case, this will put severely to the test the idea that a great QB is worth any price.

24 No, I think the Browns best…

No, I think the Browns best shot will be later down the line, 

It's only a 4-year contract. Not much "later down the line" left.

as the relative impact of the Watson contract diminishes over time

Teams don't generally do that when they've got a contract like Watson's to deal with. The Browns are $30M over the cap with only 46 players, so they basically have to push Watson's money forward, meaning his cap hit will likely either stay constant or grow over time.

Like I said elsewhere the Browns basically have zero cap dollars uncommitted currently through 2024. Things don't free up for them until literally the last year of Watson's contract.

74 What assumptions are you…

What assumptions are you using for rollover? Overthecap lists the Browns as being $29m over their estimated 2023 cap, but that doesn't include rollovers, and the Browns are $41 million under the cap right now (assuming they eat Mayfield's contract in full and don't trade Kareem Hunt).   

They're pretty well committed, and I agree they aren't going to be players for A or B+ tier free agents unless they push Watson's money forward or someone becomes willing to take on Baker's salary because their starter blows a knee, but it doesn't seem quite as bad as you make it sound.  (Watson's cap hit is huge, so pushing it forward is dangerous, but the new broadcasting contracts start to kick in next year and will quickly more than double the old contracts, so the cap  should also accelerate pretty quickly).

77 The Browns cap space shifted…

The Browns cap space shifted a bit once June 1 hit and OTC processed the various shifts, so for a 3-year total they're now around +$17M, which is obviously not much different than what I stated above (but better, yes). Plus keep in mind this is just start of year salary - they'll likely burn between $5-10M through the year compared to now due to injuries/roster churn.

 but it doesn't seem quite as bad as you make it sound.

It's not as bad as the Saints, definitely, and plenty of contenders have comparable difficulty as well. It's just when you combine the two issues - no draft picks + no money. They've got extremely little room to gain talent, and of course they'll naturally be shedding talent too. 

but the new broadcasting contracts start to kick in next year

I've written about this before, but go look at the history of salary cap growth in the NFL. There's typically a big boost when the new contracts kick in because of the way they're structured. But you are not going to see over 10% YOY growth (which is what QB contracts have been doing). How do I know? Because the new media contract is not much more than the previous one in constant growth. The high growth from 23-24 is also driven by pandemic pullbacks dropping out.

I don't know why everyone's painting these new contracts as super-awesome or groundbreaking or something. It's an 11 year contract with a total that's 2.5x the previous 9-year contract, which was 2x the previous 6 year contract. It's all roughly equivalent to a 6-7% annualized growth rate. The gambling stuff might drive the cap up more, although right now it's just too small to make a real difference.

Again, the Watson contract's never going to really drop below 20% cap space, so the idea that cap growth gets you out of it just can't be right, considering only 1 QB-year has ever hit 20% cap space, ever. But to stress again, this isn't a problem unique to the Browns. It's just a difficulty that all teams built like them have to face.

53 The start of the schedule,…

The start of the schedule, on paper, will allow them to get by with Brissett, so I don't see the length of the suspension, if 6 or less, mattering as much as people are making it.

You are correct that the cap inflation will, at least from what I understand, make the numbers more manageable, not to mention the whole Baker coming off the books thing.

55 make the numbers more…

make the numbers more manageable

I mean, not... really? Again, the Browns essentially have zero total cap space through '24, and the 23-to-24 year is where the big cap growth is projected to happen. But that should be a one-year thing, which is what happens right around each new media deal signing (2006, for instance) and it usually is coupled by a severe slowdown a few years later ('10 through '13 for instance) just due to the way the deals are structured. 

I'd be surprised if the cap in '25 is more than $275M, for instance, which still puts Watson's cap hit at 20%, which has only been hit once in the entire history of the NFL salary cap (Manning, 2003).

It's the same problem the Packers and Cowboys have, although both those teams are dealing with it by severely pushing money forward, which of course the Browns could do too. But the Bills and the Chiefs won't have that problem, and honestly considering the size of the contracts we're talking about, I kinda doubt those QBs will actually be complaining - which means teams like the Browns, Packers, and Cowboys are just going to be competing at a disadvantage.

not to mention the whole Baker coming off the books thing.

Baker is already off the books after this year, and his $18M salary this year is guaranteed, so the only amount coming off is what another team chooses to pay him (if anything). No relief there whatsoever.

