As everyone now knows, the formidable Seattle secondary was built largely from late-round draft picks: Chancellor and Sherman were 5th round picks, Maxwell a 6th rounder. It’s a tribute to both Seattle’s ability to spot talent and their coaching. Still, it’s hard to put together an elite defense just with late round picks, and Seattle’s best defensive player year-in-year out was a widely recognized top prospect who went 14th overall. Nonetheless, this is still a story of one organization that knows what it’s doing and another that didn’t:
Seattle came on the clock with the No. 37 pick, but a trade was announced. Denver jumped up into the slot to take 5’9 cornerback Alphonso Smith. The Broncos reportedly had a first-round grade on Smith and made the move to go get him before he dropped any further. But Denver didn’t use one of its two other second-round picks for trade ammo, instead opting to trade its 2010 first-round pick to Seattle.
The deal proved to be a colossal failure. Smith hardly played as a rookie and Denver finished 8-8, meaning the Broncos sent the No. 14 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft to Seattle for compensation. Smith was such a non-factor that the Broncos dealt him to Detroit the following year for backup tight end Dan Gronkowski, a seventh-round pick in 2009.
If the story stopped there, it would be just another regrettable draft tale of a team that got essentially nothing from a premium asset. But, it gets worse. Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider took over in Seattle and wasted little time putting that pick to good use. Many thought Carroll would draft Taylor Mays with the No. 14 pick, his former protege at USC. Instead, the Seahawks used the pick from Denver to nab Texas safety Earl Thomas.
The rest of that draft wasn’t exactly a prize either — despite it being the 21st century McDaniels spent a 12th overall pick on a running back who’s been up-and-down, which has still worked out better than Robert Ayers, who…well, I assume anyone who cares watched the Super Bowl. Admittedly, the next year McDaniels did finally find a good player at a position important to contemporary football in the first round, but also traded up for the privilege of squandering a first round pick on a famous quarterback who while healthy was not able to even seriously compete for a starting job after 2 years and was no longer able to make a living playing professional football after three. The fact that the Browns apparently wanted him as their head coach but weren’t good enough for him is funny both ways.
One oddity is that while the Browns management apparently deserves very little credit for it, their interminable coaching search probably landed on the best candidate they considered. I have no idea if Mike Pettine will be a good head coach, and if the Browns can’t find an NFL QB it’s not going to matter if they hire Zombie Vince Lomardi. But he was trained by a brilliant defensive coach, and last year took over a team that was 27th in defensive DVOA and turned it into one of the best in football. Even granting that this says as much about old-boys-network poster boy Dave Wannstedt as Pettine, the latter certainly deserves a shot more than Josh McDaniels deserves a second one.