As if it has become an annual rite of spring, the Cleveland Browns are once again looking at drafting a quarterback in the NFL Draft. The question that needs to be answered is, will they finally get it right.
By now you’ve seen the image of the Browns jersey with all of the failed quarterbacks to start in The Land since coming back into the NFL in 1999,shaken your head in dismay and bewilderment at the bad (Brandon Weeden) to the horrific (Johnny Manziel) choices in the first round.
Combine that with the lack of continuity, lack of culture, perennial dysfunction, and there is a wide array of reason as to why quarterbacks drafted by the Cleveland browns have fizzled out, busted and added their name to that infamous jersey.
As a life-long Browns fan—yes, still here, even after going 0-16—I’ve seen it all from the drafting of Tim Couch to all of the hoopla and hype of drafting Johnny Football. I’ve also witnessed the soul-crushing, gut-punching lows of Cleveland passing on the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Wentz—both of which are STILL major sore spots for me today.
Below are my reasons as to why Cleveland is the proverbial graveyard of NFL QB’s.
Lack of Involved Ownership: Shortly after be bought and brought the new Cleveland Browns, longtime owner, Al Lerner passed on the team to his son, Randy, who would soon become quite a punching bag for angry and disgruntled fans.
Whether it was watching his beloved OTHER football team across the pond in Aston Villa to giving off the vibe of being an absentee, tone-deaf, disengaged and utterly disinterested. Lerner was a recluse who favored living in Long Island instead of Cleveland and really being front and center when it comes to being the face of the franchise.
For all of those who hate him, you KNOW that Jerry Jones is The Big Boss in Big D, you know Jeffrey Lurie in Philadelphia for the newly-crowned Super Bowl champion Eagles and you know Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots. While many in Cleveland will make funny of Jimmy Haslam and his ongoing Flying Pilot J FBI investigation and his Tennessee roots, give him credit for being an upgrade over the rarely seen and media-shy Lerner.
While some may not think about this, as a rookie QB coming to the NFL, a potential franchise QB needs to know if the owner will be front and center, have his back and speak when necessary for himself and the team when things go south. Give him some credit, but Haslam is that.
Bad Front Office Personnel: Pete Garcia, George Kokonis and Tom Heckert? Remember them? Yeah, neither do me.
The point is that as if the notable player that the Browns have missed out on and whiffed completely, the questionable to bad personnel moves in the front office have really left their mark in Cleveland. Garcia was former head coach Butch Davis’ hand-picked director of football development in 2002, was as invisible and mysterious in Cleveland as Sam Shepard.
Aside from the brief and short-lived tenure of George Kokonis—and the even more mysterious firing over clashing with Eric Mangini and the checkered tenure of Tom Heckert who drafted the likes of Colt McCoy and the forementioned Weeden, and you can see that no QB was drafted and properly develop under any GM.
McCoy would suffer a career-changing helmet hit from the now-retired James Harrison and Weeden would bust in Cleveland before getting shipped off to Dallas and now in Houston. QB’s need stability and a sense of development in order to succeed, and sadly, Cleveland provided neither.
Passing On Blue Chip Prospects For Picks: If you’re a Browns fan like me SKIP this part, as your blood will boil to its boiling point. Ben Roethlisberger for Kellen Winslow II in 2004, Carson Wentz for a second-round pick (currently No.62) and WR Corey Coleman, OT Shon Coleman, the departed Cody Kessler, WR Ricardo Louis, S Derrick Kindred, WR Jordan Payton, OT Spencer Drango and Deshaun Watson—for their now second first-round pick at No.4—for S Jabrill Peppers and now former QB Deshone Kizer.
Big Ben has haunted the Browns to the extent of a 22-1 career mark, Wentz was en route to a possible NFL MVP award and Watson wasn’t far behind. If Cleveland hopes to build back to respectability and contention, they have to identify their QB, build around him and go all in!
Non-Stop Carousel Of Coaches: Aside from the 27 different quarterbacks that have started in Cleveland since ‘99, the Browns have also had eight head coaches in Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur, Rob Chudzinski, Terry Robiskie*, Mike Pettine and Hue Jackson.
Such inconsistency and lack of continuity at both head coach and quarterback makes it Mission Impossible for any incoming quarterback to succeed in Cleveland Combine the lack of an established QB and head coach and the constant carousel of offensive systems from West Coast, spread, zone-read, back to West Coast, vertical and it will only stunt the developmental growth of any rookie or second/third-year QB.
Look no further down the Ohio Turnpike in the Steel City and look at the QB/HC combo of Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin as an example.
Despite his 1-31 record, Cleveland actually made the right call in retaining Jackson, not only for the sake of structure, but also developing a sense of culture and stability.
Unrealistic Local Fan and Media Expectations: Not to call out my fellow Browns fans in the Dawg Pound, but we are the most impatient and self-conscious homer fan base in the NFL, when it comes to QB’s. We constantly obsess over who starts week to week, are quick to nit-pick and critique a bad performance, and when QB No.1 has a bad game, we are clamoring for the backup.
I’ve seen this train wreck play out so many times over the years that I’ve honestly become numb to the fans wanting QB2 to start over QB1 after coming in in relief duty, or if QB1 narrowly win, you see constant 100-200 word debates in numerous Browns Facebook groups.
Remember the Brady Quinn vs. Derek Anderson debates? What about Colt McCoy vs. Brandon Weeden or Brian Hoyer vs. Johnny Manziel? Or if we really want to take it ALL THE WAY back, Tim Couch vs. Kelly Holcomb?
And to add even more fuel to those intra-fan QB controversies were that Quinn and Hoyer were both lifelong Browns fans growing up and from the area, which only added another layer to the Browns orange and brown colored layer cake.
Add the constant debating within the impatient fanbase to the additional pressure generated by the media that trickles its way to the players on the field, and you can see why its hard to be a starting quarterback in The Land.
Whomever Cleveland picks at No.1—or No.4—the Browns have to communicate to both the fans and media that QBX will be riding the bench behind Tyrod Taylor and Drew Stanton.
No need to rush another QB too soon and add another name to that jersey, right?
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