64 I haven't seen the schedule…

I haven't seen the schedule and I don't like to count wins and losses one by one, but I'll take your word for it. The drop off from Watson to Brisset, however, is huge. It's possible that Brisset will look better this year with a good OL than he did last year, but it's still a pretty big handicap.

Also, I think 6 is the absolute minimum suspension he'll get, not the maximum. It could be way more than that.

69 @CAR, NYJ, PIT, @ATL feels…

@CAR, NYJ, PIT, @ATL feels like 3-1 at worst, even given the Browns' inexplicably-bad-even-for-them luck with openers and the still-possibility of a Baker revenge game.  You are right that "the schedule game" is dangerous, hence the "on paper" thing I said.

Brissett was able to step in on short notice to lead the post-Luck Colts to 7-9...

Tyreek getting off scot-free (even though it "may not have been as bad as it looked") makes it impossible to predict what happens on suspensions.

52 It would be lazy to argue …

It would be lazy to argue "the Browns won a playoff game with Baker and had the Chiefs on the ropes, so Watson will give better results"

And incidentally, the Texans' "Watson AND Clowney AND DeAndre Hopkins AND prime J.J. Watt but kept getting bounced out of the playoffs? That's the Browns upside" was actually basically the same as that Baker run, in that HOU beat BUF then blew the huge lead against KC.

But I think Watson would, in fact, give them a chance at better results simply because once you have the QB, the AFC playoffs are any given Sunday right now as Bengals proved.

 

5 When it comes to building a…

When it comes to building a sb, the boring answer is method 1. And only method 1. Its exceedingly rare to microwave a sb team together with a bunch of gooable components.

Really, the fun and interesting question to me is what should the Chiefs, Bills, and maybe Ravens do while they are in the catbird's seat with young quarterbacks and a talented core that's aging. In a way, you are in a bind. you have a win now roster but a Qb with a win later timetable. 

I don't like comparing anyone to the Patriots, but consider the Saints. They went on a spending binge in 09; which ultimately led to a Sb but a major fallow period in between. Then they hit a major draft lottery and vaulted back into contention; but that seems more like good fortune than anything else. 

Really, once you have SB in the bag, like the Chiefs, it seems to me the approach should be the patient low and slow draft approach, like GB did for the bulk of Rodgers' career. Sure, it doesn't guarantee a second ring in any one year, but it does maximize the overall chances through the life of Mahomes' career.

For Buffalo and Baltimore, I guess you just need to chase the SB and if it leads to a crumbling remains in 2 years where Allen is trying to lift a bad team above its head, so be it. 

23 As a Chiefs fan, I also…

As a Chiefs fan, I also endorse Method 1 up to a point, and with two additions:

1) Maintain tactical flexibility that responds to context. Some years, the right play is to go big in free agency, and other years, it's to amass - and use - draft picks. 

2) be ready to make the most of a heaping dose of luck. The Chiefs core players were all drafted between 2013 and 2017, and they were all undervalued at draft time. Acquiring that much talent in such a brief window is a fairly uncommon feat. As Travis Kelce, Chris Jones, and Tyreek Hill age or move on, the team will have to get somewhat lucky again to replace their talent.

Other than the Patriots, I can't think of a single team in the free agency era that has been able to rebuild around a HC-QB combo well enough to win another Super Bowl. Several have come close - the Steelers, Packers, and Saints come to mind - but it's just awfully tough to do.

31 Like it or not that's just…

Like it or not that's just going to have to be the pattern you follow. Once the original core has grown expensive, the right approach is to draft and develop. Getting the coach and QB right is the insanely tough part. It just doesn't come with any kind of guarantees whatsoever

6 My main issue with this…

My main issue with this article is the contradictions written about the AFC North.  First he claims the Browns are possibly the third best team behind the Bengals and Ravens, and then claims the AFC North is mediocre.  As far as talent level, the Browns are not mediocre; they have a new young All-Pro quarterback, talent at the skill positions and offensive line, and a defense that was ranked 11th in DVOA last year.  Either the Browns have the most talent in the division or the division is not mediocre.  By the way, the Ravens defense ranked 28th last year by DVOA, and the Bengals ranked 19th.  Yes, the Ravens were really injured last year, but I don't think anyone should even compare them talent-wise with the Browns on that side of the field.

