Why Griffin Makes Sense in Cleveland

So I was right! I was just about six months early.

Robert Griffin III
Griffin has 40 career touchdown passes from his time in Washington.

Robert Griffin III signed with the Cleveland Browns this afternoon, joining the laundry list of quarterback to play for Cleveland over the last 15 years. While the internet might have had some fun with this, signing Griffin makes a lot of sense for the Browns.

It’s not like the Browns have many better options on their roster right now. Josh McCown is 36 going on 70 and that Manziel guy is now a free agent with some legal trouble. The only other guy on the roster is Austin Davis, whose 13 career NFL starts have left a lot to be desired.

So instead, the Browns are taking a gamble on the former Heisman trophy winner. And there is really no harm in that. Cleveland will likely draft a quarterback with the second overall pick and all signs point to it being Carson Wentz.

Wentz has looked solid during the pre-draft process and he is seemingly pro ready. However, the Browns know better than anyone else on planet Earth that forcing quarterbacks to play in the NFL before they are ready can be catastrophic.

Griffin’s contract is reportedly for two years and maxes out at $15 million. Paying about $7.5 million per year for a short term starting quarterback isn’t a bad deal and because the deal is short, the Browns are not really committed to Griffin. He essentially has a two-year window to show if he can still play in the league. If the answer is no, then start Wentz in 2017.

Griffin is 15-24 over the first three seasons of his career. 

The reality is that the Browns need someone to play quarterback and they are taking a low-risk high-reward gamble on RGIII. And this is not Denver where they are likely just a quarterback away from a deep playoff run. Cleveland would miss the playoffs this year with Russell Wilson under center. There just isn’t enough talent. Getting Griffin gives the Browns a stopgap while they continue to try to improve in other areas of the roster and groom a future starter.

Imagine for just a second if Griffin somehow reverts to his 2012, rookie of the year form during the next two seasons with the Browns. First of all, Griffin would then have suitors around the league after his contract is over and Cleveland would have the happy situation of having two starting quarterbacks.

In the best case scenario, Griffin proves to be a stud and the Browns ship him off to Denver or Philadelphia after his first season for some draft picks. Worst case scenario is that Griffin flounders again, or even more likely gets hurt, and Cleveland turns the keys over to Wentz at the start of his second year.

All in all, I think this is a great deal for both sides. Cleveland gets a two-year rental at quarterback and Griffin gets one last shot to prove he can still play in this league.

Browns find themselves in a tough situation

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. 

Brian Sipe
Sipe on the sidelines of a game in 1979.

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.

Johnny Manziel
Manziel has avoided mistakes this preseason and shown flashes of his development.

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.

McCown joins the Browns as sixth team of his career.

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.

Johnny_ManzielThe 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…