By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
If he could do it again: Tom Heckert’s signature moves as Browns general manager are remembered as much for whom he didn’t get as for whom he got.
He passed up Julio Jones and fell short of Robert Griffin III. Imagine that dynamic duo on the same offense.
Instead of selecting Jones, Heckert traded down in 2011 and wound up with Atlanta draft picks that turned into defensive tackle Phil Taylor, receiver Greg Little and fullback Owen Marecic. A dividend of the Jones deal would include quarterback Brandon Weeden a year later.
If that mega-deal wasn’t big enough, 2012 brought an even bigger blockbuster. Heckert and Mike Holmgren considered mortgaging the future to the St. Louis Rams, who had the No. 2 overall pick, for RG3.
The Browns would come in second to the Redskins. Washington won the RG3 sweepstakes when Rams coach Jeff Fisher traded with his long-time friend, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan. The Redskins gave the Rams their No. 1 pick in 2012, 2013 and 2014, along with their No. 2 in 2012.
The Browns reportedly offered their two No. 1s in 2012 and a No. 1 in 2013. At the last minute, the Browns chipped in their No. 2 in 2012, too. But the Rams said it was too late.
So the pricetag for RG3, whose sprained right knee may or may not keep him from playing in his first visit to Cleveland Sunday, would have ended up being running back Trent Richardson, Weeden, right tackle Mitch Schwartz and next season’s No. 1.
Would you do it now?
“That’s a big pricetag, man,” Richardson said on Wednesday. “I don’t know. That’s on y’all. I think we all have been doing good. That’s a lot. You tell me.”
The analysis: At the time of the draft, before we knew what Heckert would do with his picks, my hesitation with the trade centered only on Griffin’s physical stature and style of play. The way Griffin played at Baylor – despite possessing a really nice arm, running was a huge part of his game – I was concerned his 6-2, 217-pound body would not survive the long haul in the NFL.
Conversely, I would have offered the picks, the Terminal Tower and the Horseshoe Casino for the bigger and more pro-style quarterback Andrew Luck.
As happened, Griffin suffered a concussion and a Grade 1 sprain of his right knee in his first 13 NFL games. The same knee has a repaired ACL from his Baylor days.
Griffin leads NFL quarterbacks with a passer rating of 104.2 and has 748 rushing yards and six TD runs. He is the single biggest reason the Redskins have transformed from a 5-11 team to a playoff contender and relevant national story.
Cornerback Joe Haden called RG3 “an amazing, amazing, amazing player. He’s one of the most electrifying players I’ve watched this year.”
Receiver Josh Gordon was a teammate of Griffin’s in 2010. He said he committed to Baylor after seeing him on TV sidestep a Wake Forest defender with “a Reggie Bush move,” causing the defender to dive out of bounds as Griffin sprinted by.
“I think he can continue doing what he’s doing,” Gordon said. “Perhaps he can maybe cut down on the running if he has a couple open wide receivers and just throw it for 20 yards instead of running for 20. Either way, I feel he’s so fast and so athletic, he can really do it. He’s a tough guy. And he has a lot of confidence in his athletic ability, so it’s really hard to tell him to slow down.”
Did Heckert do the right thing?: It’s impossible to know whether Griffin would be duplicating his success in the confines of Pat Shurmur’s West Coast offense.
Shurmur said Wednesday that if the Browns had nabbed Griffin, “I promise you we would have had more -- I’m going to call them -- structured quarterback type runs” in his offense.
Once the Redskins secured the trade with the Rams, they aggressively signed receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan in free agency. Had the Browns swung the deal for RG3, it’s doubtful that Heckert would have aggressively bid his No. 2 pick in 2013 for Gordon in the supplemental draft.
So are the Browns better off with Richardson, Weeden, Schwartz, Gordon and next year’s No. 1? Or would RG3 have been worth it?
“I’ll tell you, Tom Heckert, he is a guru when it comes to picking talent,” said linebacker D’Qwell Jackson. “You try to put yourself in that position. When you’re in that war room, because those picks are gonna basically dictate your career. And right now, he’s batting 1.000, in my opinion. All the guys he chose to bring in, whether people on the outside liked him or not, they’re contributing.
“What Heckert saw was he trusted the guys he had in, and you know what, if we had a few pieces here and there, we have a shot.”
Haden said “no way” would he undo what Heckert decided.
“If I were a fan of the Cleveland Browns, I would not take that deal (for Griffin). Definitely not,” Haden said. “This whole thing that we have going here wouldn’t be. It would be just a completely different team. He’s a helluva player. But we filled in a lot of spots instead of just one.”
When Gordon announced he was entering the supplemental draft in July, Griffin lobbied hard for the Redskins to get him.
“I talked to coach Shanahan and Grif,” Gordon said. “We had some talks about it. There was a random selection, so there wasn’t too much you could do about getting a certain pick. Given the opportunity, they may have gone a certain way. The fact Cleveland picked me up earlier didn’t give them a chance.”
Nobody on the Browns knows Griffin better than Gordon. What does he think about the price paid for him?
“That would have been a big jump, definitely a big sacrifice made,” Gordon said. “I think we’re definitely good with the guys we have here. The Redskins got a good pick.
“Everything happened the way it should have happened.”
|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 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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