10 Fixed the divisional mistake…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Fixed the divisional mistake; had to check if Tanier claimed the NFC North was mediocre, but no, so that point still stands.  You're right Watson has not been All-Pro, so I'm wrong on that one.  He has made the Pro Bowl every year he played since his rookie season, so he's not chopped liver, or Baker Mayfield, whichever one is better.

7 Conclusion:

So, after reading this, one inescapable conclusion:

The Saints go undefeated and win the Super Bowl

9 Liar

Tanier lies.

”Neither the Raiders nor Dolphins are likely to reach the Super Bowl this year, but neither team totally mortgaged its future, either. And at least we give a sh*t about them.”

You do not now, nor have you ever in the years I have been reading you, given a sh*t about the Raiders except as a punchline.

15 As a Jets fan, I have cared…

As a Jets fan, I have cared deeply about the Miami Dolphins since January 23, 1983.  I have watched them the way the people of Gondor watched Mordor for signs of restoration and civic improvement.  I have been concerned about them even while another rival hijacked the division from them, the Bills and my favorite team.  It has not been the best thing for my mental health.

 

"Mr. Shula, the calls are coming from inside the house."

19 The second reason none of…

The second reason none of the non-Brady methods of building a Super Bowl team succeed is because each method is a silly strawman argument disguised as a strategy.

 

  That's taking things too far.  As you stated, only 1 team (i.e. 3.125%)  out of the total teams will win the Super Bowl in any year.  To actually assess the relative merits of 1 and 2  one needs to look at the construction method used by the SB winner since true free agency began (1996 ?) not the total number of teams using a particular method as that is guaranteed to look like failure.  And regardless of method, there are the proverbial random factors (i.e. luck) that influence results.  Brady being Exhibit A for this w.r.t. draft picks at one end, and {pick a high draft pick torpedoed by injuries or just plain busted} on the other.  Similarly for free agents.

   Also, ownership has a lot do with it - IMO front office culture is as important as team culture. 

20 The rise of Win Now tactics…

The rise of Win Now tactics should be celebrated to a degree, even if it produces a lot of expensive, jerry-rigged, would-be Dream Teams

I agree. It's almost certainly not a great idea for teams like the Dolphins and Raiders, but at least it'll be more fun than the usual crap.

25 I agree agree

But I don't think it's a bad idea for those teams. They'll be able to tell what they have in their QBs and throwing in the towel isn't an option for the above .500 teams

33 The Raiders should already…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

The Raiders should already know what they have in Carr (their coach's ability is much more murky), but I agree with you that it was a good idea for both teams to do what they did in the offseason.  The Dolphin's timeline is akin to Mordor right before the successful attack on Osgiliath, except that Tua doesn't have the reputation of the Witch King of Angmar, or even the swift striking power through the air.  Perhaps he does have Pennington magic to make defenders miss his soft balls though.

42 You'd think so

But he could be Stafford. Same with Tua. Or anyone. Get more data points on them to confirm before moving on. Some are easier to tell than others though. 

And if they aren't it...well hopefully you can maintain that good team for the next guy (although the problem with that general purposeful team building strat of "qb last" is, the team is never, coincidently, enough, and when it is...oops people want to be paid and...oops sudden retirement and...oops this guy wants to go home to his childhood team annnnnd your windows gone).

There are times when you know you're gonna stink and should sell but neither of these teams are that. 

51 The Dolphin's timeline is…

The Dolphin's timeline is akin to Mordor right before the successful attack on Osgiliath

So, overpowering might that only a flukish plan can defeat? I like that! But I think they're more like the humans hoping they'll somehow find a way to win while the enemy is distracted.

39 Bills

they could find a homegrown contender such as the Buffalo Bills waiting for them.

But 2 or 3 years into the McBeane regime, they looked like the poster child for "Method 3." Endless talk about culture change, and trusting the process, check. "Signing guys from your former team," check (Mario Addison, Star Lotulelei, Mike Tolbert, Kelvin Benjamin, others I have fortunately forgotten). "Half-heartedly select a quarterback in your second or third draft," check, and an inaccurate one with bust written all over him, at that.

It all looks a little better now, though.

