With their second pick in the first round of the 2007 draft, the Browns took Brady Quinn at No. 22. With their second pick in the first round of the 2012 draft, the Browns took Brandon Weeden at No. 22. With their second pick in the first round last night, selecting at No. 22, the Browns took...well, you know.
Johnny Manziel to Cleveland is the single best storyline that could have come out of the draft. (Besides him going to Dallas, though Jerry Jones insists that was never a possibility. Still, those minutes when the Cowboys were on the clock were glorious ones.) He's a star with a shit-eating grin, impossibly polarizing, undeniably talented, he carries equal potential to be a boom or a bust, and he's ended up on a franchise with a well-deserved reputation for finding the QB busts. Either he bucks history, or he gets chewed up and spit out by the brown hole.
The fans have already made up their minds. Here's a Cleveland draft party at the moment of Manziel's selection:
And why not? These aren't the same Browns—or at least it's not the same people running them. GM Ray Farmer, working his first draft, did everything right. Coming into the night with an extra first-round pick thanks to the Colts being the last team to realize that a running back is only a small part of an effective running game these days, he traded down, then traded up, then traded up again, and when it was all said and done, he landed Manziel, the top corner on the board, and the Bills' first-round pick next year. Not a bad way to start a turnaround in a passing league. (Setting aside later-round pieces, the Browns essentially turned Trent Richardson into Johnny Manziel.)
Browns GM Ray Farmer to me yesterday: "If you want something, go get it."
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) May 9, 2014
For any other team, this draft is an unqualified success. But these are the Browns, with an institutional memory of failure. Plenty of hyped players have wiped out in Cleveland. Manziel doesn't believe he'll be one of them. Back in February, he addressed the possibility of going to the Browns:
"I don't care if they've had 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999. I'm going to be the 21st and the guy that brought them the Super Bowl."
That's the sort of attitude that led one scout to explain Manziel's fall in the draft to Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman: "He was paying for being a cocky asshole."
Cockiness is perhaps just what this beaten-down franchise needs. If you believe in curses, signs like screwing up Manziel's draft announcement and claiming a homeless person swayed them to make the selection are major brown flags. This era of good feelings may only last as long as the offseason. But that shouldn't matter. Cleveland fans deserve to experience this new, confusing emotion called confidence, for however long it lasts. It doesn't matter which team you pull for—what's the point of draft day if not to hope for the best?