I’m notcing that a lot is being made of the 2004 NFL Draft. After all, the last two quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl were drafted in the first round of 2004. Eli Manning made the most news that year by saying that he did not want to play for the San Diego Chargers, who then had the top selection. But not long after he was traded to the New York Giants, another trade went down that saw the Browns add their second-round selection to their first-rounder in order to move up one slot to grab tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. out of Miami.
Five selections later, the Pittsburgh Steelers took Ohio native Ben Roethlisberger. Five years later, Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings and Winslow has entering his second coaching regime.
Sean McClelland from the Dayton Daily News says that the Browns are now being haunted by the “Curse of Big Ben.” I am not sure that I agree. He mentions the previous drafts that saw the Browns leave with Gerard Warren (over LaDanian Tomlinson) and William Green (over Ed Reed). McClelland then cherry-picks a bit when jumping aboard the “We could have had Kurt Warner” train, and then pointing out that the Browns selected Spergon Wynn instead of Tom Brady.
While I can see what he’s saying in the Warren/Green drafts, the others I simply cannot agree with. Warner went unprotected by his own team. Every team in the league could have added him while he was playing in places like the AFL – it wasn’t a miscalculation by the Browns. He’s the Black Swan of the NFL. Same goes for Brady. How many teams passed on this guy six-or-seven times? Sure, selecting a QB there doesn’t make matters better, but what were the odds? We could go through drafts for any team and say “look what you could have had.” Sure, the Browns have missed at an extraordinarily high rate, but I don’t think 2004 was one of those years.
Specifically related to Winslow, I do not think that many fans would take this pick back. Sure, hindsight is always 20-20. And yes, there is no doubt that Roethlisberger has had a better career thus far. But when you have the surrounding players that the Steelers have had, Ben has had a lot of time to grow into the game and become a better player. He didn’t start right away. Winslow had no choice but to hit the ground running. At least until that late-game onside kick that ended his season.
We could argue that the Browns shouldn’t have traded away picks to get him – that is something I could entertain. Losing that second-round selection and then taking a quarterback named Luke McCown later in the draft didn’t exactly work out as planned. But motorcycle/knee injury aside, name me one other offensive player on the Browns that can match his level of intensity and desire.
If it is any consolation, the guy who a ton of Browns fans wanted that year was Robert Gallery. He wound d up being selected by Oakland with their second overall selection and has been one of the biggest busts this decade. Just imagine if they would have traded up to the second slot…
‘Curse of Big Ben’ haunting Browns [Sean McClelland/Dayton Daily News]