47 What?

In reply to by andeux

Take a look at the trade history that went into acquiring the 7th pick in the 2018 NFL draft, and then explain how the Bills “half-heartedly” went after Josh Allen. I’ll wait :)

56 Yeah, that was some serious…

In reply to by Tutenkharnage

Yeah, that was some serious maneuvering, and not just the "maybe quick fix that doesn't cost much" type of trade some of the earlier ones were.

Remember, this team lucked into the playoffs (much to our relief as a fanbase) in year one of the coaching regime, then cleaned house and rebuilt and were in the AFCCG in "rebuild year 3". I don't think they get enough credit, actually, even if it does take quite a bit to overcome the scarring of inflicting Peterman on us. 

57 The other thing is that…

In reply to by Tutenkharnage

The other thing is that while most franchises talk about "culture change" they... don't actually change much (because the problem is usually more fundamental at ownership level). With Beane and the Bills they really did basically rip out the front office and replace it.

58 Didn't the Bears do that…

Didn't the Bears do that with Naggy and Pace? If I remember correctly, they fired John Fox and Phil Emory. And now they've done it again with Poles and Eberflus.

The only thing I can see that makes the difference is Josh Allen turned into a superstar while Trubisky became a bust.

Everything else feels like ex post narration; victory has a hundred fathers after all, while defeat is an orphan.

59 Nope. Go look at the Bears…

Nope. Go look at the Bears front office. Half those guys have been there forever. All that happens with the Bears is that they fire the guys at the top and promote the guys below them. It wasn't culture change. It was scapegoating.

Similar thing happens with the Lions and Browns.

edit: to put numbers to it, Beane's scouting department was ~73% new. Poles's scouting department is 30% new. And really, the Bills actually fired everyone, and then rehired some guys during their scouting search.

60 Comparing 2015 and 2021, the…

Comparing 2015 and 2021, the only figures that stayed the same were director of player personnel and the CEO.

 

Everyone else, coordinators, position coaches, even the director of college scouting is different. Do you really need to literally fire everyone to mark a total change? Does that include replacing the office furniture just in case it's haunted?

 

63 the only figures that stayed…

Do you really need to literally fire everyone to mark a total change?

That is literally what the Bills did.

the only figures that stayed the same

Yeah. Because guys got new titles. That's what scapegoating and promoting means.

Poles's "reshaping" consisted of:

Former area scout Breck Ackley was promoted to assistant director of college scouting while former pro scout Chris White has been named assistant director of pro scouting. National scouts Sam Summerville and Francis Saint Paul were promoted to senior national scouts.

Ashton Washington has been promoted from scouting assistant to player personnel coordinator and Charles Love, a scouting assistant the last two seasons, has been promoted to pro scout.

Scout John Syty has been moved into southwestern area scout role and Brendan Rehor into the southeastern area.

Fire the guys at the top, promote the guys underneath. Lather, rinse, repeat, and wonder why nothing changes. And Poles actually looks like he got more freedom to make changes!

40 Broncos

Could be true. But their defense might have just been on the violate end last year. The parts are there for it. I'd be more dubious of the coaches though. 

41 As far as I can tell,

the only viable strategy for building a multiple Super Bowl winning team in the 21st century is to employ Tom Brady (or his kryptonite Eli).  Everything else requires such a confluence of factors that you might as well focus on the two general things that give you the best shot:  Star QB and general roster health.  The former of which seems to be mostly luck in the draft, and the latter of which seems to be mostly luck during the season (though I also think GM's don't pay enough attention to a player's injury history in the draft).

If you don't get star QB lucky somehow, your (modern) options are defensive:  the Ravens defense of the early 2000's, and the Broncos dragging Manning's corpse in 2015.  Each team only won once, but it's 2 examples of defensively dominant teams winning a Super Bowl this century with almost no help from the offense (other winners, like the Steelers or Legion of Boom Seahawks, had powerful defenses AND good to great QB play).

So I guess if someone was dumb enough to make me the GM I'd draft a QB 1st to 3rd round every year until one hits, and otherwise draft the best defense possible.  Once you get the QB, go to town in free agency and trades to punch up the offense and balance out the draft strategy between O and D.  Easy :)

43 The problem is, It can be…

The problem is, It can be very hard to tell if your quarterback is struggling because of lack of receivers or the quarterback himself. That inevitably leads to a push to drafting offensive lineman and wide receivers

44 See

I'd draft a QB 1st to 3rd round every year

I think the main problem with that is it's just not sustainable way to roster build and evaluate. 

