As another slate of NFL games took place this Sunday, one statistic was heavily discussed on social media: Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, two quarterbacks that the Cleveland Browns had traded to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Houston Texans respectively, were tied for the league lead in passing touchdowns with 19 each.

Meanwhile, the Browns’ have collectively thrown 17 interceptions. Twitter and Reddit were full of predictable scorn for the Browns and their mismanagement, with fans of other teams enjoying the schadenfreude and Cleveland faithful ruing the trading of Wentz and Watson.

Though Wentz and Watson both appear to be stellar quarterbacks and worthy picks, the front office of the Browns deserves a bit more credit than it has been given.

When owner Jimmy Haslam cleaned house following a dismal 2015 season that saw the team finish 3-13, he decided that enough was enough. For years, the Browns had tried traditional methods of succeeding in the NFL — they hired experienced figures like Mike Holmgren, scoured the college ranks for talent and hoped for an upturn in their fortunes — with little success.

But most of all, the Browns drafted quarterbacks — a lot of quarterbacks.

In fact, since the franchise returned in 1999, Cleveland has had 27 different starting quarterbacks. Many of them have been high-profile draft busts, from Tim Couch to Brady Quinn, and most notoriously, Johnny Manziel.

Instead of continuing that tradition of failure, Haslam brought in two new faces with new outlooks on team building. Sashi Brown, the team’s general counsel, was promoted to general manager. Former Major League Baseball executive Paul DePodesta was brought in to provide strategic assistance.

Many in the NFL community scoffed at the notion that a baseball executive would be able to translate his success into an entirely new sport, but Haslam and the Browns were clearly willing to try something new. Brown and DePodesta implemented a philosophy that prioritized draft capital, which maximized the number of picks that the Browns could acquire.

The logic behind this strategy is sound. Some NFL stars come from the first round of the draft, especially from the top 10 picks. However, there are many more star players who are overlooked for one reason or another and are taken much later in the draft. Added to the value of those players selected in the later rounds are their contracts, which are structured to maximize years of team control while minimizing their effects on the salary cap.

In effect, Brown and DePodesta intended to take a scattershot approach to the draft, using as many picks as possible to find players who would develop into stars.

In the meantime, they could use their cap room to pay established veterans like Joe Thomas, solidifying the offensive line and creating an environment better suited for young players to flourish.

Clearly, the latter part of their plan has not succeeded.

The quarterback the Browns drafted in 2017, DeShone Kizer, has been mostly unsuccessful and was recently benched in favor of the equally uninspiring Kevin Hogan.

Thomas, who has played over 10,000 consecutive snaps at left tackle, tore his triceps and is out for the season. The Browns have limped to an 0-8 start, and figure to have a top-five draft pick next year as well. And, of course, they have watched Wentz and Watson, players who could have been saviors for Cleveland, blossom from afar.

But is it really that simple?

I honestly believe that if Wentz or Watson had started under center for the Browns this season, the Browns’ fortune would not be much different. Sure, they may have a win or two under their belts, but the receiving corps would still be shallow and injury-prone, the defense would still have gaping holes and there would still be significant questions about their coaching staff.

The truth is Wentz and Watson have thrived in situations that are much better for young quarterbacks. The Eagles have a terrific defense, a strong offensive line, and an improved group of receivers this year. The Texans have one of the NFL’s best receivers, DeAndre Hopkins, and all-around skilled running back Lamar Miller.

Those complementary pieces have allowed Wentz and Watson to showcase their skills and hide their deficiencies. Unfortunately for Kizer, Hogan and anyone else the Browns might trot out this season, that luxury is not available in Cleveland.

When it comes down to it, almost no quarterback could succeed in Cleveland right now.

The Browns are a mess, and even if they woke up with Tom Brady on their roster tomorrow, that would not repair their obvious cracks.

Instead, Haslam, Brown and DePodesta have embarked on a long-term rebuilding strategy. Stocking up on draft picks is tedious, frustrating and risky. But the Browns have tried almost everything else, and nothing has succeeded. This time around, they are taking aim at the whole problem, not just drafting another quarterback.

Ryan McCoy is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. “GM’s CORNER” appears in print every other Friday.

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