The New York Browns? Comparing '17 Jets and '16 Browns

After playing on the 1-15 Browns last season, Josh McCown is a member of the rebuilding Jets in 2017. Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- From a distance, they resemble the 2016 Cleveland Browns, with a stripped-down roster that includes mainly unproven kids and a handful of vets on the downside -- and no answer at quarterback.

Yes, it sure looks like the New York Jets are following the Cleveland blueprint of how to tank for the No. 1 overall pick. It's an uncomfortable topic in professional sports -- unless it's the Philadelphia 76ers, who do it every year -- but it's the reality, folks.

Quarterback Josh McCown, who went from Cleveland to New York, doesn't see it that way. From his vantage point, these aren't the New York Browns.

"From an outside perspective, it may look similar, but I don't feel that way," McCown said at minicamp. "I like the way this group has come together this spring. It seems like a young team, but it's the right mix to me, because we do have the right vets."

The Browns were a 1-15 laughingstock last season, so McCown -- a savvy player/diplomat -- wasn't about to confirm that comparison. Linebacker Demario Davis, another survivor/refugee of Cleveland '16, seemed a bit uneasy when that subject was broached on Wednesday.

"I don't know," he said, staying miles away from the subject. "Every team is different."

Let's take a look.

Coming off a 3-13 season, the Browns -- under a new regime -- cleaned house last year by cutting Karlos Dansby and Donte Whitner, their two leading tacklers, and wide receiver Brian Hartline. In free agency, they let four starters walk out the door -- offensive linemen Alex Mack and Mitchell Schwartz, wide receiver Travis Benjamin and safety Tashaun Gipson. The Browns were willing to let them go in exchange for compensatory picks. In the process, they created a massive war chest of cap room.

They decided to build through the draft (where have we heard that?) and they wound up with 17 rookies on their opening-day roster, including 14 draft picks.

The plan worked, as the Browns ended up with the No. 1 overall pick. In a classic case of Browns bad luck, there was no blue-chip quarterback in the draft, so they opted for pass-rusher Myles Garrett.

Advice to rebuilding teams: If you're going to stink, make sure you stink when there's a stud quarterback or two in the draft. At least the Jets got that right; the 2018 draft could be loaded.

The Jets apparently see that pot of gold on their horizon and they've put themselves in position to claim it by tearing down the roster. With only a few exceptions, they unloaded every player who doesn't have a guaranteed contract or doesn't fit into their plans beyond 2017.

Maybe, just maybe, they can secure that elusive franchise quarterback. Are you paying attention, Sam Darnold?

The Jets won't have as many rookies as the '16 Browns -- figure in the 10 to 12 range -- and they do have a small nucleus of productive veterans, but their plan is clear: They're starting over.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. They've tried everything else, and now owner Woody Johnson is willing to endure a season of severe growing pains with the hope that it leads to a better tomorrow. That tomorrow will include an estimated $80 million in cap room next year.

"It's part of the league," said McCown, explaining the upheaval on the roster. "Every organization sometimes finds themselves, except for a few here and there, in different stages of their process."

Welcome to Cleve -- ... uh, New York.