With six games left in an abysmal 2-8 season and their former first-round pick in quarterback Johnny Manziel being demoted to third-string, the Cleveland Browns may once again be looking for a new QB in 2016.
Despite passing for a career-high 372 yards in a 30-9 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Manziel may have all but played his last game in a Browns uniform after allegedly being caught on video partying during the Browns bye week and later admitting that he lied to the team about it.
Normally, when a twenty-something hotshot quarterbacks lives it up on the bye, not many will blink an eye. Then again, none of them are named Johnny Manziel. The ultimate love-him or hate-him lightning rod, Manziel is the most polarizing first-round QB since Ryan Leaf.
While he is not a bust on the same level as Leaf, he has such a small body of work to be judged on, and whether you like him or not, Cleveland has once again proven that they do not have the patience, competence or quite frankly, the know-how to properly develop quarterbacks.
With a long and tragic list that reads from first-rounders such as Tim Couch and Brady Quinn, add Manziel to the latest in a long line of Browns’ mishaps in putting a QB in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Honestly, at this point—and especially with head coach Mike Pettine’s hell-bent vendetta against him, it wouldn’t shock me if Manziel is not in Cleveland next year due to a combination of his stubborn reluctance to play him, and anew regime that wants it’s own guy.
In the likelihood that this timeline does in fact unfold in typical Cleveland fashion, then a new Browns front office most likely led my owner Jimmy Haslam’s good friend and pal, Peyton Manning, currently QB of the Denver Broncos will likely look to bring in a young signal-caller to mold into his own image with his coach and choice for general manager.
Below are the three likely quarterback prospects that may be under center for the Browns in 2016.
Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis: 3,670 yards passing, 28 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. 69.0 percent completion rate, 166.2 passer rating.
At 6’7 and 245 pounds, Lynch is climbing up NFL mock drafts due to a unique combination of size, mobility and a NFL-type big arm reminds me of a young Ben Roethlisberger, whom the Browns passed on at No.6 in the 2004 NFL Draft for Kellen Winslow II(that STILL hurts me a lot by the way!)
A three-year year starter for the Tigers, in Lynch, the Browns would have a QB built for the brutal and rugged AFC North, who has a good deep ball and at 6’7 will be able to actually see and survey the field properly. Hopefully a new-look and more competent Browns front office see the errors of the past, and remedy them appropriately.
A native of Hinckley Township and former standout at Walsh Jesuit, the 6’4, 220 pound Cook would be a perfect PR coup for a new—or current—Browns front office looking to move on from Manziel and reestablish some form of trust with an apathetic fan base tired of losing, that also LOVES a local kid.
A three-year starter at Michigan State, Cook would immediately endear himself to local fans who felt that Brian Hoyer was given a raw deal. One of CFB’s most consistent QB’s, Cook is a 2014 Rose Bowl MVP, Big Ten champion and proven upperclassman, that due to his strong arm, good touch, heady play and experience in a pro-style system, I feel that he reminds me of another long-time Browns tormentor in Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer.
In Cook, Cleveland would have a new local face of the franchise to build and brand themselves around a potential franchise QB in Cook playing close to home, the Browns already have done due diligence to likely consider taking him No.1 overall. And depending on how Michigan State does in the up-coming College Football Playoffs, Cook’s draft stock may only continue to rise.
Jared Goff, QB, Cal Golden Bears: 4,252 yards passing, 37 touchdowns, 13 interceptions. 64.2 percent completion rate, 156.4 passer rating.
The likely top overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the 6’4, 215 pound Goff is the next Aaron Rodgers in the making. Much like his fellow Cal alum, Goff has demonstrated an uncanny ability to make plays in the pocket, on the move and accuracy, not seen since the former NFL and Super Bowl MVP was at Berkeley.
As a Rodgers fan myself, I know a good QB when I see one and Goff has all the intangibles in experience, leadership, talent to offer Cleveland what they have been sorely missing under center. In three years as a starter at Cal, Goff has passed for 11,733 yards, thrown 90 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.
What is even more impressive is that he put up such impressive numbers with less-than-quality NFL talent around him. With the exception of 2014 NFL Draft third-round pick Richard Rodgers, now a member of the Green Bay Packers, who was a junior when Goff was a true freshman, he never had a big-time playmaker.
If he were to be selected by the Browns, Cleveland would need to commit to him as the starter from day one, build around him via free agency and the draft and give him a culture of winning.
Personally, if it were me, while I’m all for the fairy tale of a local kid in Cook playing for the Browns, I’d go with Goff over Cook due to his mobility, accuracy and arm strength. If he is anything close to Rodgers in terms of talent, then the Browns must seriously consider taking him, no questions asked.
Considering Cleveland’s long and sordid history of building things right and sticking to a plan, hopefully they do the right thing in moving on from Manziel and getting that elusive franchise signal-caller in either Lynch, Cook or Goff they has eluded them since 1999.