John Dorsey is off to a great start as general manager and there is no reason to expect he will fail.
In professional sports, all teams go through their share of droughts. Hopeless periods of time featuring the bare minimum of happiness for coaches, players and fans. A current drought, and one that will linger in minds for years to come, is that of the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland reached a new low with a winless season in 2017. Despite years of torment, the Browns managed to snag a brilliant general manager in John Dorsey who has provided a faint light at the end of the tunnel. Fans of all organizations believe a quarterback will serve as their savior and bring them to the promise land. In this case, Cleveland’s savior is John Dorsey.
One year to the day, December 7, Dorsey was hired by the Browns to bring them out of the cellar. In a year, Dorsey found a potential franchise quarterback, a lockdown defensive back, a young running back with loads of talent and most importantly, removed the virus, Head Coach Hue Jackson, from the system.
Dorsey is now tasked with finding the new head coach. Recently fired by the Green Bay Packers, Mike McCarthy, could fill the void and is rumored to be one of the names the Browns are considering to take the helm in 2019. Yet, armchair GMs still believe they know more than Dorsey and insist McCarthy would fail. Given all Dorsey’s accomplishments in a year with the Browns, fans should blindly follow any decision he makes.
Understandably, Browns fans are on their last legs. The Cleveland Browns relocated to Baltimore following the 1995 season. The once proud football town lived without a team for three years and when they finally returned in 1999, the franchise never recovered. In 19 seasons, Cleveland’s record sits at 88-216. The Browns saw two winning seasons since their rebirth: one of which did not qualify for the postseason and the other included one playoff game where Cleveland promptly blew a 24-7 third quarter lead to division rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers. So perhaps Browns fans have a reason to demand only the best from their front office in hopes of one day becoming relevant. But Dorsey has not failed yet.
Let’s start with Dorsey’s first game-changing move: drafting Baker Mayfield with the first pick in the 2018 Draft. Forget Mayfield’s antics and free-speaking nature for a second and look at stats. Compared to other notable rookie quarterbacks, Sam Darnold (NY Jets), Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills) and Josh Rosen (Arizona Cardinals), Mayfield owns the best stats. Lamar Jackson’s three games started with the Baltimore Ravens cannot be compared to the other four who have all played in at least eight games.
Of the four, Mayfield leads in passing yards (2,639) passing touchdowns (18) and completion percentage (63.3). Darnold takes second place in each of those three categories: 1,934 passing yards, 11 passing touchdowns and a completion percentage of 55.
Do not even consider using a lackluster offensive line as an excuse for Darnold. Mayfield has taken 22 sacks this season and Darnold 21. Leave out the “no receivers to throw to” excuse for Darnold as well. Cleveland’s leading receiver, Jarvis Landry, averages 61 receiving yards per game and ranks only 24th in receiving yards. Next on the list is Antonio Callaway at 72nd.
Mayfield won Offensive Rookie of the Month for November and ranks fourth in ESPN’s NFL Rookies created by Jeff Legwold. Dorsey picked the right guy even if Mayfield talks more than other quarterbacks.
Critics came after Dorsey for taking Mayfield first overall and cornerback Denzel Ward fourth overall. Many believed Dorsey should have drafted running back Saquon Barkley first and Mayfield fourth. No one knows for sure if Mayfield’s name would still be available by the fourth pick and given the previously mentioned stats, the risk proved too large.
Instead, Dorsey drafted Ward fourth overall and the rookie corner’s performance defends the selection. Three interceptions, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a blocked field goal. Ward’s three picks tie him for second in the league among rookie corners and Ward also found a spot in the top ten for Legwold’s rankings at number eight.
Further supporting the pass on Barkley, Dorsey decided to put the Brown’s running game future in the hands of Nick Chubb. Although taken in the second round of the draft and the fourth running back taken, Chubb belongs with the top group of rookie backs.
Even more impressive, Chubb did not become Cleveland’s primary running back until Week 7 and his stats still nearly match Barkley’s.
Chubb ranks fifth in rookie rushing yards at 694 yards with 64 less touches than Barkley who owns 954 rushing yards. If given the same amount of touches as Barkley, Chubb’s projected rushing yards exceeds Barkley’s by 79. Chubb’s yards per attempt (5.3) lands above Barkley’s (4.9) and Chubb’s seven rushing touchdowns trails Barkley by one.
That covers Dorsey’s home runs in the draft. Once the team began training camp, Dorsey continued his escapade by cleaning house.
It began with trading 2016 first-round pick wide receiver Corey Coleman. Let it be noted, the Browns traded their pick that year to the Philadelphia Eagles who used it to draft Carson Wentz. Cleveland drafted Coleman 13 picks later.
In two years with the Browns, Coleman caught for 718 yards in 19 games. Coleman also dropped a pass in Week 17 of 2017 that sealed the 0-16 season.
Dorsey traded Coleman to the Bills for a seventh-round pick in 2020 and the Bills released him 27 days later. New England gave him a chance on the practice squad and later released him. Coleman now plays for the Giants and boasts a total of 20 yards in four games with New York.
The shocking moves did not end there. Dorsey then traded troubled receiver Josh Gordon after Week 1. Between suspensions for substance abuse, Gordon played a total of 10 games for Cleveland from 2014 to 2017. The last straw was showing up late to practice with an injury sustained in a non-football activity.
In a trade with New England for Gordon, Cleveland received a fifth-round pick in 2019. Gordon’s 622 receiving yards this season ranks 38th in the NFL.
The reason Chubb basically rode the bench for six weeks was because Carlos Hyde owned the title of starting running back in Cleveland. That changed when Dorsey traded the four-year veteran to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a fifth-rounder in 2019. Since the trade, Hyde rushed for 129 yards in five games without finding the end zone once as a Jaguar.
Yes, none of those drafts picks look exciting on paper. But Dorsey has a history of finding talent anywhere in the draft. Just look at three-time Pro Bowl TE Travis Kelce (63rd overall), two-time Pro Bowl WR Tyreek Hill (165th overall) and 2017 NFL rushing leader and Pro Bowl RB Kareem Hunt (86th overall).
Finally, Dorsey made arguably the best team decision when the Browns fired Head Coach Hue Jackson and Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley after Week 8.
Jackson amassed a 3-36-1 record with the Browns and Haley’s play-calling in 2018 certainly left many scratching their heads.
Rumor is Jackson and Haley could not get along and given the product they put on the field for eight weeks, that certainly sounds plausible. It is no coincidence that since Jackson and Haley’s firing, the Browns look like a different team.
Under the two fired coaches in six games, Mayfield threw for 1,471 yards, eight touchdowns and was sacked 20 times. In four games since the firing, Mayfield’s stats show 1,168 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and two sacks.
The team has also won two of those four games, only one short of Jackson’s win total in 40 tries. Give credit to Interim Head Coach Gregg Williams and Interim Offensive Coordinator Freddie Kitchens, but Dorsey made the decision to put them in a position to succeed.
Rejoice, Cleveland fans. The Browns are on the rise and the right man for the job is making decisions. If Dorsey decides to hire Mike McCarthy as the next head coach of the Cleveland Browns, it is, more likely than not, the right choice.