The Cleveland Browns passed up a Hall of Fame talent in the 1999 expansion draft.
A new article on ESPN has brought back pain to Cleveland Browns fans for what ended up being a disaster of an expansion draft. While the Houston Texans took a while to get good, they drafted a handful of Pro Bowlers in their expansion draft. While the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars were both in the conference championships a few years after their’s. Yet, the Browns remained inept for years, save for three “good” seasons across a decade-plus. If only the Browns had made the decision to select unknown backup quarterback Kurt Warner in the expansion draft, then the Browns may have looked completely different.
The ESPN article brings up this point, going on to describe the moment in time.
"The Browns’ worst pick is one they didn’t make. They have infamously started 30 different quarterbacks since 1999, yet they could’ve taken Kurt Warner in the 1999 expansion draft. The Rams had left Warner unprotected after he’d attempted only 11 passes during the 1998 season following a career in the Arena Football League. To the Rams’ great fortune, Cleveland bypassed Warner and instead grabbed Tampa Bay’s Scott Milanovich as its only expansion quarterback selection. Warner went on to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Milanovich, who is now the head coach of the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL, never played another NFL down. And the Browns struggled for the following two decades while desperately searching for a franchise quarterback."
What a world of difference Warner would’ve made. Now, yes, having Torry Holt, Issac Bruce, and Marshall Faulk in St. Louis didn’t hurt, but Warner showed that he didn’t need those players to play well. Despite being benched early, Warner had led the New York Giants to a winning record and then went on to become the greatest quarterback in Arizona Cardinals history.
While Warner wouldn’t have had nearly the same amount of weapons, Warner would have an opportunity in 2000 to show what he can do, as the franchises’ first pick Tim Couch missed nine games that year. Allowing for Warner to potentially showcase his skills.
How things could’ve gone…
Hell, maybe Warner impresses so much in workouts prior to the 1999 NFL Draft, the team shifts course completely and take Ricky Williams No. 1 overall. Warner, Williams, and second-round pick Kevin Johnson could do some damage. Then in 2000, they could take Chris Samuels at left tackle instead or maybe Brian Urlacher depending on where they fall in the draft.
Warner to the Browns is a wonderful “What If?” situation but more than likely Warner wouldn’t have been given a shot. A lot of guys who could make an impact often don’t because the coaching staff for one reason or another don’t want to give them that chance.
It’s entirely possible had Warner gone to the Browns not only would he not of been a two-time league-MVP, but he may not have ever played a single game in the NFL. That’s the risk you take when you play the “What If?” game.