With Playoff Hopes Dashed, Cleveland Browns Must Look Ahead to 2014 QB Class

Will Burge@WillBurgeContributor IDecember 1, 2013

Oct 26, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; Fresno State Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr (4) celebrates following a 35-28 win in overtime against the San Diego State Aztecs at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Sometimes, you just have to cut your losses and focus on the positives in a bad situation. This is the point the Cleveland Browns have reached in the 2013 season. After their third straight embarrassing loss, this time to the terrible Jacksonville Jaguars, it is now time to focus on next year’s draft.

Browns fans know this feeling all too well. It seems that every year when December football rolls around so does draft talk. Who cares that it is still six months away? This is all they have to look forward to.

The only thing meaningful about Browns football this time of year is that losses equal better draft picks. For once, maybe, the Browns have picked a good year to be awful.

Football fans are familiar with the crop of college quarterbacks who will be or may be available. There is Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Fresno State’s Derek Carr and many more.

If this crop is as good and deep as the experts are saying, then the Browns are actually headed in the right direction for once in December.

Usually, there is still debate about the quarterback on the Browns roster. Does Brady Quinn deserve another year? Did Colt McCoy have the weapons around him to actually succeed?

This season, there is no debate. The Browns seem to be one elite quarterback away from being an actual competitive football team.

They have a young and potentially dominant defense. They have a wide receiver in Josh Gordon who is proving that he may be among the best in the NFL. They have a young head coach in Rob Chudzinski and an experienced offensive coordinator in Norv Turner who want to let the quarterback fling the ball.

Nov 30, 2013; Columbia, MO, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) rolls to the outside against the Missouri Tigers during the second half at Faurot Field. Missouri defeated Texas A&M 28-21. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

And unlike years past, the Browns have a high enough pick to get one of the big boys making the jump to the professional ranks. They currently hold the seventh pick in the 2014 NFL draft, and that could improve depending on what Washington does against the New York Giants on Sunday night.

Even if they don’t hold a top-five pick in the draft, they still have plenty of ammo to move up to get the guy they want. They currently have extra first-, third- and fourth-round draft picks.

There will be trade partners above them too. The Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville and the Houston Texans will all be in the market for a quarterback. St. Louis (who owns Washington's pick), the Atlanta Falcons and possibly the Tampa Bay Buccaneers already have their guy and might be willing to deal for the right price.

Two first-round picks to move down a few spots and still get the player they want is a pretty sweet deal for teams like Atlanta and Washington that could be back in contention next season. And why can they bounce right back? Because they already have their quarterback.

Then again, the Browns may not even need to trade up. After their loss to the Jaguars, every game on the schedule looks like a game the Browns will drop.

Can they win in Foxborough against the mighty New England Patriots next week? Not likely. Will they beat the Chicago Bears if Jay Cutler returns as their quarterback? Probably not. Does anyone envision a scenario where the Browns beat their big brother, the Pittsburgh Steelers, on the road to finish the season? I know I can’t.

That just leaves the New York Jets, which is also a road game. That one is certainly losable as well.

The Browns have dropped six of their last seven games, and things don’t seem to be making a turn anytime soon.

Nov 23, 2013; Tucson, AZ, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Arizona defeated Oregon 42-16. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I say it is for the best. I would rather see the Browns win, but if they are going to lose, then lose big.

While other regimes have failed to find the quarterback to lead the Browns back to relevance, this regime found two that did in one season. Let’s give them a shot.

Watching losing football is a miserable way to spend a Sunday, but if it results in a top-five draft pick, then maybe it is worth the pain. Sooner or later, the revolving door at quarterback has to stop, right? Probability alone says the Browns are due to make the right selection.

Even if the Browns need to use their other first-round pick to move up and get the guy they want, they still have five picks over the next three rounds to fill other holes. Oh yeah, and that measly $25 million in salary-cap space next offseason.

So while the light at the end of the tunnel is hard to see through the haze and stench of bad football, it does exist.

And just think, even if this regime does swing and miss on the next quarterback, how much worse could it really get?