Yet Browns fans aren't so closed-minded as not to give a Michigan man like Edwards a chance to prove his mettle, even if doing so might offend the late Woody Hayes. For they wouldn't care if the man came straight from the netherworld if he could throw, catch or tackle.
It didn't take long to discover that Edwards, a No. 1 draft choice, couldn't do any of these at an elite level.
He never blossomed into the football star people hoped he would become. While his talk was big and bold and brash, his play was small and inconsistent, which is to be expected from somebody who once suited up for the Maize and Blue.
Sorry if my partisanship got the better of me. It's just that my Scarlet and Gray roots don't allow me to be as forgiving as most people when judging a player from the University of Michigan. To satisfy me, Edwards would have needed to be the second coming of Jerry Rice (or Cris Carter). By the end, Edwards proved he was the second coming of Jerry Lewis, a comical joke of a football player who didn't play to his skill set.
His athleticism wasn't an issue, because Edwards was tall and lean and swift. He moved with the swift grace of a Broadway dancer, but he was soft as a goosedown pillow. Throw a ball over the middle and Edwards was more likely to duck than stretch his arms to catch it. And ask him to make a big catch late, and he'd be missing in action.
What doomed him in Cleveland, however, was his appetite for the nightlife.
He loved the fame; he craved it more than he wanted the team to succeed. Mention his name to people who know him, and they claimed he envied the adulation the fans here lavished on LeBron James. Edwards never understood it, much the way that Kellen Winslow Jr. never understood it or this market.
Envy can be a toxic emotion, because it debases a man. It forces him to do things he wouldn't normally do. Fine, perhaps if he's a person who lives his life outside the limelight. But when he's a public personality, he can't afford to let envy push him to behavior that speaks poorly of the community and the team he represents.
Edwards might find punching people in the face acceptable in Ann Arbor; he would never find it acceptable in Cleveland (or in other the NFL cities). Here, they expect more from their "stars," although they've found their expectations unfulfilled since their beloved Browns returned to town a decade ago.
Through those dark years, their fans have wanted a reason to cheer for anybody who could play worth a darn. They longed for Edwards to be that player, so they gave him as fair a shake as he could expect. In return, he did nothing to deserve their cheers. He disappointed fans at every turn.
His last disappointment cost him his career as a Cleveland Brown, though I doubt Edwards will lose one night's sleep thinking about it. He will wake up tomorrow prepared to go to another workout with the New York Jets. He will be just another player coach Eric Mangini has shipped to his former team. None of the others have been missed, and neither will a prima donna like Braylon Edwards.
The decision to trade him shouldn't cause a ripple in Cleveland. Good riddance, fans say. They already know that the 2009 season is sinking like the Titanic, and their Browns can finish last without the underachieving Edwards in the lineup. The team is playing for next season and a high-draft choice, a familiar theme in Cleveland where most pro teams are playing for things other than championships.
How the players who are coming to the Browns in the Edwards trade will help isn't something I want to speculate about. None are stars; mostly they are just loose pieces to plug small leaks here and there. They aren't long-term acquisitions of importance.
Obviously, nobody wants to hear talk about next season with this season still fresh. Harsh reality might be tough to deal with in October, but how does late season failure help energize fans? They know the score as well as Mangini does.
He didn't inherit much when he arrived, and he hasn't added much talent since. Mangini has figured out, regardless of what Edwards does for the Jets, the Browns are better off without Edwards than with him.