Imagine the Bills draft Daniel Jones after Josh Allen's bad (and yes it was bad Bills fans). There's just not enough reps to evaluate them both properly. 

It's true QB is the most important and teams without one should take their shot (cough Seattle this year cough) but there are 52 other players and countless coaches. The QB could be easily hidden by other incompetences and a year just isn't gonna confirm much. Especially when you hemorrhage multiple picks every year on a position that doesn't rotate and is heavily protected by the rules. 

The best you're going to get is what, RG3-Kirk? And that resulted in 0 playoff wins? I'd argue that 4th rounder could've been better spent on an OL that can help stop RG3 from getting pressured and hurt, but that's a long story. 

45 The best you're going to get…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

The best you're going to get is what, RG3-Kirk? And that resulted in 0 playoff wins? I'd argue that 4th rounder could've been better spent on an OL that can help stop RG3 from getting pressured and hurt, but that's a long story. 

Usually you sign groundskeepers in free agency, not in the draft.

48 In reality:

Imagine a mess of a team with Josh Allen and, Haskins (1.09) instead of 2 year starter Ed Oliver, Drew Lock (2.38) instead of 1 year starter Cody Ford, AND Will Grier (3.74 or 3.96, pick your poison) instead of 3 year starter Devin Singletary or 3 year starter Dawson Knox.

Wyoming Allen still who he is today and the team where they are (current SB fav)? Doubt it. 

Or to your unfunny joke, imagine they pick someone to replace the now inactive and will never sniff the HOF, Will Montgomery.

65 Wow!

The comments on this thread contain better, more well-reasoned, rational content than 95% of what you'll read on ESPN or any of the standard sports sites.  Well done FootballOutsiders! :)

67 I don't think anybody would…

I don't think anybody would have a problem with Wards contract...It's that they followed it up with these aggressive moves for players with question marks. It certainly smells of desperation to me and they melded 2 of the team building philosophies into a hot mess, handcuffing themselves in the process. Personally I'm glad I'm not a Browns fan, they should've stuck with a more patient approach, and frankly they deserve a middling future for these moves. They had hit on a few 1st rounders there was nothing wrong with developing that core up through the draft 

71 Why the Steelers go with Proven Method 1

Here is a history lesson given by a writer on the Steelers' website answering questions from fans. It describes the Steelers history in the mid 50's and 60's which led to their turnaround in the '70's.

https://www.steelers.com/news/asked-and-answered-march-10-x8201

 "When the Steelers were in the business of trading away draft picks by the bushel, it was because Coach Buddy Parker preferred veterans to rookies, because in the late 1950s-to-mid-1960s professional football still wasn't the kind of job where players didn't have to work in the offseason. Parker had won two NFL Championships with the Detroit Lions (in 1952 and 1953) before resigning from that job on Aug. 12, 1957. Parker then signed a five-year contract to coach the Steelers on Aug. 27, 1957, and during his eight seasons as Art Rooney Sr.'s coach, Parker traded four first-round picks and a total of 14 picks in the top 40 of his eight NFL Drafts in the job. The Steelers' first pick in both the 1959 and 1963 NFL Drafts came in the eighth round; in 1960 they made a first-round pick and then not another until the seventh round. This is the way it was during Parker's tenure, until Dan Rooney convinced his father that Parker shouldn't be allowed to make trades without running them past upper management. When informed of this new policy, Parker bristled and said he couldn't work under such constraints, to which Dan Rooney was said to have replied, "I accept your resignation." After hiring Mike Nixon (2-12 in his only season) and Bill Austin (6-20-2) in two seasons, the Steelers found a coach who shared Dan Rooney's belief in building through the draft. Dan Rooney then convinced his father to hire Chuck Noll, and the future of the franchise had been charted."

As a side note, the Steelers drafted Lenny Dawson QB from Purdue in 1957 Round 1 before hiring Parker and then traded him. They also drafted John Unitas in 1955 Round 9 and didn't keep him either.

Draft and develop.

79 Ouch!

“The coveted Vinny Cerrato Trophy.”   😆

I live in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.  Vinny is on sports radio around here.  He's very critical of the Ravens in general, and often of Lamar.  It's interesting positioning, for a guy with Vinny's résumé.