Here in Cleveland we’re well aware of the lists. That would be lists of draft picks that never panned out, or lists of players selected later that went on to have productive careers. Truth be told, every city and every franchise has those lists. If drafting the right players was easy, we’d all be general managers.
It’s easy to blame a GM or team president for lousy talent evaluation. Sometimes though, you have to wonder if those in charge of developing that talent didn’t drop the ball. (I know that the athletes have to have a desire to work and get better on their own. I lump that in with evaluating talent, whether or not a player has the right ‘intangibles’.)
I believe we’ve seen enough failure on both fronts recently to last a few sports’ lifetimes.
I bring this up not because I want to bash Butch Davis, Danny Ferry, Eric Wedge or any of the current coaches or GMs. I bring it up in response to what’s been taking place over the past few weeks in Cleveland sports.
I’ll start with the Cavaliers, who have stated over and over again that during this rebuild they are going to keep their options open, and stockpiles assets. That approach meant (supposedly) backing away from a three way trade which would have sent Andrew Bynum to Cleveland. This is a move I have no problem with, as Bynum probably wasn’t going to sign an extension guaranteeing the Cavaliers would have him longer than a season or two. They put in a bid for Luis Scola, only to be outbid by the Suns. This kind of move would have allowed the Cavs to add a quality piece that could have been moved later. More flexibility.
The bottom line for the Cavaliers is that the players they have already drafted are going to have to become more than just adequate pros. That means developing the talent. Tristan Thompson, Dion waiters and Tyler Zeller are key ingredients to the Cavaliers contending in 2 or 3 years.
But there is more for the Cavs. They have at least 2 first round picks, and possibly a third this year if the Kings make the playoffs. They could certainly add another 1st rounder if Anderson Varejao puts off his yearly injury until after the trade deadline. The future has many possibilities, but only if they are able to develop the talent that the front office sees in the young players added.
Then there are the Browns. They are in a similar situation as the Cavs in that everyone knows they are in rebuild mode. There is a slight difference however. Mike Holmgren has put his coaching staff in a little bit of a jam. He won’t say anyone is on a hot seat, but he will say that the team should make ‘a significant leap forward in terms of wins’.
They added five players on offense by my count that they are expecting to be significant upgrades (Richardson, Weeden, Schwartz, Benjamin, and Gordon). The problem is that they are all rookies. Will they be better at their respective positions than the players who occupied those spots last season? Probably. Certainly a couple of them will be. I wonder how many coaches would be truly excited about coaching a 5 win team with rookies at QB, RB and 2 WR spots? Add in the fact that the Browns made the bold move of selecting Gordon, which to me is sending a message ‘We’ve got the players, now go win’.
Of course they’ve done everything through the draft. No significant free agents who have already developed their talent and proved themselves.
The Indians are in the opposite position. The window for winning is supposed to be closing. They have mortgaged the future of the rotation with the Ubaldo deal. They don’t have much left in the upper levels to make deals with.
The Indians (and maybe it’s just baseball in general) are such an enigma with their talent development. They have guys like Kipnis and Cabrera who seem to thrive under Acta, but then guys like Laporta and to a lesser extent Santana aren’t living up to expectations.
Of all the Cleveland teams, it would seem the Indians should have the biggest sense of urgency. It may just be the Browns’ coaching staff that feels the urgency most this year, and the Cavaliers’ front office being the most aggressive.
So which front office do you trust the most in making talent evaluations?
Which coaching staff do you trust most to develop that talent?