CLEVELAND -- Following the 2015 season, Cleveland Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam committed to a multi-year rebuilding process with former general counsel Sashi Brown taking control of the 53-man roster.
In 22 months since Brown took over as the executive vice president of football operations, the Browns have gone 1-22 with a 14-game losing streak to start the 2016 season, and an 0-7 run at the beginning of 2017 heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings at Twickenham Stadium in London.
Here is a look at five decisions that have led to the struggles of the last two years.
PASSING ON QB CARSON WENTZ
The Browns traded the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft to the Philadelphia Eagles on April 20, 2016.
In return for the No. 2 pick and a fourth-round pick in 2017, the Browns received the Eagles’ first-round picks in the 2016 and 2017 drafts, as well as third (No. 77) and fourth-round (No. 100) selections in 2016 and a 2018 second-round choice.
By trading the pick to Philadelphia, the Browns passed on the chance to select Carson Wentz, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound quarterback who engineered back-to-back Football Championship Subdivision National Championship runs for North Dakota State. However, Cleveland’s chief strategy officer, Paul DePodesta, who is a career baseball executive, went on the record and said that they believed Wentz did not have the potential to be a top-20 quarterback.
Since entering the NFL, Wentz has completed 522 of his 839 attempts (62.2 percent) for 5,634 yards and 33 touchdowns against 18 interceptions. Through the first seven games of the 2017 season, Wentz has the Eagles off to a 6-1 start and in first place in the NFC East Division.
Wentz has completed 143 passes for 1,852 yards and 17 touchdowns against four interceptions this season, and is considered a potential MVP candidate.
SIGNING KENNY BRITT
The Browns hit the ground running on the first day of the new NFL year, as they hoped to add a deep threat to the offense with the signing of veteran wide receiver Kenny Britt.
The 6-foot-3, 223-pound Britt joined the Browns after his only 1,000-yard showing in eight NFL seasons, one in which he caught 68 passes for 1,002 yards and five touchdowns. However, Britt has proven to be a distraction, on and off the field.
Along with fellow receiver Corey Coleman, Britt was sent home from Houston for missing curfew ahead of a 33-17 loss to the Texans, and currently ranks seventh on the team in receptions. Britt has just 10 catches for 128 yards and one touchdown through the first seven games of the season.
LETTING GO OF MITCHELL SCHWARTZ
In Brown’s first go-around as the top executive of a football team, the Browns lost four free agents on the first day of the new league year in 2016, capped off by right tackle Mitchell Schwartz reaching an agreement on a contract with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Schwartz was the third free agent to leave the Browns in the first 90 minutes of the new year in the NFL, as center Alex Mack reached a five-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons and wide receiver Travis Benjamin found a new home with the then-San Diego Chargers.
Initially, it was reported the Browns were close to reaching a contract extension with Schwartz, who started every one of the 64 games over his four years with the Browns after being selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
However, hours before signings with free agents from other teams could be announced, the Browns reportedly pulled the offer and despite already losing Mack, were willing to let Schwartz test free agency.
LACK OF VETERAN QB PRESENCE
The Browns pulled off the shocker of the first day of the 2017 league year, as they orchestrated a trade with the Texans for quarterback Brock Osweiler, as well as a sixth-round choice in the 2017 NFL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Houston got a 2017 fourth-round pick from the Browns.
Last offseason, Osweiler signed a four-year, $72 million contract but struggled in his first, and only season with the Texans. Osweiler’s contract with the Texans had language in it that fully guaranteed two years and $37 million, meaning the Browns paid $15 million to acquire a second-round pick in the draft because they cut Osweiler before the start of the season.
By doing so, the Browns left themselves without a veteran option at quarterback, and had three players, Kevin Hogan, Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer, with less than two years of NFL experience, and none have won a start as a professional.
NOT BUILDING MORE DEPTH
The Browns took for granted that 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas would be one bookend to the offensive line, and as such did not address the spot through the NFL Draft, which would have given the veteran blocker time to work with a potential replacement.
Thomas suffered a left triceps injury in the third quarter and did not return to Sunday’s 12-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans at FirstEnergy Stadium. On Monday, further testing revealed that Thomas had torn his left triceps tendon and would need season-ending surgery.
Now, the Browns have to press into service second-year blocker Spencer Drango, who has not played tackle since college.
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