Seems simple enough. Through 13 seasons since the Browns rebirth in Cleveland, no one fits this definition and only the play has been offensive.
This past season made it painfully obvious how quarterback became the most important position in the NFL. Four of the top six single season highest passing totals were set this season. Drew Brees (5,476 yards) and Tom Brady (5,235) both surpassed Dan Marino’s 27-year-old record of 5,084 yards, while Matthew Stafford also went over 5,000 and Eli Manning finished with 4.933. Colt McCoy finished 22nd in passing yards with 2,733, but in only 13 games. Projected out through a full 16 games, it’s a respectable 3,363 yards, which puts him right with rookie Andy Dalton of the Bengals with 3,398, without a weapon near as explosive as Cincinnati rookie receiver A.J. Green.
Many write about the names of the past Browns QBs since 1999, which is a Who’s Who List of terrible to mediocre at best signal callers, but I will spare you that pain (see below). Instead, let’s look to the future. In particular, at a couple of the options team president Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert should be looking at in this coming offseason.
Candidate #1 - Colt McCoy
We watched McCoy for 21 games (6-15) and what do we really know about him? I say very little. Does he look like a game changer? No. Does he make “Wow” plays? No. Big arm? No. Speed and/or quickness? No. That’s a lot of No’s. But again, how do we know this is all on him? The offensive line is average at best, with Joe Thomas and Alex Mack the only reliable starters. Because of this, the running game struggled mightily, which put that much more pressure on McCoy to convert long second and third downs. Then on those long conversion downs, or any down for that matter, the receivers could not get open or catch the ball if they somehow did get open. It’s really a miracle they ever got a first down.
Conclusion - Keep McCoy, but only as a backup and last resort as opening day starter next year. While he can win a few games, he does not have the makeup to be a franchise QB. His ceiling may rise with better weapons around him, but I’m not seeing the second coming of Drew Brees.
Candidate #2 - Robert Griffin III (RG3)
He made football at Baylor relevant. He won the Heisman Trophy at Baylor. His team finished the season ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 1986. Baylor won a bowl game for the first time since 1992. In that game, his offense put up 67 points. The Browns scored 20 or more points twice this past season, while scoring under 10 three times.
Griffin started 11 of 12 games his freshman year and won the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award. Following a 2009 ACL injury, he led the Bears to a 7-6 record in 2010. He completed 67 percent of his passes while throwing for 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The 2011 Baylor team was picked to finish sixth in the Big 12. Behind RG3, they were able to finish 10-3, 6-3 in the conference for a third-place finish. This was their first 10-win season since 1980. They scored at least 42 points nine times, including over 60 twice. Griffin had a 72 percent completion rate, threw for 36 TDs, with only 6 picks, and also rushed for 644 yards and nine more touchdowns.
Conclusion - Take RG3 at number four in the draft, but DO NOT trade up to get him. Right now, the needs are so many for the Browns that trading up is not an option. I think Griffin will be a star in the league and someone the Browns have to take if he is available with the fourth pick. He shows great accuracy, runs only out of necessity but very successfully, and was able to bring the Baylor football program out of the depths of the conference to a contender in 2011. Cleveland needs star power and play-making ability, RG3 brings both and a sweet nickname.
Candidate #3 - Matt Flynn
Flynn has made two starts in four years as Aaron Rodgers’ backup in Green Bay, but they were “wow” starts. In New England in 2010, Flynn went 24 for 37 for 251 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Then this past season in a meaningless week 17 game against Detroit, Flynn set Green Bay records in passing yards and touchdowns by going 31 for 44 for 480 yards, SIX touchdowns, and one pick. He also threw long passes of 66 yards in his first start and 35, 36, 40, 58, 80 yards in his second. This tells me he is not afraid to push the ball down the field, something which the Browns seem to be allergic to ever since Derek Anderson overthrew everything on the field or Braylon Edwards dropped it.
There is no way to be certain these gaudy numbers are a result of Flynn’s precision passing, Green Bay’s supporting, or the terrible defenses he faced. However, I do feel confident in saying that no quarterback on the Browns roster throws up those kind of numbers on any team.
Conclusion - Sign Matt Flynn for the right price. The Browns front office stayed away from high priced free agents for the last few years in order to build from within and re-sign their own draft picks. Breaking the bank for an unknown like Flynn goes against everything they sold to their fans in terms of patience and doing things the right way. However, a three to four year deal worth five to seven million per year would put Flynn right in the middle of quarterback salaries. That would also leave the draft to fill the holes Cleveland has at pretty much every other position.
My order of preference:
1 - Draft Robert Griffin III if he is there at #4 (draft his teammate from Baylor WR Kendall Wright at #22 for much needed speed).
2 - Sign Matt Flynn, then use the draft to build the offense
3 - Colt McCoy, Donovan McNabb, or Brett Favre. If Cleveland does not get either of the first two choices, who really cares what player they get. Most likely another 4-12 year and USC QB Matt Barkley in 2013.
That’s right, I went 2013 draft already. This is the life of a Cleveland Browns fan. Thanks to my brother for forcing me to love the Browns and a life of heartache and depression.
Browns Quarterbacks Since 1999:
Published: February 14, 2012