BEREA - The future of the Browns was on display Friday at an introductory news conference for top draft picks Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden.
There are four reasons why the future needs to produce better results than the debris that has been left in the past:
Team president Mike Holmgren's legacy in Cleveland.
General manager Tom Heckert's long-term job security.
Coach Pat Shurmur's short-term job security.
The psyche of the fan base.
In using two first-round picks on Richardson, a running back from Alabama, and Weeden, a quarterback from Oklahoma State, the Browns are hoping to fix their broken-down offense. They will co-exist in a backfield that has been void of big-play performers for more seasons than owner Randy Lerner cares to remember.
How well each performs will have a direct impact on the other's success. Weeden, picked 22nd overall, is certain to enjoy having an explosive battering ram like Richardson a few yards behind him.
"I followed his career at Alabama, and I told people he was the best player in the country last season," Weeden said. "He was very dynamic. As a quarterback it's comforting to turn around and hand the ball to a guy like this. One it will make the quarterback look good at times, and he'll make the offense really go."
In the quarterback-driven NFL, Weeden would seem to be the key piece. Richardson, who rushed for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, wants to change the way offensive coordinators think about the game. A running back's value is enhanced in a cold-weather city like Cleveland.
"Football is football," Richardson said. "Whether it's cold or hot, you still have to put on your pads. You still have to hit somebody, and somebody has to hit you. I have to make sure I get in shape for it.
"You need a running back in this league. When you look back to old-school teams that have won Super Bowls, they had good running games."
The selection of Richardson third overall seemed wise because of his productivity and the need for help at the position. The only concerns are health-related. He had surgery on a meniscus in a knee earlier this year, and when he was a freshman in high school he had screws inserted into both ankles because his body was growing too muscular.
The Weeden pick is another matter. There's the line of thought that the Browns could have landed him with the 37th pick (fifth in the second round). There's also plenty of debate concerning his chances of becoming a quality starter or another in a long line of quarterbacks that have made no favorable impression during their time in Cleveland.
Weeden is ready to accept the challenge of being the next quarterback that will lead the franchise out of the abyss.
"There's a lot of pressure that goes with being a quarterback and running back in the NFL," Weeden said. "They were so close last year. There were games when they came up a few points short. That's the nature of NFL football.
"It's going to be a fun ride. I'm ready to get to work. I'm ready to start playing football."
The question that Weeden can't avoid deals with his age. He had a late start on his college career after trying unsuccessfully to reach the major leagues as a baseball pitching prospect of the New York Yankees.
Weeden had a 97 mph fastball, but that was it. He realized during a series in the California League when the wind was blowing out and he allowed a broken-bat home run that he needed a career change.
"In conversations I had with obviously this organization, they felt it wouldn't be an issue," Weeden said. "I've been consistent with that all along. My baseball background prepares me for what I'm about to go through. Being 28, I use it as an advantage to me."
Richardson was described by Browns Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown as being "ordinary" on a recent radio show. Richardson thinks he can mentioned in the same sentence as some of the elite backs in the league.
"I can be one of those guys that you can mention my name with that type of back or be an Emmitt Smith-type back or Marshall Faulk or even the great Jim Brown," Richardson said. "One thing you take to the grave with you is how you're remembered. That's going to be on me."