The Cleveland Browns have had nothing but rotten luck, particularly in the draft, since rejoining the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1999.
The team has selected seven players in the first round of the NFL draft since 1999. Only one of them, 2003's top pick, center Jeff Faine, is currently starting for the club.
Quarterback Tim Couch (No. 1 overall, 1999), defensive end Courtney Brown (No. 1, 2000), defensive tackle Gerard Warren (No. 3, 2001), running back William Green (No. 16, 2002) and tight end Kellen Winslow (No. 6, 2004) have all been hampered by serious injuries or just flat underperformed.
Add to the former category 2005 first-rounder Braylon Edwards, who was finally starting to show some of the promise that led the Browns to draft him No. 3 overall when he was lost for the season Sunday with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He said Monday that he expects to be healthy in time for next season.
"I know I shouldn’t, but I was online reading some things and I just saw how all the (Browns’ first-round picks) have been busts," Edwards said. "I don’t see that. I don’t think we can control getting hurt. It’s not one of those things where I said, ‘Let me go out here and tear my ACL.’
"We sell out. We do everything we can for the organization, but freak things happen."
BEARS QB CONTROVERSY
There’s no doubt the Chicago Bears have a championship-caliber defense, but any hope of a Super Bowl title could easily be squashed by the play of rookie quarterback Kyle Orton.
The fourth-round pick out of Purdue was 6 of 17 for 68 yards with an interception Sunday against the Packers. His passer rating of 60.2 ranks him 17th among qualifying NFC quarterbacks, behind such luminaries as Joey Harrington, Aaron Brooks and Chris Simms. Not that he would know anything about it.
"I’ve never looked at stats. I look at win-loss record and right now it’s pretty good I think," Orton said Sunday after winning his eighth straight game. "I don’t think my passer rating is going up any time soon, so I’m not really going to worry about that."
Bears coach Lovie Smith does have to worry though.
Injured starter Rex Grossman, a 2003 first-round pick with a history of injury problems, continues to make strides in practice but has been the emergency thirdstringer the past two weeks.
With the Minnesota Vikings making a push in the NFC North, could a change at quarterback be in the works? Smith doesn’t seem to be leaning that way but he certainly isn’t 100 percent happy.
"Offensively we need to improve on some things," Smith said. "The quarterback position . . . we need to play better at it."
• Larry Johnson: So much for the Penn State running back curse. The third-year pro rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries as the Chiefs pulled themselves (and the Chargers, winners of five straight) back into the AFC West race with a 31-27 win over the division-leading Broncos.
• Terrell Suggs: The Hamilton Huskies came up just short this weekend, but the program’s most famous product did just fine. T-Sizzle recorded a career-high three sacks and forced a fumble in the Ravens’ 16-15 win over the Texans. He had recorded just two sacks all season prior to Sunday.
• Seahawks and Colts: The top teams in the NFC and AFC, respectively, clinched playoff spots Sunday. Seattle got in by virtue of St. Louis’ loss to Washington and the Colts made it by pounding the bejesus out of Tennessee.
• Aaron Brooks: Could someone please tell Brooks that Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber doesn’t play for the Saints? Brooks threw three of his four picks to the same guy, including the game-sealer in the end zone with less than a minute to play.
• Texans and Bills: Some losses are excusable. The losses that these teams suffered Sunday were not. Houston surrendered a game-winning field goal drive to maligned Ravens quarterback Kyle Boller and Buffalo coughed up a 20-point fourthquarter lead to Dolphins backup Sage Rosenfels.
• Cowboys, Falcons and Steelers: The top spots in three divisions were there for the taking but these three squads came up short. Dallas lost to the Giants in the NFC East, Atlanta lost to the Panthers in the NFC South and Pittsburgh lost to the Bengals in the AFC North.
Tampa Bay at Carolina: The Panthers dominated the Falcons Sunday to win for the first time in six games against Michael Vick. The win gave Carolina a two-game lead on Atlanta in the NFC South, but Tampa Bay is still hanging in there.
If the Panthers win this game, they will essentially knock the Bucs out of the race with three games to go by forging a two-game lead with a tie-breaker for the season sweep. They could have the division wrapped up by the time they travel to Atlanta for a rematch in the season’s final week.
THE LAST WORD
"Times have changed. Like black-and-white TV (changing to) color TV. It was Pittsburgh and now it’s Cincinnati. It’s probably going to be for a while now, so everybody just get used to it." — Bengals receiver Chad Johnson after his team went up two games in the AFC North with a 38-31 win Sunday over the Steelers