In 2022, Bill Belichick sometimes is hailed as GOAT. In the year 2000, he looked like a goner.
Belichick's New England Patriots opened the millennium by going 5-11, and one of the losses was to Cleveland's second-year expansion team, which otherwise went 2-13,
The stories of defensive tackles Richard "Big Smooth" Seymour and Gerard "Big Money" Warren say something about why the franchises went in opposite directions.
In January of 2001, Cleveland pried Butch Davis away from the University of Miami to be the new head coach.
Browns fans had high hopes for the third-year expansion team. They knew Davis had been a dynamo with the Hurricanes. They imagined the No. 1 overall picks of the 1999 and 2000 drafts, Tim Couch and Courtney Brown, breaking through with Butch.
Davis, with czar-like powers, inherited the No. 3 overall draft pick, and it was almost like a No. 1. Butch was never going to take quarterback Michael Vick, who went at No. 1 to the Falcons, or offensive lineman Leonard Davis, who went No. 2 to the Cardinals.
Superstar running back LaDainian Tomlinson of Texas Christian was available. In light of a career that made him a first-ballot Hall of Famer, he wouldn't have been a bad pick.
Davis, though, had been a defensive lineman at Arkansas and a D-line coach on a Cowboys team that won a Super Bowl. He longed for a dominant front four. He pounced on Warren, even though it seemed a bit odd that a fellow who made just second-team All-SEC, was worthy of a No. 3 pick.
Davis should have listened to his own scouts and coaches. They were telling him to take Seymour, if he was going D-line.
Seymour is going into the Hall of Fame. Warren never saw a Pro Bowl. So, what was Butch thinking?
Davis' final game at Miami was a 37-20 Sugar Bowl win over Warren's team, Florida. The Gators couldn't stop a Hurricane attack starring future Pro Bowlers Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss, Clinton Portis and Jeremy Shockey. Davis viewed Warren as a classic inside fit in his 4-3 scheme.
Seymour was a classic monster coming out of Georgia, measuring 6-foot-6, 305 pounds, beastly strong, and faster than some tight ends.
Warren struck some — Davis, at least — as a better leader, a tough guy talker more apt to bring a mean streak to the trenches.
At the time of the pick, Davis said, "You guys will find that Gerard will light up the room. He has an infectious personality."
Davis wanted a charismatic lineman to offset the low-key personality of "The Quiet Storm," Courtney Brown.
n a recent interview with The Canton Repository, Seymour recalls not knowing what to think.
"I remember the Browns having the third pick," he said. "I was like, well, dang ... Arizona had the No. 2 pick. I thought I was going to either Arizona or Cleveland. Both of them were kind of saying, hey, we're gonna getcha."
Neither did. And neither did the Bengals, who took Missouri defensive end Justin Smith at No. 4, nor the Chargers, who plucked Tomlinson at No. 5.
Belichick's career record at that point was 42-56, counting his ill-fated, five-year run with the Browns. He sat on the No. 6 pick, amid noise he should use it on receivers David Terrell or Koren Robinson to help veteran QB Drew Bledsoe.
It was hardly obvious Belichick would take a defensive lineman. His first-round picks as Browns head coach included a safety (Eric Turner), a fullback (Tommy Vardell), a center (Steve Everitt), a cornerback (Antonio Langham), a wideout (Derrick Alexander) and a linebacker (Craig Powell). He didn't have a Round 1 pick his first year in New England.
Seymour was the pick at 6. In the press conference, Belichick made no guarantees, saying, "When you look back at any top pick, you say, 'Was the guy a good player or not?' I don't know if any of us can remember who was taken sixth in 1992, 1994 or 1996."
For the record, the No. 6 picks were David Klingler in '92, Trent Dilfer in '94 and Lawrence Phillips in '96.
Warren, the lineman Butch Davis had to have at No. 3, played well for the Browns at times. His fire showed up right away, in his first NFL road game, when he got ejected for roughing up Jacksonville quarterback Mark Brunell.
Cleveland's record in Warren's four seasons was 25-39. Then he got traded to Denver for a fourth-round pick. He actually finished his career in New England, when Seymour no longer was there. Warren's last game was in a backup role in Super Bowl XLVI, a 21-17 loss to the Giants on Feb. 5, 2012.
Seymour's career ended quietly with the Raiders on Nov. 4, 2012, when he left with an injury in a loss to the Buccaneers.
In his heyday, Seymour helped the Patriots get to four Super Bowls in eight seasons before getting traded to Oakland for a first-round pick.
These years later, Seymour smiles about getting bypassed when the Browns were on the clock with the third pick of the 2001 draft.
"I think I'm happy I went sixth," he said.
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This article originally appeared on The Repository: Browns bypassed Richard Seymour in NFL draft, Bill Belichick pounced