2011 NFL Draft: Cleveland Browns Must Not Draft a Quarterback in the First Round

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2011 NFL Draft: Cleveland Browns Must Not Draft a Quarterback in the First Round
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Colt McCoy deserves the chance to show he can be a long-term starter for the Browns.

Since the Cleveland Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, some analysts and fans have likened their quarterback situation to a revolving door.

I think that’s misleading.

Why?

A revolving door allows people to go from one point to another and provides a direct pathway to allow someone to reach a specific destination. The Browns’ quarterback situation is far from a revolving door.

The Browns have tried a number of different quarterbacks—sometimes as many as four in a season—and none of them have provided the success and play needed to lead to consistently lead the team back to the playoffs.

I’ve also heard the Browns’ quarterback situation described as a carousel. There’s a lot of movement and spinning on a carousel. Some carousels have a variety of different animals on which people can ride. Some of us who are susceptible to motion sickness actually feel a bit queasy after a ride on a carousel.

No matter how fun or exciting the ride is, however, at the end of every ride on a carousel, every rider winds up in the same exact place at which they started.

I think that’s a much better analogy for the Browns’ quarterback situation.

Without a doubt, there’s been a lot of movement and change at the position over the years. We’ve had quarterbacks of vastly different styles—the scrambling Jeff Garcia, the cannon-armed Spergon Wynn, the gunslinging Derek Anderson, the conservative Brady Quinn, and a variety of other garden-variety passers like Kelly Holcomb, Tim Couch and Trent Dilfer.

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Along the way, the play of these quarterbacks has made many Browns fans feel nauseous. Worst of all, the Browns are still in relatively the same spot that it has been for much of the past few seasons—out of the playoffs with a sputtering passing game.

Clearly, the Browns and their fans have been stuck on a carousel of futility.

Towards the middle of last season, many Browns fans thought that first-year quarterback Colt McCoy was the answer to the Browns’ questions at quarterback. After leading the team to victories over the playoff-bound New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots, as well as coming within seconds of tying the playoff-bound New York Jets, McCoy was well on the way to winning over the Browns’ weary fan base.

However, after returning from an ankle injury, McCoy’s play towards the end of season declined, leaving some fans and analysts with questions about his ability to be a successful full-time starter over the course of a full season.

No other player on the Browns’ roster is a long-term solution for the quarterback position, and no quarterback of note will be a free agent in the offseason. While some decent players such as Kevin Kolb and Donovan McNabb may be available in trades, these players have question marks surrounding their play as well. Thus, the Browns may be forced to utilize the draft if they are indeed truly seeking the quarterback of the future.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Browns fans should hope that Mike Holmgren is only watching Newton's workouts to see how much leverage he can get in a trade.

After leading Auburn to an undefeated season and a national championship, Cam Newton thrust himself into the upper echelon of quarterbacks that will be available in the upcoming NFL Draft. Cleveland Browns President Mike Holmgren has stated in The Plain Dealer that he is “looking hard” at Newton.

The Plain Dealer also reported that the Browns are looking at Blaine Gabbert, another top-ranked quarterback from the University of Missouri.

Although The Plain Dealer characterized Holmgren’s statements as the byproduct of the Browns simply engaging in due diligence with regards to highly-ranked players, the Browns’ open interest in other quarterbacks has to be disconcerting to fans who believe that McCoy should be given the chance to prove himself as a starter over the course of a full season.

Perhaps Mike Holmgren is simply playing his cards very close to his chest, and the Browns’ open interest in other quarterbacks is merely a way to affect other teams’ draft strategy and perhaps acquire other draft picks and players from teams seeking to trade up in the draft. The Browns successfully used this strategy in 2009 when they acquired several players and picks from the Jets, who sought to trade up to acquire Mark Sanchez.

Another possibility is that the Browns plan to draft Newton and trade him to another team. Yet another possibility is that the Browns’ braintrust truly is not sold on McCoy and would like to acquire another quarterback.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Blaine Gabbert

While only Holmgren and those in the Browns’ front office and coaching staff truly know the Browns’ intentions, one fact is certain: Drafting a quarterback with the first-round pick would be a tremendous misstep for the Browns.

Firstly, Colt McCoy has the physical tools to be successful in Pat Shurmur’s West Coast offense. This type of offense doesn’t require a quarterback with a big arm who can chuck the ball downfield even in the worst of weather. McCoy’s not that type of quarterback. The West Coast offense requires an intelligent quarterback who can think quickly and make short, accurate passes. McCoy fits this description almost perfectly.

How would a rookie quarterback with no experience facing the Steelers’ fearsome blitz react when forced to make quick decisions? They’d either do their best Derek Anderson impression and throw an interception or do their best Charlie Frye impression and get sacked.

Secondly, McCoy is a tough leader who takes the game seriously. After Holmgren sounded like a broken record in the offseason claiming that McCoy wouldn’t play this past season, Holmgren was forced to eat his words after injuries forced McCoy into the starting lineup in the sixth week of the season.

McCoy faced a gauntlet of teams during his first four starts—the Steelers, the Saints, the Patriots and the Jets. He handled the fearsome blitzes and complicated defensive schemes thrown at him by those teams with a veteran’s poise. McCoy won’t pull a Tim Couch and cry when things go rough. McCoy’s solid performance wouldn’t have occurred if he hadn’t prepared and stayed focused each week in a season when few expected him to see the field.

Thirdly, the Browns have glaring needs at many other positions. Many of the Browns’ defensive stalwarts from the Mangini era are gone, and the team needs young talent on the defensive side of the ball. If the Browns truly want to improve the offense, they should draft a wide receiver. The Browns have a great collection of possession receivers, but no game-breaking threats that can stretch the field.

Simply put, drafting another quarterback would be a giant step in the wrong direction for the Browns. The Browns have suffered through quarterback controversies under their three previous coaches that divided the city and the team. None of these controversies had a positive ending, and none of the quarterbacks who won the controversies had any level of long-term success.

History can and will repeat itself if the Browns give up on Colt McCoy and draft another quarterback with their first round pick, and the Browns and their fans will continue to be stuck on a carousel of futility.

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