Banner Report: The Quarterbacks

Banner Report GuardedYou may remember back in 2010 (you know the last time there was a complete overhaul in Berea) we wanted to give incoming President Mike Holmgren a hand evaluating the roster. We are nothing if not equal opportunity. The Browns have a completely new group in charge this year. Joe Banner, Mike Lombardi, Rob Chudzinski, Norv Turner and Ray Horton take over a 5-11 team. They have plenty of important decisions to make about the roster between now and the 2013 NFL Draft. WFNY wants to offer our assistance with The Banner Position Reports. Previous reports: LB

The position. Highly paid, highly touted, and highly analyzed, the quarterback is just one of 22 players on the field, but he’s the one most often tasked with being the reason a team wins or loses. There is a growing number of “elite” quarterbacks and a growing frustration among Cleveland fans as the revolving door at the position has yet to produce a name that can even be entered into the conversation.

 With regard to the Browns, not only do you have a 30-year-old quarterback in his second year — one who cost you the 22nd-overall selection one year ago — but there is the variable of the new regime and the ever-pressing notion that regime’s prefer to hitch their respective wagons to their guys; this notion is top-down, by no means insular to just the quarterback, but is magnified due to the way in which the league has morphed. Philosophical shifts are, in turn, colliding head-on with an impatient fan base. If Brandon Weeden is not going to be the next elite quarterback in what is increasingly becoming a quarterback’s league, the team obviously needs to move on.

Or do they…

The 2012 Season:

Starter: Brandon Weeden

Key reserves: Colt McCoy, Thaddeus Lewis

Statistics (Via Yahoo! Sports):

Brandon Weeden1529751757.433856.5225.71417712818672.661
Thaddeus Lewis1223268.82046.4204112331483.300
Colt McCoy391752.9794.626.3102142585.200

For the first time in a long time, the Browns were able to get 15 games and a solid amount of passing yards out of their quarterback. Given that this also came from a rookie, one would assume that the lenses would be a bit rosier — this has not been the case. Whether it was the abysmal quarterback rating from the team’s winnable (but lost) Opening Day game against the Eagles or the multiple receivers who were overthrown in critical situations or the batted passes or… the numbers simply do not tell the whole truth. Certainly, Weeden displayed some moments that made fans excited — there was a stretch of play in 2012 where the Browns’ quarterback appeared to be more advanced that Andrew Luck, the first-overall, sure-fire selection. This teeter-totter, however, quickly changed directions.

For every game that the Browns were seemingly in because of their defense, it would be the offense that could not capitalize. Weeden, at times, looked extremely uncomfortable, opting for the check-down routes despite being provided plenty of time in the pocket. His decision-making skills were questionable; his footwork, even worse. Not helping matters: the success of the considerably shorter and later-round draft selection in Seattle’s Russell Wilson.

Contract Situation:

Brandon Weeden: In 2012, signed a four-year, $8.083 million contract. The deal included a $4.318 million signing bonus. Weeden’s first three base salaries are fully guaranteed, as is $920,000 of his fourth-year salary. 2013: $757,436, 2014: $1,124,872, 2015: $1,492,308, 2016: Free Agent

Colt McCoy: In 2010, signed a four-year, $4.96 million contract. The deal contains $1.07 million guaranteed, including a $751,000 signing bonus. 2013: $2.325 million, 2014: Free Agent

Thaddeus Lewis: In 2012, signed a two-year, $1.02 million contract. 2013: $555,000, 2014: Restricted Free Agent

Banner Report Advisory Alert: Guarded

Look, I understand the unhappiness. I get that Weeden struggled — mightily, at times. I get that he produced one of the worst games ever when it comes to statistics. I get that he has red hair. All of this said, Brandon Weeden is entering his second season as a professional and will be doing so with a new head coach and offensive coordinator, both men being inherently more creative on the offensive side of the football, (reportedly) allowing the 6-foot-4-inch Weeden to take snaps from shotgun formations — his formation of choice in college.

Also, as you will see below, replacement value exists mostly in the replacement. Sure, Brandon Weeden may not be lighting the world on fire, but will any of the players who could come in and take his spot be able to do so without exorbitant costs?

The Draft:

Per ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., the following are the top five quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL Draft:

1Matt BarkleyUSC6’2″23024638732733615
2Geno SmithWest Virginia6’3″2143695184205426
3Mike GlennonStanford6’6″21833056440313117
4Tyler WilsonArkansas6’3″22024940133872113
5Ryan NassibSyracuse6’2″22929447137492610

I’ve seen Smith labled as the top name. I’ve seen Nassib — somehow — garner consideration as the first quarterback taken. Matt Barkley is dreamy. That said, are any of these quarterbacks the next big thing?

Kansas City, proprietors of the first overall selection, decided that they would be better suited in trading multiple draft picks to San Francisco for a 28-year-old Alex Smith instead of using a pick to draft the rookie of their choosing. Smith was cast aside by the eventual Super Bowl runners-up. Even if any of these player represented a marginal upgrade over Weeden, the cost — given that the team does not own a second-round selection and is transforming both sides of the ball — may not line up with the potential reward.

