In April 1981, the Cleveland Browns were coming off the heartbreaking 'Red Right 88' loss to the Oakland Raiders in the divisional playoffs and were looking to retool for the upcoming season.
With the 22nd overall pick in that draft, the Browns selected cornerback Hanford Dixon. Three years later, Cleveland would find Dixon his career running mate by signing Frank Minnifield away from the USFL.
Minnifield and Dixon are widely considered one of the best cornerback duos in NFL history, with 46 interceptions and seven Pro Bowls between them. In Cleveland, you rarely hear someone talking about the teams of the '80s without mentioning the duo. They also cemented their legacy in Cleveland by barking at fans during training camp and inspiring the once-legendary 'Dawg Pound.'
How does this pertain to today's Cleveland team, you ask?
Since 1999, the Cleveland Browns have had two winning seasons and one playoff game. They have next to nothing to show for 11 seasons of work.
Much of this can be blamed on inept management, poor coaching and lack of talent, but the biggest reason for Cleveland's failures is lack of an identity. Those teams of the '80s were able to dominate the AFC Central due to solid play from the offense and a stingy defense.
If the Browns are to truly learn from history, they need to put the last decade behind them and emulate those Minnifield and Dixon years. It's time to build the defense.
The Browns can make true strides toward success through one decision: drafting Patrick Peterson with the sixth overall pick.
Peterson, a cornerback from LSU, is widely considered by analysts as the No. 1 defensive back on the board. What makes Peterson so special is his versatility as a defensive back and special teams player, as well as the fact that as an SEC corner, he faced some the most talented receivers in college football.
Pairing the Bednarik Award winner with Joe Haden would give Cleveland one of the most promising cornerback duos in the NFL. Haden led the team with six interceptions this season and is one of the leading candidates for Rookie of the Year.
Adding Peterson would also help the growth process of Haden, who at times was exposed against top receivers due to the lack of depth that forced him into the lineup early.
While many fans will scream and yell for a top offensive weapon for Colt McCoy like A.J. Green or Julio Jones in the first round, true playmakers at the corner position are hard to come by. GM Tom Heckert should cash in on the chance to draft one for the second straight year.
Green is expected to go as high as No. 1 to the Panthers because of Andrew Luck's decision to stay at Stanford. Receivers like Michael Floyd from Notre Dame should be available in the early second round. Others like Titus Young of Boise State will be on the board in the later rounds.
The bottom line is that for the Browns to be contenders, they need to build a defense that inspires fear in quarterbacks and receivers, just like the Ravens and Steelers have done so well.
While Haden and Peterson may not have the ring to it of Minnifield and Dixon, you can bet that duo would have the same type of impact on the Browns defense for the next five to 10 years.