For once in our lives Browns fans, we’re faced with an interesting situation. It’s called national media attention, something that we haven’t actually experienced since 1999. The spotlight has been extremely overwhelming, but mainly in a positive way, for most of us. What’s been occurring lately hasn’t been a shocker though, it’s been expected. We knew that drafting Mr. Manziel wouldn’t just bring Johnny to town, it would bring ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS, and every other prominent football source in America to the shores of Lake Erie. In true Cleveland fashion though, as soon as one bit of optimism hits the light of day, we have to experience something negative. Think of it like Isaac Newton’s, “every action has an equal but opposite reaction” theory. I had to Google “every action has a reaction” in order to get the exact quote because I don’t know anything about physics… so for others also not associated with the sciences, we can quote Bill Simmons, “God Hates Cleveland.” Better?
After the Josh Gordon appeal is complete, it’s safe to say that he’ll be gone most, if not all of the year. Berea rumors suggest only 6 weeks, but being born and raised in Cleveland has embedded a slight sense of pessimism in my brain, so I’m expecting a life-time ban or something… because that’s usually what happens to us Cleveland folk. However, going back to the Newton Law of Physics above (not Simmons), we should expect something positive to happen soon then, right? Well guess what, it may have already happened in the darkness that remains, and his name is Charles Johnson.
Who? Exactly. I’m not embarrassed to say I was a huge Mike Lombardi fan. I understand he made a big mistake in the form of Davone Bess, and possibly Leon McFadden, but nobody’s perfect. On the other hand, I love 10 draft picks and $50M in cap space. He openly called the Brandon Weeden pick a “panicked disaster”, which is extremely accurate and had a big hand in bringing on Ray Farmer, who is walking on Cloud 9 in Cleveland right now. Against the wishes of most Cleveland fans (I’ll exclude myself and my friend Jason from this), he dealt Trent away for a first rounder and it seemed to pan out very well. And lastly, he signed Charles Johnson. People say, “Why would we sign a guy who has a torn ACL?!?! Same old Browns.” What those fans neglected to consider is that Lombardi made it clear he was building for the future.
Now, if Johnson can’t rehab successfully and get out on the field, I’ll shove a sock in my mouth and never speak his name again. We could very easily cut him in the first week of camp, and then I’ll look like an idiot for hyping him up; but hey, I’m from Cleveland and hype is all I have right now. The potential for playmaking is there and I have faith in Lombardi (there’s a reason the Patriots swooped him up immediately after we let him go). In keeping up with today’s science motif, let’s look at this from a biology standpoint. He’s a physical freak standing 6’2”, 225 pounds, and runs a 4.34-40, with a cherry on top in the form of a 40-inch vertical. Go look at how big and fast Josh Gordon is and let me know what you find. I’m not saying Johnson is going to be as good, or better than Gordon. He probably won’t, at first, but shouldn’t be overlooked. He certainly wouldn’t be the first Division 2 prospect to make a name for himself or be the first 7th round draft pick to be prominent in this league. It has been done before…. and as a matter of fact, it’s been done so many times before that I’m not going to even reference any names to prove it.
Kyle Shanahan loves big receivers as well. It’s important to note the production of Andre Johnson and Pierre Garcon, also very big, fast receivers, under the Shanahan system. It’s also noteworthy that the Gordon news occurred in the midst of the draft and Farmer still elected to pass on wide outs, which most likely means he had a plan. The Miles Austin signing makes a statement, because Austin plays on the outside and when healthy, can be very valuable. Earl Bennett, Nate Burleson, and Andrew Hawkins are all mainly slot guys though, so why sign some slot guys to line up on the outside? Quick aside, Andrew Hawkins is the man (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wF7ZlsZJVsI). I’m merely raising the question, did Ray Farmer think that Charles Johnson can be the guy? Maybe. Just maybe. If you know your Browns, you might be saying to yourself, “Carlton Mitchell was 6’3”, 215, and ran a 4.45 40, won’t Charles Johnson just be like him?” Possibly, yes, but keep in mind, we drafted Carlton Mitchell, not Green Bay. Green Bay drafted Charles Johnson. Green Bay spits out epic receivers like Donald Sterling spits out racist comments. We spit out bust, after bust, after bust, after bust, and just so happened to strike gold with Braylon Edwards and Josh Gordon. It just seemed that there was no room for CJ on the Pack, rehabbing an ACL, behind Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jarrett Boykin, and those tight ends. Lombardi saw potential in Brian Hoyer and although Hoyer has an extremely small sample size, we saw what he did to our franchise, and our city, in just a few games.
Lombardi was a guy building for the future, plain and simple. In no way shape or form am I comparing one to the other, nor discrediting the magic Ray Farmer performed on draft night, it truly was incredible. And don’t get me wrong, all of my faith is in Ray Farmer to make the right decisions and I really think he will. Farmer has already let loose Tori Gurley, Josh Cooper, and Greg Little, which proves that we’re tired of trying to fit square pegs in round holes. Out with the old, in with the new; or in other words, keeping guys who suck just because they’re on our roster. I’m not saying that Johnson is guaranteed to step up as our Number 1 orNumber 2 right away, but he hasn’t been cut yet. I’m simply raising the question of his potential. With the right coaching and development, there’s no reason to think he can’t make an impact immediately, especially competing with the likes of a return specialist and four un-drafted free agents on the outside, who are all not nearly as big or fast as Johnson.
So let’s let the national media attention focus on Johnny, it’s better that way. Let him steal the spotlight and embrace it as he’s done throughout his whole college career, on and off the field. Let’s keep our faith in Ray Farmer, the Packers, and the Patriots, and see if lightning can strike yet again. Meanwhile in the darkness that is the Browns training facility, a sleeping giant is beginning to grow restless in rehab and is starting to head towards that light.