What in the name of Otto Graham has been going on with Cleveland quarterbacks?
The ghosts of Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, and Brandon Weeden haunt Johnny Manziel. The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner found an NFL suitor. Can he become a bona fide NFL starter?
“Brian Hoyer is the likely Week One starter,” Dan Leberfeld, who covers league on Sirius XM’s NFL Radio, tells Breitbart Sports. “He’s a smart game-manager who makes quick decisions. He’s a good hold-the-fort guy, to borrow an old Bill Parcells expression, until Johnny Manziel is ready.”
Johnny may not be ready for Cleveland. Cleveland is ready for Johnny. Not since 2001 have the Browns had a single quarterback start all sixteen games. Since Tim Couch lined up under center in that 7-9 season, Cleveland has tried Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, Thad Lewis, Jason Campbell, and Brian Hoyer at QB. Like the quarterback from Texas A&M, the team from Cleveland could use some stability.
But as the carousel of Cleveland quarterbacks shows, passers have a penchant for never being prepared for Cleveland. And with Josh Gordon, the NFL’s 2013 leader in receiving yards, facing a possible drug suspension for the entire 2014 season, the tough job of Cleveland QB just got tougher.
“Honestly, I don’t think anybody knows how this is going to work out, whether [Manziel’s] improvisation style will work on the NFL level,” Leberfeld tells Breitbart Sports. “Most college defensive backfields are awful. The windows to throw into are much bigger. The street-yard ball that Manziel and 6-5 receiver Mike Evans (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) executed so well in college likely won’t translate to the NFL. The other big concern is his frame. He’s under 6-0 tall and just 207 pounds. Running around like a crazy man in a league with bigger and faster defenders could lead to an injury-prone career. We shall see. Another concern is that he will get a lot of passes batted down due to his height and 3/4 throwing delivery.”
Cleveland’s been here before. In 2007, fans expected the Browns to draft a high-profile quarterback with the third pick in the draft. Instead, Cleveland used that pick elsewhere (Joe Thomas) and played the waiting game on a quarterback. Brady Quinn, the Notre Dame gunslinger, stuck around until the twenty-second pick. Cleveland’s patience worked out, in a sense, in 2014, too. Again, they bypassed a passer with their early pick (Justin Gilbert) only to land their guy with the #22 selection. Hope reigns once more in the Dog Pound. But for how long? The admirable patience shown by management on quarterbacks in the draft doesn’t extend to fans in the seats.
Since the turn of the century, only the Detroit Lions have posted a worse won-loss record than the Browns. The franchise hasn’t appeared in a playoff game in over a decade. Cleveland’s fans want to win now, and hope Manziel can be the Moses figure to deliver them into the NFL’s playoff promisedland. But they’ve followed false prophets before–but none so charismatic as Johnny Football.
“Browns fans can only hope that owner Jimmy Haslam didn’t force his football people to make this pick, like when the late Bud Adams forced his football people in Tennessee to pick Vince Young,” Leberfeld explains. “When owners make football decisions, the end result often isn’t good. The New England Patriots program really started to take off when Robert Kraft backed away from picking players. There is all this talk about how the pick will help the Browns at the gate and in merchandise sales. You don’t make personnel decisions for those reasons. In all fairness, it can’t be proven at this point that marketing drove the decision. But if it did, it was a mistake because ultimately winning is the best marketing tool. If you pick good players, and you win, it’s the best business plan possible.”
It’s too early to tell, as Leberfeld reminds, whether Manziel is a good player at the NFL level. The Browns, unfortunately, don’t have much of a track record of picking good players. This is especially true at the quarterback position.