Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney at South Carolina's Pro Day
The latest hot-button topic concerning the Cleveland Browns is the notable absence of their key football decision-makers at pro-day workouts of some of the more prominent draft prospects.
It dominated Cleveland sports-talk airwaves Wednesday when it was learned that neither general manager Ray Farmer nor coach Mike Pettine attended the South Carolina Pro Day featuring defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Put this under meaningless filler for pre-draft discussion, the window for which has been expanded by the draft starting later than normal, in early May rather than late April.
Initial media reports had no Browns representatives on hand to watch Clowney, but that was false. The team was represented, just not by Farmer or Pettine.
Another media report accurately explained that Farmer and Pettine were unavailable for the South Carolina Pro Day because they were staging a private workout with University of Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles.
How big of a deal is it that neither Farmer nor Pettine joined other NFL scouts and coaches to watch Clowney go through a series of drills? Big enough that they should have tried to avoid a scheduling conflict with the Bortles workout (which they apparently did, but to no avail)? Big enough to conclude that they view Bortles as a better prospect than Clowney?
How big of a deal is that that they weren't on hand for Johnny Manziel's personal pro day at Texas A&M last week?
Big enough for it to be a reason for them to be bashed by media and fans?
I do understand why, beyond the desperate need for "lively" Browns-related content during a slow news cycle, the topic generates conversation. I will be the first to acknowledge that it's unusual for high-profile football people from a team with a top-five pick to skip multiple pro days of players widely viewed as potential top-five choices.
But it doesn't mean the Browns are putting themselves at a competitive disadvantage with other NFL teams. It doesn't mean they will have a less complete evaluative picture of those players than the teams whose high-profile football reps showed up for those workouts.
It just means that they're doing something that's a little different. Not bad. Not better. Just different.
As far as Pettine is concerned, the value of a pro-day workout is minimal.
"They're like batting practice and less like live pitching," he told reporters at the NFL meeting last week in Orlando, Fla.
When the time comes for the Browns to decide what to do with the fourth overall pick of the draft, or with the 26th overall choice, or with any of the rest of their 10 selections, pro-day attendance is not going to be relevant.
What will be relevant is the vast amount of information gathered through the college season, all-star games, the NFL Scouting Combine, pro days (yes, the team will have had eyeballs on all of them), private workouts, and visits by prospects invited to the Browns' headquarters. What will be relevant is the comprehensive grading that has been done on every player eligible for the draft and what the Browns know (or think they know) about what other teams will do.
If the Browns nail the draft, nothing else will matter. If they don't, the search for reasons will no doubt produce endless second-guessing.
In the grand scheme of things, what pro days Farmer and Pettine did or didn't attend will have little consequence.
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