Late-round gambles include Miami (Ohio) quarterback Zac Dysert, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, Florida State’s EJ Manuel, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones, and Kansas State’s Collin Klein.  

Top Free Agents:

Matt Moore286’3″192111913110
Jason Campbell316’5″223325126522
Tavaris Jackson296’2″22600000
Brian Hoyer276’3″215305333012
Rex Grossman326’1″22200000
Derek Anderson296’6″229445800
Drew Stanton286’3″23600000
David Carr336’3″215231900
AJ Feeley356’3″22500000
Brady Quinn286’4″232112197114128

While this list does not include potential trade targets, it is enough to seal the deal on why replacing Weeden this offseason is not of the utmost importance. When a ten-deep role call includes two former Browns quarterbacks and four quarterbacks who are older than Weeden, it’s safe to say that things are very top heavy with Matt Moore and then everyone else.

The Browns could conceivably bring in one of these available players to challenge Weeden, or — at the very least — show him what it takes to remain in the NFL once you’re well north of 30, but therein lies the upside. If Brandon Weeden cannot get this team to the promised land, Rex Grossman or Drew Stanton sure as hell aren’t.

I do believe that the current Browns front office is not sold on Weeden being their quarterback of the future. But I also believe that he will be given every chance to succeed, if only for the lack of a better alternative.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I think you hit the nail on the head multiple times, Scott. A well-reasoned conclusion in my opinion. I want Brandon Weeden to get a shot, and I want Chud & Norv to be reasonable in allowing him to compete in spite of not being “their guy”.

  • maxfnmloans

    Yup. Pretty much. Ride it out and see where we are at the end of the season.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    This organization simply can’t afford to create another QB controversy IMO. The constant carousel at that position has cost them the ability to improve other areas of the team. I feel the same way about Weeden that I did about McCoy and that is give him another year. Give Weeden another year under the watchful eyes of Turner and Chudzinski while hopefully adding a few more weapons on offense. Defense would be my priority but I believe the WR and TE positions can be shored up using free agency.

  • Jay

    I think I’ve convinced myself enough that I’m OK with Weeden being our starter this year. I’d like to see what he does in Chud/Norv’s offense. I would, however, be very open to getting Collin Klein or EJ Manuel in the mid-to-late rounds.

  • hopwin

    Brandon Weeden is not the guy, but he is good enough for now.

  • Chucky Brown

    I liked what I saw out of Bray at the combine. Id like to see the Browns nab him mid to late

  • C-Bus Kevin

    This draft class and free agent group bought Brandon another year, and I’m okay with that. Let’s see what he can do in year two.

  • mgbode

    If Blaine Gabbert could get 2 years, then so can Brandon.

    Now, I also feel we should draft or sign someone we feel can push him as well though. If we draft, then I prefer EJ Manuel in round3, but there are other guys who may drop to that slot we go after instead.

    Actually, you hit on my 3 favorite mid-round guys, so I’ll just copy/paste:
    Miami (Ohio) quarterback Zac Dysert, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, Florida State’s EJ Manuel

  • mgbode

    I would argue the constant carousel at the QB position is because we never got it right. Noone we have trotted out at QB has been the answer thus far. Perhaps Weeden can become the answer, perhaps not. But, I am quite certain that none of the previous QBs were or were ever going to be it.

  • BenRM

    Can we retire “the guy” as a thing when discussing QBs?

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Does this also include “their guy”, or can we keep that one in the lexicon?

  • Jim

    if Mike Glennon is there in later rounds (like 5 or 6)< it might be worth grabbing him.

  • I’d rather have Geno Smith to work with at QB than Weeden. And if we had a second rounder, I’d say make it happen with Smith, even at #6 overall. But as it stands the #6 might be more valuable for getting more picks instead. Still plenty of holes to fill.

  • DontbringLBJback

    IMO, it’s all about the system that you install for the QB that you have. Weeden was learning a “pro-style West Coast” system on the fly, which is very different from the spread he ran at OK State. Shurmur was running an offense that was geared to 4, 7, and 10 yard routes. Weeden was used to

    Look at what RG3 did this year. Was it because he’s God’s gift to the QB position? I don’t think so. He’s an incredible athlete, and a solid QB. The reason he was “great” this year was because the Shanihan’s installed the same system that he ran in college. It was easy for RG3 to transition, because there was no transition.

    I’m excited to see what Weeden can do if they run a spread or variation of the spread this year. I think we’ll see his numbers improve dramatically, and his decision making will be much better because he will be more comfortable. “The guy” can throw, and be accurate (did you see the clay pigeon thing on Sports Science?!?!?!?!).

