“I grow old,” an elder murmurs.
It’s not the case that the Cleveland Browns have been merely terrible. It’s not the case that they have merely had the third-worst record through the first thirteen years of their existence of every expansion team in NFL history, operating in an era where rebuilding is only easier than previously. To answer this question, one must also ask whether, at any point in the last fourteen years, Browns fans have had a rational reason to believe they would be good.
“Kelly Holcomb!” we exclaimed, frantic, eleven years ago. “One must certainly believe in the ability and virtue of Kelly Holcomb! Behold the messiah, behold the 30-year-old Immanuel with his 3 games started and 10:12 TD:INT ratio!”
Ten years later, we scoff at having believed in the false prophet Holcomb. Yet these sneers transform into wide-eyed adulation when we lay our eyes upon our new savior, Brian Hoyer, who unlike Holcomb is a spry 29 years of age, sage, capable of imbuing all with Wisdom by means of his vast experience (Four games started!) and his miraculous 8:7 TD:INT ratio. “Brian Hoyer!” we cry. “One must certainly believe in the ability and virtue of Brian Hoyer!”
And Hoyer shall be called Wonderful, Counselor.Curiosity comes to the child of the valley only when she realizes there exists a world beyond the encircling mountains. The mountains, she is told, mark only the limits of the valley – beyond their peaks exist a vast world. “Is the outside world like home?” she asks. “The outside world is filled with everything you could imagine,” she is regaled.
The resilient seeds of discovery were sown, dire seeds which when planted can only be eradicated by force.
Scowling mountains sought to contain this young girl, and with this same dominating sneer she replies to these stone captors.
It’s appealing, at first glance, to appeal to luck. In any given year, there exists a 3/8 chance that any given team in the NFL will make the playoffs, a 1/16 chance that any given team will make the Super Bowl, and a 1/32 chance that any given team will win the Super Bowl. In a vacuum, there exists a 36% chance that in any given fourteen-year span, a team will win a Super Bowl. “Just wait: the odds say the Browns will win eventually. In the next 32 years, there’s a 64% chance,” probability assuages.
Mathematics mean little in a world of curses, however. Content to merely observe fluttering dice, fans have hoped all-pro players fall into the sixth or seventh round where the Browns, having traded down dozens of times, control the final forty picks. ‘Prudence,’ we exclaim, congratulating ourselves for investing in a roulette. ‘Bad luck,’ we sadly conclude when the wheel spurns us, year after year.
“We will never allow you to venture across the mountains,” the child’s parents sternly forbid. “We care far too much to let you wander into danger.”
“But you’ve seen it! You’ve seen the outside world!” the child insistently protests. “It’s a world where the plants are soft and the animals are big! If you’ve gone there, why can’t I?”
“The world is wonderful, my child. But it’s far too dangerous – you could get hurt,” her parents impart. “We love you, and because we love you, you must stay in the valley.”
The child, cowed by the threat of danger, promised never to leave the valley. This same child grew into a woman, and this woman married and gave birth to a child. As this new family dragged on, however, she began happy but that happiness soon rot into a perpetual smile, knowing that if her insane grin slipped, her husband would provide swift and violent back-handed commentary. By virtue of her taxing inertia, her child was not yet fourteen when arrived her gray twilight.
“I don’t want to bet the farm on someone like Andrew Luck,” we nervously muttered. “There’s no Peyton Manning in this draft. Mustn’t risk the future.”
We saved our picks for later and played it safe. Congratulations at our own restraint abounded, knowing that our assets were safe in our mattresses. Maybe next year it’ll be Quarterback Draft – ‘next year,’ we consent. Next year will be the year we recognize that we have the fewest passing touchdowns of all teams that have existed continuously since 1999. Next year, we’ll fix that. Next year, we’ll get clean from this addiction to losing.
The toll extracted from the woman was dear, a toll so terrible she was compelled to tell of it. “Child, I grow old,” the elder woman murmurs. “My world is limited to this valley, but wherever you travel, know this: safety is illusion. ‘Beyond those mountains exist danger,’ my parents told me, and I believed them. They were correct: to venture is to risk one’s life. But my parents in their cruelty and malice never told me that it is inertia that brings the gravest, most solemn danger. A journey to the outside world may have taken my life; remaining here, however, has robbed me of my health, my hope, and it, too, will soon take my life. ‘The world is wonderful, my child.’ That was what I was told, and it is what I now tell you. May you be the traveller I never could be. May you see the outside world. Feel the soft plants for me, and look in wonder on the towering fauna. And if you should return to this valley after seeing the world beyond, cast a withering gaze on our vain mountain masters and scowl at them, knowing that you have dominated them, always and completely.”
Playing it safe is no longer an option. Year after year, Browns fans have insisted that we not gamble the future to draft a highly-rated quarterback. Perennially, the Browns have done precisely that, looking toward the future. But in the past fourteen years, that future has become present, and that present has become the past.
Browns fans have deferred their gratification, only to watch bolder teams seize it on the Browns’ behalf. Time has shown us that the rewards for our delayed gratification are derision and the single worst team in the National Football League.
If there exists a QB at the top of this draft whom the front office believes could be the future, there can be no argument against giving up anything necessary to get him. Trembling, mewling caution has had its chance to run this team, and it has delivered us the greatest sports laughingstock in the world.
Let us be bold. Let us do what is necessary to take the best quarterback we possibly can. Let us ascend the scowling mounts that would seek to contain us. Let us risk venturing into danger on our own terms rather than surrendering to danger the initiative to find us.
Let the Cleveland Browns seize the future.