There are two trains of thought when it comes to the Browns offensive struggles last season. One side believes it’s because the WRs were too young and inconsistent—while the counter-argument is that poor overall QB play was the main reason.
Looking over the numbers, it’s clear that at least part of the blame has to go to the QBs.
Now more than ever the Browns need a veteran QB who knows what he’s doing behind center—even if it’s only for a couple of years. This will give the coaching staff and front office a better understanding of where the team stands at the WR and TE positions, and how the offense functions with better quarterback play.
One of the best options on the market right now might be Chad Pennington.
He owns the highest completion percentage in NFL history at 66.1 percent. If it’s accuracy the Browns are looking for, then he’s the best option available right now. He has been accused of having a weak arm, but it’s difficult to state that as a fact when he’s put up the kind of numbers he has—including as recently as 2008.
If there’s no problems with his shoulder, 66.1 percent is music to the ears.
Combining a QB with a great career completion percentage and a solid TD-INT ratio with a dangerous running game is simply a recipe for offensive success. Weak-armed or not, the Browns need someone who can sustain drives and keep the defense off the field. If it’s five yards at a time—so be it.
He also won the Draddy Award while playing at Marshall. The Browns could have the 1999 Draddy Award winning QB taking snaps from Alex Mack—the 2008 Draddy Award winning center. That’s a very smart duo with Mack making the line calls and Pennington running the show for the skill position players.
There’s something about such a combination that could be very comforting for Browns coaches and fans alike.
Making a full recovery from a rotator cuff tear in his throwing shoulder, Pennington won the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year Award playing all 16 games in 2006. In the end, the Jets decided to part ways with Pennington to make room for Brett Favre. He had more than a few interested suitors—but Miami was able to lure him in where he went on to win the award again in 2008 while finishing second in the MVP voting.
He had 3,653 yards passing, 19 TDs, and only 7 INTs leading the Dolphins to an 11-5 record, an AFC East crown, and a birth in the playoffs. This was also after Miami finished 1-15 the prior season.
This is an eerily similar situation for both Pennington and the Browns in 2010.
Some might say that 33 is too old for a QB in the NFL. Although it’s certainly not a young age, just remember that Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, and Matt Hasselbeck are all 33 or older. Also, Drew Brees is 31 and David Garrard is 32. At ages 38 and 40 respectively, Kurt Warner and Brett Favre performed admirably and were both playing for the Super Bowl.
Age doesn’t appear to be a factor in reference to Chad Pennington whatsoever—especially recently when QB experience has been such a standard for success in the NFL.
It’s not as if Pennington would be entering a bad situation. Possessing a young, improving line and an offense that rushed for over 2,000 yards, the Browns could be an ideal landing spot for this battle-tested veteran QB.
Like in Miami, he will also get a good amount of help from Joshua Cribbs and the option game—so the environment in Cleveland isn’t as bad for a 33-year-old FA QB as one might think.
It’s a bold stance to suggest that Pennington would have a better chance to start anywhere else in 2010. Although, now in his mid-30’s he might just want to play as a backup elsewhere and safely cash his paychecks.
He has always seemed like a tough competitor—so you would be hard-pressed to assume that he wouldn’t want the chance to start because he’s given no indication otherwise at any point in his career.
In ‘06 and ‘07, Pennington played for Eric Mangini and current Browns OC Brian Daboll who was then the Jets’ QB coach, so the familiarity is there. Unless the offensive approach and basic philosophies have changed significantly—there should be little to no learning curve for him if he‘s acquired.
He could potentially step right in and start playing—so the only question is whether or not he actually liked playing for them. Since it seems that Pennington left Mangini and the Jets on good terms —this shouldn’t be a problem.
The best part about obtaining him is the fact that Cleveland won’t have to give up any draft picks or include any players in a trade for his services.
To get someone like Donovan McNabb or Kevin Kolb would likely cost a high draft pick—if not more. It’s possible that the QB position would be solidified for a longer period of time with either one, but the asking price might be too much—especially if someone like Pennington is out there for pennies on the dollar.
If Cleveland wants him all they have to do is offer him a contract. It sounds simple enough…right? It is.
The culminating point is that Pennington won’t be looked at as the future QB in Cleveland. He’ll be a low-risk, quick fill-in until the future of the QB position becomes clearer—and who knows? He might even have a few more good years in him.
For all intents and purposes, a better gauge needs to be established for the rest of the players on offense—otherwise it might be another long season of figuring out where to place the blame.
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