Much of the anticipation for the Browns this off-season was sparked by the hope that a one time NFL Superstar can recapture the form that saw him win rookie of the year. That player is Robert Griffin III, who has been handed the keys to the Brown’s offence. Playing devil’s advocate, I decided to investigate which quarterback should start in 2016.
First of all, some background for you. The Browns have had a few starters since they re-entered the league in 1999. Here’s the list; Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson (new Eagles head coach), Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Charlie Frye, Trent Dilfer, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, Thad Lewis, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw, Josh McCown and finally Austin Davis. That’s 24 starting quarterbacks in 16 years!
The former Baylor quarterback RGIII was electrifying in his 2012 rookie season. Griffin threw for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions with a passer rating of 102.4. He also ran for 815 yards but never seemed to slide and took some brutal hits as a result.
He hasn’t been the same player since suffering an injury in the playoff match against Seattle on January 6th, 2013. I remember watching the game and thinking there’s no way Griffin should have been playing. He was limping around and trying to pass the ball without any lower body strength to let him put his body behind his throws. And it was only a matter of time before he was hurt seriously.
It was later revealed that he completely tore his LCL, ACL and a torn meniscus. Needless to say, these injuries coupled with poor, play finally saw him benched permanently. In fact, he didn’t even play in 2015.
The Browns are hoping that the year riding the bench has allowed Griffin to fully recover and for him to return to a level approaching his 2012 form.
ESPN’s Tony Grossi spoke to PFT Live and said: “He looks physically like the old Robert Griffin in that he’s moving great, he can zing the ball pretty well but that’s just the first step. So I guess the positive is that he looks very healthy and we’ll have to see when they go to camp July 29th is if he’s really taken advantage of the minicamp season and learned the offense because he has been underwhelming.”
The jury is out on Griffin but he’s in a place that has had a dearth of good quarterback play and the NFL loves a comeback. Griffin can develop as a pocket passer and will get a get help from new coach Hue Jackson, who is renowned for getting the best from his quarterbacks.
The 26-year-old certainly has the arm strength and physical skills that will allow him to succeed. If first round wide receiver Corey Coleman can produce a decent rookie season and Josh Gordon is reinstated (and stays clean), then we could witness the revival of Griffin’s career.
In the third round of the 2016 NFL draft, the Cleveland Browns picked up Cody Kessler. Kessler was a three-year starter who reminds me of Kansas Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. Although at 6’1, he’s 3 inches shorter than Smith.
Like Smith, he doesn’t have a cannon for an arm and doesn’t turn the ball over, preferring high percentage throws to move the chains and has a career completion percentage at 67.5.
I’m a huge advocate of not throwing a quarterback to the wolves so to speak and the best hope for Kessler and the Browns long-term may be to learn behind Griffin and possibly last year’s starter, Josh McCown. I’d hope that Kessler does enough to beat out McCown, who didn’t look like he could beat anyone at certain points last season, but he’ll need to have a lights out summer.
McCown was the starting quarterback for the Browns in 2015 and when healthy, was nothing special. The journeyman quarterback has played for seven teams in his 13 year NFL career and there’s a reason for this.
Watching him play last year, it’s clear why Jackson decided that he needed to bring in a difference maker. McCown took too many sacks (23 in 8 games) and never looked like a playmaker. As a backup Josh McCown may be a reasonable proposition but he’s just not a starting quarterback.
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