- - Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Like Eliza Doolittle in “My Fair Lady,” Cleveland was a guttersnipe, one of the league’s most raggedy franchises for nearly a quarter-century before John Dorsey showed up as Professor Henry Higgins.

The Browns didn’t know how to speak or act properly. They didn’t know how to be elite, or at even look the part. They were straight-up laughingstocks, national objects of scorn and ridicule.

Kind of reminds me of another NFL team, one that plays nearby but not in Baltimore.

Dorsey began transforming the Browns as soon as he was hired in December 2017, cutting wideout Kenny Britt within the first 24 hours. Cleveland won more games (seven) in Dorsey’s first year at the helm than it won in the three previous seasons combined (four).

First Dorsey had to clean up after the previous regime. He traded three players during the 2018 draft and traded three more before Week 1. Then he began applying lipstick to his new project, using the No. 1 overall pick on quarterback Baker Mayfield and acquiring wideout Jarvis Landry via trade. The first draft class also included cornerback Denzel Ward and halfback Nick Chubb, who along with Mayfield all won Rookie-of-the-Week awards at least once.

Don’t look now, but Eliza Doolittle suddenly is smoking hot.

Through Dorsey’s latest masterstroke — acquiring superstar receiver Odell Beckham — Cleveland has become the chic, sexy pick to turn the most heads, perhaps all the way to the AFC title game.

Apparently, this is what can happen when a competent and accomplished professional is placed in charge of football operations.

He can use addition and subtraction to build his roster and paint a bright outlook. He can actually say “we’re close” without the room convulsing in laughter. He can make a difference.

Dorsey understands that you can’t dress up without fine clothing, and teams can’t look their best without fine talent.

“I’ll come straight out with it,” Dorsey told WKNR-850 the day after he was hired. “The guys who were here before, that system, they didn’t get real players. As Bill Parcells would always say, ‘You are your record.’ … That’s the truth-teller in this thing. And I’m going to do my darnedest to get players.”

His offseason haul includes halfback Kareem Hunt, edge rusher Olivier Vernon and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, each expected to have a significant impact on the Browns’ fortunes. And despite sending a first- and third-round pick to the Giants, Dorsey still has eight picks at his disposal for next month’s draft.

Between winning, winning the offseason, and winning off the field, only the first one matters. The Browns have a long way to go before being fitted for rings, even though many observers are ready to crown the team today, considering the likelihood that AFC North stalwarts Pittsburgh and Baltimore will regress.

The Browns have new life and a bounce to their step since Dorsey came aboard. His aggressive moves — especially selecting the hyperconfident Mayfield — have energized the franchise and the fan base. Finally moving on from former coach Hue Jackson officially sealed the old era, and the team responded by winning five of their last seven games.

What a joy for long-suffering Cleveland fans. Their faith was only good for fake hope and false starts previously. Now, it’s paying off in legitimate relevancy and national acclaim. Instead of only having the draft to look forward to, they can look forward to the Browns’ first postseason appearance since 2002.

Yes, life is good for a change in the Dawg Pound. But …

What if, after parting ways with general manager Scot McCloughan, Washington continued down the “competent and accomplished professional” track for its personnel chief?

What if, instead of insanely returning Bruce Allen to the throne (doing the same thing and expecting different results), the team hired Dorsey?

What if the executive who attended high school in Annapolis was making his deft, daring moves for the team that plays 25 miles away?

We’ll never know what might’ve happened with Dorsey calling the shots in Ashburn. But Cleveland liked its chances after evaluating Dorsey’s track record with Green Bay and Kansas City. Now he’s working his magic for a franchise that’s been as forlorn and woebegone as any.

The moral of the story is clear: Your present condition isn’t necessarily a life sentence. The right person, with the right touch and requisite aptitude, can turn a ragamuffin into royalty.

Imagine that.

All Washington needs is its own Professor Higgins.

Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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