The Vikings were handed as close to a sure thing as there is in the NFL on Wednesday when the Browns not only announced their third-string QB was being elevated to Sunday's starter at Mall of America Field but also traded away running back Trent Richardson — the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft — to the Colts for a 2014 first-round pick.
If the Vikings don't win Sunday, fans won't just be angry at Christian Ponder. They'll want everyone fired.
The Browns, on the other hand, have clearly made their bed: They're giving up on 2013 … and really 2012 as well. It's all about 2014 and beyond, which can be a beautiful thing when the present looks so lousy.
It can also be extremely dangerous, leading to a cycle of future-chasing that never ends.
In 2012, the Browns decided the future is NOW. They held the No. 4 pick in a draft with two elite QB prospects (Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III). Washington had already made the big play to move up to No. 2. The Browns' answer was to give the Vikings three extra draft picks to move up one spot to No. 3 in order to take Richardson, whom the Vikings wouldn't have taken in a billion years.
Cleveland then attempted to take a QB of the future with Brandon Weeden at No. 22 overall. Weeden has an injured thumb and won't play Sunday. The Browns already seem poised to make him the QB of the past, and it has nothing to do with him turning 30 already in October.
They appear to have moved into the other part of the future-chasing cycle, where the future is some glorious place off in the distance devoid of fans with bags on their heads or third-and-22 situations.
Never mind that the Browns now have what figures to be a 2014 pick in the high teens or 20s (from the Colts) to show for the No. 3 overall, No. 4 overall and three other picks from 2012.
All they have to do is crash and burn hard enough in 2013 that they wind up with Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater with the No. 1 overall pick in 2014.
What could go wrong?
(Except that Jacksonville is just as bad, if not worse, and needs a QB, too.)