The Cleveland quarterback carousel. It is a running joke at this point. The Browns have had so many quarterbacks come and go it is borderline ridiculous. Actually, scratch that, it is ridiculous. The last time Cleveland has one quarterback start all 16 games in the regular season was 2001, when Tim Couch was the quarterback. And before that it was Bernie Kosar a decade earlier. A couple of other have come close like Derek Anderson in 2007 or Branden Weeden in 2013, both of whom started 15 games.
That right there is the definition of mediocrity at the quarterback position. Since 2005, the Browns have had 16 different quarterbacks start under center for them. Even the Jaguars haven’t been that bad, having only 11 different players start in the same span. The Browns have not had true stability at quarterback since Brian Sipe started every game from 1978 to 1981. That was about 35 years ago! And over those three and a half decades, no quarterback has started every game in back-to-back seasons. That is simply mind boggling to me. How there has been no one to have enough success in Cleveland to start all 16 games two years in a row is beyond me.
However, the Browns do actually have some talent now on their roster at the quarterback position. Johnny Manziel came with a whole lot of question marks but he also oozed with untapped potential. He was an athlete with a great arm still trying to learn how to play quarterback.This offseason has been a major turning point for Manziel in his development, starting with rehab stint and continuing with his much improved play on the field. The Cleveland coaching staff got Manziel to buy in to really working on becoming a better player and so far that is very evident.
Johnny Football isn’t ready to be the starter yet in Cleveland though. If the Browns decided to throw him in week one because he looked good in the preseason, it would undo everything that they had worked on. Manziel would likely return to scrammbler he was in college and forget his coaching in an effort to make plays on a talent devoid Browns’ offense. Waiting a year for Manziel to really know the playbook and fully develop tendencies would be very wise.
Unfortunately, that means that Cleveland will have veteran journeyman Josh McCown become the 17th starting quarterback for the Browns since 2005. McCown is still riding the coattails of his 2013 success in Chicago. He only made it 11 games last season before being benched in favor Mike Glennon. His stats weren’t pretty either as he posted a 56.3 completion percentage and threw 11 touchdowns to his 14 interceptions.
This preseason has underlined his inconsistency as well. In his first game against Washington, McCown completed all five of his passes and tossed a touchdown. Then last week facing Buffalo, he proceeded to complete seven of ten passes, but threw two of the ten to the other team. Part of McCown’s struggles are definitely due to the lack of talent around him. In fact, no Cleveland receiver has more than three receptions in either of the Browns’ two losses. That being said, if McCown has another poor performance tomorrow in Tampa against his former team, fans could be looking for the Browns to start someone else at quarterback.
The problem is, there really isn’t anyone else to start. As I have already mentioned, starting Manziel would be a mistake this early on in his development. Outside of McCown and Manziel, the other quarterbacks on Cleveland’s roster are Thad Lewis, Connor Shaw and Pat Delvin, who combined have won two NFL games, both by Lewis. With the news that Connor Shaw could miss the whole season after thumb surgery, the selection is even more limited.
The Brown really have put themselves in a tough position here. It is pretty much a no-win scenario. Either the team suffers through an up and down season with McCown at quarterback, maybe winning six games or Manziel takes over, exciting fans, but potentially ruining all the progress he has made.
So once again, the Browns have a big hole at quarterback. It should be interesting how they proceed. I think Brett Farve has a pretty free schedule this fall…