We’ve reached a new record with the Cleveland Browns in terms of the sports talk industry.
Yesterday, we heard hosts and fans discussing the 2016 NFL Draft in terms of what quarterbacks are available, even before one game of the 2015 NFL regular season has been played.
The media and some fans are simply obsessed with the position of quarterback, making it the end all, be all, regarding success of a pro football team.
Isn’t Atlanta’s Matt Ryan a very good NFL QB? The Falcons went 6-10 last season.
New Orleans’ Drew Brees once led the Saints to a Super Bowl title. Yet, his team went 7-9 a year ago.
On the other hand, Andy Dalton has led Cincinnati to the playoffs each of the last three years, and the Bengals went 10-5-1 in 2014.
The Houston Texans used Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallett, and Case Keenum as quarterbacks last season, and that squad went 9-7.
Is having a good quarterback important for a football team? Of course. Does it guarantee success in the NFL? No. Does not having one doom your team to a 3-13 record? It does not.
We have even heard some talk show hosts suggest the Browns should tank the season so they can get their franchise passer in next spring in the draft. Here is a list of QBs taken in the top five picks in the draft over the last 10 years–
2014–Blake Bortles (#3 overall)
2012–Andrew Luck (#1 overall)
2012–Robert Griffin III (#2 overall)
2011–Cam Newton (#1 overall)
2010–Sam Bradford (#1 overall)
2009–Matthew Stafford (#1 overall)
2009–Mark Sanchez (#5 overall)
2008–Matt Ryan (#3 overall)
2007–JaMarcus Russell (#1 overall)
2006–Vince Young (#3 overall)
2005–Alex Smith (#1 overall)
Out of those 11 signal callers, how many would you call an elite player? Certainly, Luck qualifies, and Ryan would certainly be in our list of the top ten quarterbacks in the NFL.
And you can make an argument that Newton and Stafford should be in that group as well.
That means four out of 11, (36%) of passers drafted in the top five become very good players. Not exactly a reason to throw away a season.
Two of these guys (Russell and Young) can be considered out-and-out busts, while Smith and Sanchez would probably be placed in the “journeyman” category. Griffin and Bradford have been hampered by injuries throughout their career, and it is too early to evaluate Bortles.
What kills us is the Browns know they need to upgrade the position, but unfortunately, the NFL isn’t going to cancel the season until they do, nor does the team want put its fans through a 2-14 season either.
So, they are trying their best to minimize the amount of influence the quarterback has to the team’s success.
We have documented before that when the Browns get decent play from their QB, they can win football games. That was certainly on display last year, when Brian Hoyer led Cleveland to a 7-4 start, before he started turning the ball over on a regular basis.
We are also not claiming that Josh McCown is going to be the second coming of Johnny Unitas nor that Johnny Manziel will be the next Brees.
If the Browns get lucky, they will get average, decent play out of the position.
However, we aren’t going to obsess about not having Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisburger either.
Slowly but surely, we think the Cleveland Browns are building a very good football team. Their roster is in far better shape than it was three or four years ago.
That should be the story going into this season. As Gene Hackman said in Hoosiers, “we hope you judge us on who we are, rather than who we are not”.