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Browns' draft-room exclusive access leaves Grantland writer frustrated by paranoia

May 10, 2013 -- 6:00am

By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com

 

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The Morning Kickoff …

Inside the Browns’ draft room: Unbeknownst to many, the Browns gave exclusive access over the three days of last month’s draft to a writer from Grantland.com, a highbrow sports Website created by ESPN contributor Bill Simmons.

Chuck Klosterman, the author, acknowledges in the piece that Browns GM Mike Lombardi “has a long relationship” with the Website and was a guest on numerous podcasts with Simmons. While Klosterman does not note whether Lombardi was responsible for the privileged access, which included an invitation to the Browns’ draft room just hours before the beginning of the first round of the draft, he does take care of his boss’s friend with numerous flattering observations.

Be that as it may, Klosterman’s writing drips with frustration from not gaining the total access he was expecting. Browns President Alec Scheiner, Klosterman’s “de facto liaison” for the three days, relentlessly went off the record and declined to be quoted directly on anything of substance.

Klosterman is at his wit’s end at the paranoia in Berea that defeated his story’s purpose.

“I've never witnessed this level of institutional paranoia within a universe so devoid of actual secrets. I don't even know what they don't want me to know,” Klosterman wrote.

To which I say, “Welcome to our world.”

Nevertheless, Klosterman reported some nuggets of interest to Browns fans.

* The football committee of Joe Banner, Lombardi, Ray Farmer and Rob Chudzinski concluded that LSU pass rusher Barkevious Mingo “is absolutely the man they want to draft.” Klosterman wrote, “They describe him as ‘always relentless.’ They identify him as the type of player who ‘represents everything’ they aspire to as a franchise.”

* At 2:30 p.m. on Thursday – 5 ½ hours before the start of the first round – the Browns conditionally agreed to a trade with the St. Louis Rams that would have moved the Browns to No. 16 in exchange for the Rams’ second- and seventh-round picks. The major condition was Mingo’s availability. Once he was there at No. 6, the Browns canceled the trade. The Rams made the same deal with Buffalo at No. 8 to move up for receiver Tavon Austin.

* The Browns considered trading the No. 6 pick to “a marquee franchise” in exchange for a second-round pick, a first-round pick in 2014 and a first-round pick in 2015, plus two other future selections. Klosterman wrote, “Ultimately, the blockbuster does not happen. It’s possible that it was never close to happening.” The reporting on this supposed “blockbuster” is sketchy at best. The trade makes no sense for the unidentified other team. If, in fact, a “marquee franchise” even discussed moving up for the Browns’ No. 6 pick, my guess is it was the 49ers – but I seriously doubt the generous terms Klosterman reported.

* Klosterman observed of his short time in the draft room, “Lombardi talks the most. Chudzinski talks the least. Banner runs the room. Farmer is the equilibrium (he rarely speaks first but provides the most balanced insights).” Farmer has never been formally introduced by the Browns, yet owner Jimmy Haslam has on at least two occasions gone out of his way to laud him publicly. Very interesting.

* If the Browns had made the trade with the Rams, they had no clear consensus on whom they might take at No. 16. Klosterman wrote on Chudzinski rewatching game video on his laptop of an offensive lineman “he likes a little more than he probably should.” Banner is quoted as saying, “What does a bust look like before it happens? It looks like four guys sitting in a room, trying to convince each other that some guy is better than we think he is." A very astute observation by Banner.

Klosterman’s piece ignored some major issues of the Browns’ draft. Such as:

* The back story of the controversial trade-out of the fourth round with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Was Banner as arrogant in the draft room as he was in front of the media when he explained he “prefers” to trade within the division?

* The discussion, if any, over Mingo’s weight. Did anyone question whether Mingo needs to add weight and strength? Or are they just mesmerized by his speed, quickness and relentless motor?

* Any discussion whatsoever of taking a quarterback, particularly any reaction to the Giants trading up in front of the Browns in the fourth round to take Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib. Was there just a blanket understanding that the Browns would not select a quarterback – as I believe – or were quarterbacks discussed throughout the draft?

All in all, the Grantland piece left me wanting a lot more.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

 

 

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