It’s simple. The Cleveland Browns have been in search of a franchise quarterback since they returned to the NFL in 1999. The revolving door has continued to open (and close) almost 30 times while different front offices and coaches have tried — and failed — to find their guy. While the carousel continues to spin, head coach Hue Jackson and the group of Harvard grads in the front office have done their best to find that guy. The quarterback who they hope can lead the team for the foreseeable future.
While it was simple to state that the Browns are in search (and in need) of a franchise quarterback, the most difficult part is finding the gunslinger to fill that void. Is Cody Kessler that guy? Probably not. Is Brock Osweiler that guy? Almost definitely not. Is Kevin Hogan that guy? All but certainly not. But, what if I told you that that guy isn’t even in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft either?
The Top four quarterbacks are projected to be selected in either Round 1 or Round 2. That includes North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer. How many years will it take for them to reach their ceiling? Can the current Browns’ front office and coaching staff afford to use one of their four picks in the first two rounds to select a quarterback that will take a year or two before he can be a starter behind center? Nope. The Dawg Pound doesn’t have the patience.
Jackson and company, while having their team go just 1-15 in 2016, had the correct situation behind center. Kessler may not be the quarterback of the future, but they gave him a mentor, Josh McCown, that did his best to groom and help develop the rookie the best he could, while having Robert Griffin III on hand to start games (best laid plans and all). Some might say that Kessler could possibly be the Browns starting quarterback, but Jackson’s comments so far this offseason seem to say the opposite. The head coach has made it known that he wants his franchise quarterback to be at least 6-foot-2. It just so happens that not a single quarterback currently on the Browns roster, including Kessler, is taller than 6-foot-1. Coincidence? Don’t think so.
Why are none of the Top 4 quarterbacks worth it for the Browns?
There is a reason why there isn’t a consensus top quarterback in the 2016 draft class. Unlike Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett being the consensus best player in the upcoming draft, none of the four gunslingers have solidified their spot atop the class. It’s not because the four quarterbacks are all elite. It’s because they all have plenty of weaknesses about their game that make draft experts question whether they can be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
Why not Trubisky? He may be a Northeast Ohio guy, a lifelong Browns fan, and know what the Browns and their fans have been through over the years, but he is going to need time before he can be considered a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL. The 6-foot-2, 222-pound quarterback has the size, pocket presence, and arm strength, but he didn’t have much experience in NFL-type situations during his time in Chapel Hill. Whether it’s the fact that he was in shotgun in almost 98 percent of his dropbacks in his spread offense, didn’t throw in many tight windows in traffic, didn’t see blitzes well, or floated balls to open wide receivers downfield and allowed the defense to catch up, Trubisky has plenty of flaws. Keep in mind, he became a full-time starter in his final season at North Carolina. If he was that good, shouldn’t he have started ahead of Marquise Williams prior to Williams graduating in 2015? For what it’s worth, Williams wasn’t drafted and isn’t even currently on a NFL roster. That says a lot, right?
Former Browns offensive coordinator and current Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said it best when talking about Trubisky. Here’s what he had to say, courtesy of ESPN’s Pat Mcmanamon:
“Really talented player. The growth potential is obviously there. The question is why wasn’t all that talent starting for the last three years? That’s always bugging me. So you have to go and answer those questions with him, with his coach. … [Spread quarterbacks] never got in a huddle [in college] and looked at 10 other guys who’ve got families to feed, and had to call a play,” Arians said. “They just look to the sideline, kick their foot and roll. That’s the hardest thing for these kids, to come to minicamp, get in a professional huddle and try to lead these guys. You have to give them a wristband because they can’t spit it out. Or you have to give them a wristband and then all the guys in the huddle get pissed off because he can’t call the play. I’m not making eye contact with you and you don’t have a helluva lot of confidence that I know what I’m talking about. We had a young guy in Pittsburgh who had all the talent in the world, but he could not call a play and he could not go to the line and use a snap count. It destroyed all of his confidence.”
Why not Watson? He may be a two-time Heisman finalist with a national championship ring, but the streaky quarterback is inconsistent. During his time at Clemson, he played his best when the lights shined brightest, but he mixed in plenty of bad. His biggest weakness is his arm strength—or lack thereof. During the NFL Combine, his fastest throw was just 49 miles per hour. For those keeping track at home, Kessler, who isn’t known for his arm strength, threw 55 miles per hour. The lowest standard deemed acceptable by most scouts is 53 mile per hour. Whether it’s his up-and-down play, arm strength, or the fact that it will take him some time to transition from the spread offense to pro-style, the 6-foot-2, 221-pound quarterback has the potential to be a good NFL quarterback, but there is considerable risk too.
