As a follower of the Cleveland Browns since the mid 1960’s, we are acutely aware that it has been a long time since the team had a solid quarterback.
We are all aware of the great Otto Graham in the 50’s, and Frank Ryan was at the helm for the last Browns’ championship. Ryan was acquired in a trade with the Rams, and took the Browns to the playoffs for the next few years.
He was followed by Bill Nelsen, picked up in a trade with the Steelers, of all teams, and Nelsen led the Browns to two NFC title games in 1968 and 1969, albeit on rickety knees.
Needing a replacement for Nelsen, Cleveland made the ill fated trade for Mike Phipps, dealing Hall of Fame WR Paul Warfield, and you can make the argument that deal signaled the end of the halcyon days for the franchise.
Since then, there were a few seasons of greatness from Brian Sipe, including one MVP season in 1980, and then Bernie Kosar arrived and so did three losses in the AFC championship game that will be remembered forever.
However, besides quarterback, there is another thing the Browns haven’t had even dating back to the mid sixties, and that is an elite pass rusher, someone opponents have had to game plan against.
Sure, there have been single years or maybe two straight years where Cleveland has had a guy who can get to the quarterback, but they’ve never had that “guy”.
There was Jack Gregory for a year or two, and the trade in 1980 for Lyle Alzado. Later in the 80’s, Cleveland drafted Chip Banks, who had a troubled career here until he couldn’t get along with Marty Schottenheimer, who traded him to San Diego.
Courtney Brown was supposed to be that guy when he was the first overall pick in 2000, but his knees wouldn’t allow it. Paul Kruger had one year (2014) where he had 11 sacks, but that was an aberration.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a guy you can depend on for 10 sacks every year?
That guy could be Myles Garrett. Many of the draft gurus have compared him to Julius Peppers, and if he could be that, we’ll sign up right now.
Look at the Browns’ all-time sack leaders. Clay Matthews is the leader with 62, but those were accumulated over 15 seasons. Matthews should be enshrined in Canton, but he wasn’t known as a pass rusher.
The others in the top five are Michael Dean Perry (a nose tackle), Rob Burnett, Carl Hairston, and Reggie Camp. The latter three were solid defensive ends, but weren’t players opponents were planning against.
Let’s go back to Peppers, who has accumulated 143.5 sacks in his career. That’s more than double Matthews club record. If Garrett can get half of that total if he is drafted by Cleveland, he would be the new record holder.
So, while we get the “quarterback hysteria”, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who can put pressure on the other team’s passer?
As former Browns GM Ernie Accorsi once said, the two most important players in the NFL are the quarterback, and someone who can get to the other team’s quarterback.