I don’t want to use my real name here. I have been given an NFL draft grade somewhere in the first three rounds, and have decided to enter the draft.
This is very exciting. I’m proud to have years of hard work on my part and my family’s pay off in the form of playing the game I love. I look forward to playing the game at the highest level.
Unfortunately, the Cleveland Browns are interested in selecting me in the draft, endangering my dream of proving myself at the highest level, and instead placing me in Cleveland.
What do I do?
Confused in Clemson
You’re not alone. Every year, up to fifteen football players are drafted by the Browns, and others traumatized by the constant, menacing specter of their interest. While a rare problem in a sample of already rare circumstances, it does not mean it is not a real issue for the select few invited to play in the NFL.
We are here to help. Some have overcome playing for the Browns. However, the Hippocratic Oath bars us from leaving our advice at “deal with it.” There are solutions, partial and full, some easy, and some not so easy. We present them in no particular order, and ask only that you realize that while there is no way to completely avoid the Browns’ interest while still being in the NFL draft, there may be ways to mitigate it.
SO THE BROWNS ARE INTERESTED IN ME
1. Tell them “Please, dear God, no one on the planet interests me less than you.” Tell them firmly. Remind them you are not interested at every opportunity. It may seem strange, but saying no is very powerful, and may dissuade them slightly. This works on NFL teams about as well as it works on bears, which is to say: more often than you think, and way, way less often than you think. (Ask Bo Jackson about it.)
2. Make yourself as small as possible, and reduce visibility. If you’re asked to play in, say, the Senior Bowl? Decline. If the Browns would like to talk, pretend your phone doesn’t work. You’re a millennial—everyone assumes you’re too terrified of human contact to pick up the phone in the first place, so it checks out with old NFL personnel people who still think faxes aren’t a war crime.
If they attempt to visit you at home, send your most terrifying family member out to deal with them. Do not hesitate to send your home’s four year old as countermeasure. The sheer volume of repeated questions and demands for snacks may not be as forceful as a screaming 250 pound man with a gun, but the subtle terror is far more lasting and won’t involve the hassles of even a brief intervention by law enforcement. This goes double if the scout/personnel person is already a parent with young children.
If a Browns scout attempts to visit you personally or monitor your pre-combine/pre-draft workouts, leave. Have your trainers remove them from the facility.
This accomplishes two goals. First, trainers are like strength coaches in that they love to show off how strong they are at any opportunity. Lifting an entire NFL lackey and depositing him in the parking lot isn’t a chore, it’s something they’ll log in their workout journal later as “OBJECT CARRY: 60 YARDS AT 225 OR SO”. They might thank you for it, just before asking you to do shuttle runs until you vomit.
Second, this is someone who believes in you enough to literally block for you. If a scout can’t recognize that, even as they’re being thrown into a dumpster in the parking lot of a D1 Training Facility? Well, they’re not very good at their job, frankly.
3. Tell them you really admire Colin Kaepernick. You don’t have to mean it, we’re just trying to make things scary for them. If other scouts from teams you might want to play for ask, tell them you’re fucking with the Browns, and that you want them in on the joke. For the Browns and Browns only, they will get this joke, and assist you.
Other things you can tell the Browns in order to dissuade them:
- “I see myself as a less restrained Johnny Manziel.”
- “My game? I think it’s a lot like Tim Couch’s.”
- “Brandon Weeden’s footwork is sort of my model.”
- “I am with the FBI, and would like to speak to the owner.”
4. While we’re at it, just do what you can to get drafted lower by a better team, and at a place where you’ll sit for three or four years. Aaron Rodgers, man: that’s the role. You don’t want to try to learn something from like, a Brett Favre, but ideally you want to just hang around and get used to things for three or four years while enjoying the status of “Potential.” The next guy is always the best role to be, especially if you’re in your twenties and don’t really need big money for anything besides the one stupid car you buy, and the dog you get who will probably eat the couch you buy. Don’t act like you’re getting real furniture. You don’t even know what real furniture is, and that’s good. (See: giant furniture-eating dog you will probably give to your Mom when you realize you can’t take care of it.)
5. “Sorry, I can’t, I have diarrhea.” No one will ever argue with this in any situation.
THE UNTHINKABLE HAS HAPPENED, AND I HAVE BEEN DRAFTED BY THE BROWNS
1. Have you just considered the joys of becoming Steve Deberg, or Billy Volek, or any other career backup who just picked up a check the way your life insurance policy does? Tell the Browns this. You want to be a life insurance policy, man. You don’t ever want to pay out for your organization, but you definitely want to be there just in case. You’ll be done with this sport by the time you’re 28, most likely. Take your good knee and relatively unbattered brain and earn championships in the insurance industry or something. Everyone wants to hear this from an employee: “I’d like to be the unutilized safety blanket you keep in your closet. That’s where I feel most comfortable.”
It’s what you’d tell most college grads at a speech if you were being honest: Mediocrity, i.e. being average, is where you’ll probably, by rule, end up even with effort. Why not prepare for it from the start, and call a marginal improvement on it in the future a victory? We’re trying to help, here. You’ve already won by getting here. Everything else is gravy, even if you only get a thimbleful of it.
2. Develop a largely benign early career issue. If you have a sizable enough signing bonus, get vertigo or some other curable but still substantial condition going. Comeback Player of the Year is right around the corner after your struggle with ringworm, and subsequent departure from Cleveland. (If you can make it a slightly contagious skin condition you don’t actually give to any of your teammates, even better.) If you can’t get any of these, consider faking them. Feel no guilt: Cleveland’s management has been faking interest in fielding a competitive football team for years. It’s only fair.
3. Better still: Don’t play football. The Browns can’t get you if you never take the field. It’s an option, and a great one, frankly. Football’s nasty, brutish and short. Can you pitch? You should probably go pitch. Baseball’s way lazier, the salaries higher, and as a pitcher you can snag one large contract and not worry about them cutting you to avoid paying it out in full. Even Tim Tebow can get a minor league contract, and that’s saying something about the talent required here. (And if you fail, no one’s watching, anyway.)