The Cleveland Browns Look Stupid No Matter How You Spin the AJ McCarron Story

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At this point, it’s foolish of anyone to ever think the Cleveland Browns are done embarrassing themselves. Whether on the field or off it, this team continues to find new ways to maintain its place as the NFL‘s resident laughingstock.

Take yesterday’s face-palm worthy attempt to trade for Cincinnati Bengals backup QB AJ McCarron, a story which makes the Browns look like idiots no matter how you spin it.

I’m not even going to add a “in case you missed it” caveat, simply because there’s no way you were able to avoid hearing about how Cleveland bumbled a trade for McCarron due to not informing the NFL before the trade deadline. As a result, the Browns proposal of sending 2018 second and third round picks for a quarterback with two career wins, three starts and a league-wide evaluation of “average at best” couldn’t be completed.

Aw darn.

Naturally, with the entire sports world laughing at them, the Browns tried pulling some damage control, claiming Cincinnati was actually to blame for the botched trade. However, the Bengals insist they did everything right, and frankly it’s far easier to believe this. Any narrative which paints Cleveland as the brainchild of a bad idea is far less far-fetched.

Obviously, such an outcome makes the team’s front office look incompetent beyond belief. How can fans trust the men hired to turn the Browns into a winner if said higher ups can’t be trusted to complete a trade before the deadline? We’re supposed to believe this front office can make smart decisions even though it doesn’t contain anyone who understands how to file paperwork on time?

Let’s just say, hypothetically, Cleveland is right, and that the Bengals are to blame. If choosing to believe said narrative, you still can’t clear this team of any wrongdoing here.

Doing so would ignore the fact the Browns were one slip-up away from dealing two draft picks for McCarron when it cost one for the San Francisco 49ers to acquire Jimmy Garoppolo. General consensus is the former New England Patriots backup is a better prospect than McCarron, so the idea Cleveland was on the verge of paying more for a lesser player makes the team look bad.

You also can’t ignore the fact the move itself feels like one caused by panic.

After catching a ton of flack for their lack of involvement in the Garoppolo talks, which included coaches emailing reporters to vent about the front office, it sure seems like the team tried to pull off the McCarron deal simply to prove it was doing something, anything to try and make things better. A regime which has spent the past two years dutifully piling up draft picks was suddenly willing to burn two pricey ones for an average backup because it’s been catching some bad PR.

We’re expected to trust those in the front office to eventually find Cleveland’s franchise quarterback when they’ve passed on studs like Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, yet valued a mediocre McCarron so much they were willing to part with two high draft picks for him? We’re expected to believe in Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta even though the only thing which prevented this awful trade wasn’t their reevaluating how bad it was, but instead their being unable to file it in time?

It’s also important to note how this resonates within the locker room, specifically with rookie DeShone Kizer.

Even with the trade failing, this story potentially destroyed any goodwill which may have remained between the team and Kizer. The young quarterback already has trust issues thanks to mixed messages from his coaching staff, and now he has to deal with the fact he was seconds from being replaced. Kizer has been told all season this was his show. He’s been benched twice, and was this close to having it happen again.

Are we supposed to feel good about a front office which was one mishap away from over-paying for an average quarterback? Are we supposed to be comforted by the fact that a colossal blunder was all that prevented the Browns from making a sizable trade for a middling quarterback simply to save face? Are we supposed to trust anyone involved with this team if they’ve spent all season selling the idea Kizer can be the future when they were on the verge of replacing him via a panic trade?

The answer to all of these questions is obviously no. As a result, another Cleveland housecleaning is inevitable. I’d say it’s impossible for this to get worse, but as the Browns keep proving, there’s always a way go farther below rock bottom.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook


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