Why not Mahomes? He has the body type and arm to be a good quarterback, but his bad habits and inconsistencies may be too tough a hurdle to get over. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound dual-threat quarterback possesses plenty of good attributes, but his weaknesses can cost him long-term. He’s a high risk, high reward-type quarterback. Can the Browns afford that in their current situation?
Why not Kizer? Of these four quarterbacks, the Notre Dame product by far has the most questions about the kind of quarterback he can be in the NFL. The 6-foot-4, 233-pound gunslinger has the arm strength, accuracy, and pocket awareness, but his mechanics are inconsistent when relying on his arm strength. The fourth dual-threat quarterback of these four signal-callers took a sack at times even though he had receivers open, while also throwing an interception in 15 of his 23 starts at Notre Dame.
While it may be tough for the Dawg Pound to wait yet another year to find the future franchise quarterback of the Browns, it’s what is needed this time. With so much talent on the defensive side of the ball and the Browns owning four of the Top 52 picks in the draft, they can essentially draft four starters on defense with their first four picks. When you could do that, why even select a quarterback that may not only be a reach, but one that would need a year or two before seeing legitimate time on the field on Sundays?
The Browns are expected to select Garrett with the first-overall pick. At Nos. 12, 33, and 52, they can either go defensive back, linebacker, or defensive line. If they want, they can even draft someone on offense as well. But, in this defensive-heavy draft, many expect the Browns to go all defense with their early picks (besides possibly nabbing a quarterback). Either way, all four of those players can be instant-impact players if the Browns do their scouting correctly.
If they select a quarterback at one of those three other picks in the first two rounds, they will miss out on a chance to get an immediate starter on defense while taking a quarterback who may never be a franchise quarterback in a weak quarterback class. While the Browns may be in search of a franchise quarterback, they also are in desperate need of playmakers on defense as well. In 2016, they were 30th in points allowed (28.2 per game), 31st in total yards allowed (392.4), 21st in passing yards allowed (249.8), and 31st in rushing yards allowed (142.7). A chance to grab four instant-impact starters on defense with their four picks in Rounds 1 and 2 is hard to resist.
The Browns should work on developing the talent that is currently in their quarterback room rather than bringing another new face into the room in either Round 1 or 2 and trying to develop said player during his rookie season, while potentially being pressured to play the rookie in 2017. Keep in mind, throughout the Browns long history, a quarterback drafted by them in one of the first two rounds has never stood on the sidelines and had time to develop during his rookie season. Each one has been pressured or forced to start at some point throughout their first season in the league.
If someone other than Kessler or Osweiler start in Week 1 this fall, the only other quarterback it should be is Jimmy Garoppolo. The Browns have so many needs and can upgrade at plenty of positions on both sides of the ball. Go out and improve your team, especially on defense, and wait until 2018 to use one of your high draft picks to select a quarterback. Give Kessler or Osweiler a full season behind this revamped offensive line to see what they can do. With all of these draft picks and so much talent on defense throughout the draft, taking a quarterback early who may not even be the guy and passing on so much other talent around the field isn’t worth the risk.
Jackson has been known to be a good developer of quarterbacks. Why not give him some more time with Kessler? The quarterback who is most familiar with the Browns’ offense and system. Why give up on him after just one season?
Chances are, if the Browns have another one- or two-win season, the organization could be looking for a new head coach and front office yet again. If Jackson and company want to stick around, it would be in their benefit to take as much talent in the draft that can make an immediate impact that they can, rather than selecting a quarterback too high that shouldn’t see the field in 2017.
The Browns can’t afford to overvalue and over-draft one of these four quarterbacks, none of which are sure-fire franchise-changing gunslingers, while passing on so much other talent. Don’t reach and just draft a quarterback high just because you’re still in search of your franchise quarterback, Browns. Kessler and Osweiler are capable of carrying this Browns’ offense in 2017 and (possibly) beyond. Why not give one of them a chance rather than reaching on a quarterback in the draft just because he could possibly be the guy—again?
If you have yet to read, WFNY’s Craig Lyndall and Michael Bode did a great job of discussing the Browns current situation behind center heading into the draft.