    His last year at OK St (12 games):

    Comp.%: 72.4
    Yards: 4737
    TDs: 37
    INTs: 13

  • Still just not sure of the EJ Manuel love. I mean, yes, he induced enough cringes with his decision making at FSU that I can imagine him as a QB in brown & orange, but beyond that I’m not seeing it. Physical tools, yes, but seemingly DA-like in the brain department. Dysert in the middle rounds? That I could be sold on.

  • mgbode

    Manuel has his flaws, yes. But, so does Dysert. He made some terrible decisions that led to games lost.

    In the end, they put up very similar statistics (both passing and running and have similar builds). Except Dysert played in the defensive-deficient MAC, while the FSU played a tougher defensive schedule overall (VaTech, Clemson, Florida, NoIll – who Miami missed). Also, Dysert went 4-8 in an offensive league. Manuel had the help of a top10 defense, but proved to be a top10 team in the country with him at the helm. Yes, some of that difference is going to be the players surrounding the QBs, but the QBs get some credit as well.

    I like Dysert as a 5th/6th round gamble, but he’s not on the same level of a prospect as EJ Manuel.

  • dwhit110

    It seems like just yesterday that everybody and their brother wanted to take Landry Jones in the first round of last year’s draft (before he decided to come back to school).

  • DontbringLBJback

    I’d trade #6 to the Rams for #16 and #22 in a heartbeat. Heck, I’d prolly even do #22, and #46 from the Rams for the #6 (they have all those picks from the skins). Depends on free agency to some extent… DB’s demand big money, and if we don’t get a solid corner, I’d pick Milliner and then you know we have that position locked up for 5 years at least.

  • Harv 21

    don’t be that guy

  • mgbode

    no way would I trade #6 for #22+46.

  • mgbode

    no. neither myself nor my brother wanted Landry Jones last offseason.

    you are thinking to 2 seasons ago where he flashed in some limited duty. then came 2011, where he was exposed to being mediocre once Ryan Broyles went down with an injury.

  • DontbringLBJback

    Ok, fair enough, that might not be worthwhile. But again, it depends on FA signings… if we get Wallace and Avril in free agency, then forget any trade, and pick Milliner, and all the sudden we have 3 major impact players, and maybe have a shot at the playoffs.

  • Oh Dysert is absolutely flawed in his own right, certainly. But getting him with a fifth as opposed to Manuel with a third seems to be the wiser decision in my mind. Now, if they are both sitting there in the fourth? Maybe the arguments you cite regarding quality of opponents tip the scales in Manuel’s favor.

    Those thrilling wins over the likes of Indy, Seattle, and Jacksonville in 2011 were totally worth missing out on Andrew Luck and an end to discussions like this one. Now where’s that whiskey bottle?

  • Jaker

    I wouldn’t mind taking a mid round flyer on Bray or Manuel. Bray would be a nice fit because he has all the arm strength in the world and seems like a natural fit for the “down field attack” style offense. No rush to get him on the field, give him time to develop. His biggest problem is that he was often pressured and had no pocket. If given a good OLine, he could be a steal.

    Manuel will go early second round, so I may need to move on from him, not to mention our FSU fan has convinced me he’s a bad decision machine. Sometimes you can’t fix that.

  • BenRM

    i think we will have to have a vote

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I have always appreciated that out of all of the commenters who frequent WFNY, you are the most democratic, Ben. My vote is to bring back Mr. Phipps Pretzel Chips.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Veto! I don’t even want that guy if he is an undrafted free agent… I’ve never been so sure of a flop in my life.

  • 100% completely agree with everything stated. Btw, also believe we should cut McCoy and try to bring in Matt Moore. I’m rooting for Brandon and expect a lot out of him this year–it probably is all he gets if there isn’t significant progress.

  • Problem is we can’t afford to take a mid-round flyer on Bray or anyone else. This draft is very deep, and there are extremely good players in the 3rd and 4th round that will be starters on day one. With us not having a second, we’re basically forfeiting the middle of the draft precisely when we can’t afford it.

  • mgbode

    until you have your QB, you can always afford to try to find him. in fact, you cannot afford to not try.

  • mgbode

    that’s a good argument. i think i’d rather have Manuel in the 3rd only because i do view him as a better prospect and am desperate to get the QB spot resolved. but, I wouldn’t be opposed to Dysert in the 5th at all.

    and yeah, to have a franchise QB. I don’t think Indy was letting anyone get that #1 overall pick though even if they had to tell their team to run backwards on every play against us.

  • Neither one of those proposed trades work according to the trade value chart. The #6 is worth 1600. #16+#22 = 1780. #22+#46 = 1220. So, 22&46 is an awful idea, but you’d have to throw in some other picks to make that trade work.

  • BenRM

    I second that motion!

  • snap

    After watching Dysert play first hand against a terrible defense in Bowing Green I think I would pass on him completely. This was the game from the 2011 season. He couldn’t beat a team at home that would go on to only win 2 or 3 more games that season. He looked lost at times and not the highly regarded QB that they listed him as in the game notes. I wouldn’t want the Browns to draft him at all.