The Cleveland Browns have been unusually unsuccessful when it comes to finding the right quarterback.
Most teams have stumbled upon a passable quarterback, even if they didn't think he was a long-term option. Not Cleveland, which has used 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999, the most of any team in the NFL.
So with two first-round picks in this year's draft, as well as a poor history of selecting quarterbacks in the first round (Tim Couch, Brady Quinn and Brandon Weeden are all gone), the Browns understandably wanted to put a lot of effort into getting this year's pick right.
According to both ESPN and CBS, the team spent $100,000 on a study to determine which of this year's quarterback prospects is the most likely to succeed in the NFL. According to ESPN's Sal Paolantonio, Cleveland used analytics to examine every quarterback who has played in the NFL the past 20 years. The results of the study determined that former Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has the best chance of anyone in this year's class.
Bridgewater had a stellar career at Louisville, completing 70 percent of his passes as as senior while throwing 31 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has good size for a quarterback (6-foot-3, 205 pounds), but his stock slipped significantly following a poor pro day.
So when the Browns had the choice to pick between Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel with the 22nd overall selection they went with ... Manziel.
Curious move by Cleveland, and there certainly seems to be some trickery at play here. If the Browns really determined Bridgewater was the best quarterback in the draft, why didn't they select him when they had the chance? And why would they broadcast the results of their study to the world? Seems like if they spent that much on the study, they would have been better served to keep the results secret.
Lots of Twitter users called foul:
So was the Browns $100,000 analytics report which "said" Bridgewater is the best QB an elaborate ruse, or did they just ignore the nerds?
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) May 9, 2014
Like, clearly the Browns didn't actually spend $100,000 on a study, leak the results the day before the draft, and then totally disregard it
— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) May 9, 2014
The lone recommendation of the Browns $100,000 quarterback analytics study: Ask a homeless guy.
— Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) May 9, 2014
The last crack is a reference to an ESPN report in which owner Jimmy Haslam said a homeless person told him to draft Manziel.
While we may never know the true story about the team's decision to pass on Bridgewater, several clues have leaked in the hours after the draft. The first is that the study was commissioned by Joe Banner, the team's former CEO who was fired in February. Maybe the team disregarded the study because it was tied to Banner's regime.
Or, perhaps Cleveland GM Ray Farmer did not have the final say in the pick. While Farmer was "enamored" with Bridgewater (and had been for some time), the final decision may not have been his. Farmer insisted that owner Jimmy Haslam didn't "push, shove or dictate" his decision, but Cleveland Plain-Dealer columnist Bud Shaw writes that Manziel "was a Jimmy Haslam pick." ESPN's Kevin Seifert provides support for that idea, writing, "it's naïve to believe Haslam didn't play a role in the final outcome. Owners usually get what they want -- one way or the other."
While Farmer may have been looking at the decision from a pure football perspective, Haslam has the team's business figures and overall image in mind, and in that regard Manziel has already proven why he was the better selection with his box-office impact.
Bridgewater, meanwhile, was selected by the Minnesota Vikings with the final pick of the first round.
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