The NFL Scouting Combine is a flurry of activity for players, NFL teams, agents and members of the media. For those of us who write about the NFL draft 365 days per year, you can expect to be sought out by an agent or team official who has news to share or misinformation to promote. Separating the good from the bad is part of the job.
Not all news is created equal, mind you. Over a five day stretch in Indianapolis the "news" being shared from agent-to-writer and from team-to-writer must be taken with a grain of salt. When an agent tells you his player is a lock to be drafted higher than anyone thinks, it's easy to shrug that off as self-promotion. Those stories are never written.
What does cause a writer to pause and consider the news is when an agent tells you that he's hoping his player is not drafted by a particular team. When those words are said, we've crossed the line from misinformation and posturing to a true story.
That's what happened this past weekend in Indianapolis, while chatting up an agent who represents a Top 10 player in the 2012 NFL draft.
While setting up times and places for Bleacher Report to try and coordinate interviews with Agent X's players, we began talking about his highest rated player and the perceptions of where he will go in the first round. Going down the list of teams drafting in the top of the first round, I mentioned the Cleveland Browns as a potential landing spot. The response was,
"We don't want to go to Cleveland. Man they're not trying to win there, with that quarterback (Colt McCoy) and those draft picks last year. They ain't trying to build a winner."
Damning words for a fan base coming off a solid 2011 draft class.
The Cleveland Browns are among the most storied franchises in NFL history. With four league championships and 11 conference championships, the Browns are a storied franchise. Hard times have fallen on Browns' fans and their team, which leads to the perception—at least by one agent—that the Browns aren't "trying to build a winner" in Cleveland.
Whether you or I agree with the statement made by the agent, what's most alarming is the fact that at least one top prospect doesn't want to play in Cleveland due to the failure of team president Mike Holmgren to build a winning team.
If the Browns aren't an exciting option for a rookie, who has everything to gain, to come to Cleveland—how will they convince much-needed free agents to sign there?