A Cleveland Browns podcast

Browns may be making a QB problem into a crisis

As Mr. Hennis, the history teacher at Berea High used to say, “Those who cannot remember 10th Grade History are condemned to repeat it,” and that could be applied to the Cleveland Browns and their quarterback situation. What is so hard about training an extra quarterback on the practice squad, just in case? We saw this play out for the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs, not in the Middle Ages, but only last year, when they brought only two quarterbacks into the playoffs and both got injured. That team was so good that they might have been able to get past the Philadelphia Eagles and earn a trip to the Super Bowl, but after rookie (seventh round pick no less!) Brock Purdy rent-a-Qb Josh Johnson went down with injuries, they could not field a credible offense, and they were forced to send Purdy out with an injured arm that would require surgery. Stupid! It bears mention that they had lost The Franchise, Trey Lance, for whom they had traded three first round draft picks, just like the Browns did. That did not kill the 49ers, either, did it? So really, a fifth string quarterback could have meant a Super Bowl for the 49ers, but they did not think that far ahead.

So that brings us to our Cleveland Browns, who simply forgot to sign a quarterback to the practice squad, even though there were warning signs that their Top Dawg, Deshaun Watson, might have some physical issues. Readers of this space are no doubt aware that this writer has consistently advocated that the Browns—all teams, really—should seek to be a Quarterback Factory. In today’s NFL, there needs to be three competent quarterbacks on the 53 player roster, and at least one more on the Practice Squad. Come on, this is a no-brainer. With 16 spots on the Practice Squad, why can’t our team find a spot for the most important position on the team?

Once again, this is a dubious fixation on the so-called Franchise Quarterback. If he’s not getting paid 50 million dollars, does that mean he is of no use? I don’t know, ask Brock Purdy that question. He was the last man drafted, and he is doing all right. The Browns are not an offensive juggernaut, anyway. They are a defensive team at this point. They can win with a quarterback of modest skill.

Look, your first string quarterback goes down, the second string takes his place. Many teams face that problem, and it is not unheard of to win a Super Bowl with a backup. Nick Foles, Kurt Warner, Tom Brady (don’t forget that Drew Bledsoe was the highly paid veteran starter and Brady was a low-life sixth round backup the first time the Patriots won it), Trent Dilfer, and Jeff Hostetler have all done it. Needless to say, football is not about ever giving up, let alone with a 6-3 record. No one in the Dawg Pound should need to be lectured on that point.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson and P.J. Walker both have a puncher’s chance to lead the team to the playoffs. However, what if they get injured? Well, there should have been another quarterback getting trained up in the basics of the Browns playbook. They should be running a few drills in practice with Cleveland Browns players. Even if they wind up getting signed by another team, that’s not a disaster. Go sign another player. You never know when a quarterback might pop up as a free agent and at that time he will be a known commodity. The point is, the Browns should be preparing some quarterback on the practice squad at all times for just this situation, but they failed to do so. Overconfidence, thy name is Cleveland!

At the moment, the pickings are very lean. First of all, you are not signing Matty Ryan to be a backup quarterback, so forget about that. Deshaun is coming back at some point and he is still the number one. We are talking about contingencies. The Browns never prepare, preferring to live in denial and wait until it becomes a crisis. The Browns could not re-acquire Joshua Dobbs at the trade deadline without cutting either Walker or DTR, and perhaps they did not feel Dobbs was enough of an upgrade. Former training camp wonder Kyle Lauletta is available, but did not star at the USFL level. Garrett Gilbert played for the 2020 Browns team (under Stefanski), then went to Dallas and almost beat the Steelers. Then he started one game for Washington with one week of preparation in the 2021 Covid year, and was ahead in the first half before succumbing to Philadelphia 27-17. He has very low mileage, but a lifetime completion percentage of 57.4% as a career number three, much like Joshua Dobbs. You can complain that he is 32 years old, but so what? That is nothing for a quarterback. So sign him, unless you have a better idea.

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Podcast Transcript

The Browns have lost their first string quarterback, Deshaun Watson.  Well, that happens.  It happened to the 49ers last season. What killed the 49ers’ Super Bowl chances was not having a fourth string quarterback available in the NFC Championship game versus Philadelphia, when undefeated seventh round pick Brock Purdy went down and there was no replacement.  So let’s not give up automatically just because our top guy is unavailable for a while. However, what really sucks is that the Browns have not bothered to have an extra backup on the practice squad, even though they knew that Watson was struggling with shoulder issues. That, dear friends, was simply stupid.  What if the Browns make it to the playoffs and then run out of quarterbacks like San Francisco did?


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