The Browns have been burning through quarterbacks since their hapless return to the NFL in 1999. Tim Couch was the Browns first selection as an expansion team in ’99, this was the last time the Browns used a top 10 pick on a quarterback. Keep in mind that 1999 was fifteen years ago, a whole Peyton Manning career ago.
Since drafting Couch, the Browns have looked high and low to find someone to play quarterback. They’ve tried a plethora of veterans (Ty Detmer, Trent Dilfer, Jason Campbell), perennial backups (Kelly Holcomb, Doug Pederson, Seneca Wallace, Derek Anderson) mid round draft picks (Charlie Frye, Colt McCoy, Luke McCown), free agent acquisitions (Jeff Garcia, Jake Delhomme) , long shots playing only because of injury (Spergon Wynn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Thad Lewis)and even spent late first round draft picks (Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden) trying to find a potential franchise quarterback. The jury is still out on which category Brian Hoyer will fall into.Where do these elusive franchise quarterbacks come from? It seems like the Browns have tried every avenue possible while looking for someone to be “the guy.” Every avenue except the most obvious one; drafting a quarterback within the top 10 of the draft.
- Peyton Manning, Drafted 1st Rd 1st Pick 1998 Indianapolis Colts
- Michael Vick Drafted 1st Rd 1st Pick 2001 Atlanta Falcons
- Eli Manning, Drafted 1st Rd 1st Pick 2004 San Diego Chargers
- Phillip Rivers, Drafted 1st Rd 4th Pick 2004 New York Giants
- Ben Roethlisberger, Drafted 1st Round 11th Pick 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers
- Alex Smith, Drafted 1st Rd 1st Pick 2005 San Francisco 49ers
- Jay Cutler, Drafted 1st Rd 11th Pick 2006 Denver Broncos
- Matt Ryan, Drafted 1st Rd 3rd Pick 2008 Atlanta Falcons
- Matthew Stafford, Drafted 1st Rd 1st Pick 2009 Detriot Lions
- Sam Bradford, Drafted 1st Rd 1st Pick 2010 St. Louis Rams
- Cam Newton, Drafted 1st Rd 1st Pick 2011 Carolina Panthers
- Andrew Luck, Drafted 1st Rd 1st Pick 2012 Indianapolis Colts
- Robert Griffin III, Drafted 1st Rd 2nd Pick 2012 Washington Redskins
- Ryan Tannehill, Drafted 1st Rd 8th Pick 2012 Miami Dolphins
That’s fourteen 2013 opening day NFL starting quarterbacks that were drafted in the top ten (or eleven) of the NFL draft. All of these quarterbacks have been considered “the guy” for their team, and had success to back it up. Now of course, there is always a possibility that these guys could bust, setting back the team 5+ years. Considering the fact that Cleveland’s combined record for the last five years is 23-57, Browns fans shouldn’t be worried about drafting a quarterback early in the draft setting the team back.
Simply put, the Browns have been dancing around the topic of franchise quarterbacks since Couch’s career flamed out. They’ve had plenty of top picks but have shied away from selecting a quarterback. Obviously the Browns weren’t going to draft a quarterback during the Couch era when they had high picks in 2000 or 2001. They decided to sure up that defense with “can’t miss” defensive prospects Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren. By 2004, the Browns were picking sixth and could of taken a quarterback from Miami (Ohio) named Ben Roethlisberger. They instead chose Kellen Winslow Jr, who ended up playing two games in two years following a broken leg his rookie year and the infamous motorcycle accident. Winslow is now looking for Boston Markets in New Jersey and Roethlisberger has played in three Super Bowls, winning two.
After the failed Garcia experiment, the Browns were again picking high in the 2005 draft and had a potential franchise quarterback staring them in the face with California’s Aaron Rodgers. The Browns took Braylon Edwards, figuring with him at wide receiver the combination of Trent Dilfer and Charlie Frye would be a successful veteran mentoring rookie quarterback situation. Edwards is now out of the league and Aaron Rodgers has won a Super Bowl and MVP.
The 2007 NFL draft had Browns fans clamoring for Norte Dame’s golden boy Brady “The Mighty” Quinn. Thank god the Browns decided to draft Joe Thomas with their third pick; he is unquestionably the franchise’s best pick since 1999. Quinn slid down in the draft and the Browns traded back up to draft him. Why did Quinn slide down the draft? Well it turns out he wasn’t very good. Though having both him and the “Moose from Scappoose” Derek Anderson on the roster did bring back found memories of the Holcomb/Couch days.
The Browns didn’t draft another quarterback in the first round until Brandon Weeden in 2012. Judging from this past season, the Weeden pick is an absolute disaster. More likely than not, Weeden will not be on the roster for the 2014 season.
The Browns will enter the 2014 season with a new coaching staff and No. 4 overall draft pick. Will the Browns do what they haven’t done in fifteen years and draft a quarterback in the top five of the draft? Simply put, the Cleveland Browns have to draft a franchise caliber quarterback with this draft pick. Unlike the 1999 expansion Browns, these 2014 Browns have legitimate NFL talent at key positions for a young quarterback to succeed in the NFL. Tim Couch would have loved to be drafted by a team with a couple of Pro Bowl offensive lineman (Thomas, Mack) and receivers (Gordon, Cameron).
There are three pre-combine top quarterback prospects that may be available for the Browns in the upcoming draft. Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, UCF’s Blake Bortles and the elephant in the room Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. ESPN’s Mel Kiper had Manziel going No. 1 to the Houston Texans in his first mock draft. “Johnny Football” is as polarizing a figure as can be. From his outspoken persona and well documented partying, Manziel has Ryan Leaf-esque red flags. He’s also listed at 6’1 (but probably shorter), and 210lbs (but probably lighter). Reports have surfaced that Banner and Lombardi are enamored with Manziel, and may even trade up to get him. Is this a smoke screen? Only time will tell.
Manziel’s 2012 freshman season was spectacular (68% completion, 3,706 pass yards 26 TD, 1,410 rush yards 21 TD) on his way to the Heisman Trophy. However, it is Manziel’s 2013 season that gives reason to believe his game could adjust to the NFL. Manziel showed improvement in all aspects of his passing game. Manziel increased his completion percentage (69.9%), yards (4,114) and touchdowns (37). He also ran significantly less (759 rush yards 9 TD). Manziel has drawn inevitable comparisons to Seattle’s Russell Wilson; someone with the ability to scramble but primarily use his feet to set up the pass.
Imagine, Johnny Manziel rolling out of the pocket to buy time to sling to the ball downfield to Josh Gordon in the end zone. Can you picture it? Even if you’re not pro-Manziel, look at the bright side: You can dust off that old No. 2 Tim Couch jersey and modify it however you see fit.