Earlier this month, The MMQB’s Albert Breer told a Cleveland radio station that USC quarterback Sam Darnold’s decision whether to stay in school another year could depend on if the Cleveland Browns get the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. According to Breer, Darnold was not interested in playing for a franchise that has been death to signal-callers for 15 years.
On Monday, Darnold shot down the idea that he had trashed the Browns. Via ESPN:
“I didn’t say anything about the Browns,” Darnold told reporters after the Trojans’ practice Monday. “I’ve never said anything bad about (an NFL) team. They know I would never say anything.”
Darnold, a redshirt sophomore, is considered one of the two or three top quarterbacks in the draft and a possible No. 1 overall selection. The Browns, forever in need of a quarterback, stand 0-11 on the season, a game ahead of (or behind, depending how you look at it) the 49ers for the NFL’s worst record. It’s easy to imagine Cleveland picking the strong-armed USC prospect.
Whether or not there was ever truth to Breer’s report, it figures Darnold doesn’t want to insult or rule out a franchise that might select him. The Browns may be the Browns, but they are an NFL team, and there are only so many of them.
On the other hand, we’ve seen college stars (John Elway, Eli Manning) go out of their way to avoid certain teams, and if pulling that move ever makes sense, this would seem to be that situation. Cleveland’s dysfunction at the quarterback position has crossed over from apparent bad luck to something more. Either the franchise is incapable of identifying good quarterbacks or, even worse, incapable of developing them. If the issue is the latter, Darnold and any other young QBs should stay the hell away from Lake Erie.
In the end, the Browns aren’t guaranteed the No. 1 overall pick, Darnold certainly isn’t guaranteed to be selected first, and we don’t have to really worry about any of this until April. But if the USC star does eventually decide he doesn’t want to play for the Browns, it will be hard to blame him.