Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks: Revisiting Every Starting QB Since Tim Couch
The Cleveland Browns used the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft on Baker Mayfield, and the franchise hopes the Oklahoma quarterback will ultimately end an inglorious trend that dates back to Tim Couch and 1999.
During that draft, the team—which had been inactive for three years—picked Couch No. 1 overall. Since then, however, the Browns have used Couch and 28 other players as starting quarterbacks.
It should come as no surprise that throughout the last 19 seasons, Cleveland has mustered only 88 wins.
We're looking back at all 29 signal-callers who've come and gone, broken down by the eight head coaches who have traveled through the Browns' facility.
Chris Palmer Era (1999-2000)
Tim Couch (21 starts, 1999-2000)
After the Pittsburgh Steelers obliterated Cleveland 43-0 in the 1999 opener, Chris Palmer turned to rookie Tim Couch. The Kentucky product had a rude welcoming to the NFL, taking a league-high 56 sacks. He started 14 games in '99 and seven in 2000 before a thumb injury ended his year and led to Palmer's dismissal. Couch was 4-17 as a starter.
Doug Pederson (8 starts, 2000)
Now a Super Bowl-winning coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, Doug Pederson was a two-time injury replacement in 2000. Cleveland signed him after Ty Detmer's season-ending Achilles tear, then Pederson stepped in for Couch. Pederson tossed two touchdowns and eight interceptions; Cleveland went 1-7 when he started.
Ty Detmer (2 starts, 1999)
The journeyman started the first and last games of the franchise's return season in 1999, and Cleveland lost both contests. Detmer's Achilles rupture in 2000 ended his Browns tenure.
Spergon Wynn (1 start, 2000)
A sixth-round pick in 2000—and the last quarterback chosen before Tom Brady—Spergon Wynn completed five of 16 passes for 17 yards in a 48-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Butch Davis Era (2001-04)
Tim Couch (38 starts, 2001-03)
Slowly and steadily, the once-promising quarterback faded. Couch sparked hope with a 7-9 campaign in 2001 and followed that up with an 8-6 record in 2002, but a broken leg in the regular-season finale opened the door for Kelly Holcomb. Couch went 3-5 in his final year with the Browns and finished his career 22-37 at the helm.
Kelly Holcomb (12 starts, 2002-04)
Scattered throughout three years, Kelly Holcomb opened 12 games and one playoff contest. He mustered a 4-8 regular-season record and presided over a 36-33 loss to Pittsburgh in the 2003 Wild Card Round. Holcomb tallied 26 touchdowns and 21 picks.
Jeff Garcia (10 starts, 2004)
After being jettisoned from the San Francisco 49ers—and an offseason arrest—Jeff Garcia had a rough 10-game stint in 2004. He averaged just 6.9 yards per attempt, going 3-7 with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Cleveland released him after the campaign.
Luke McCown (4 starts, 2004)
The first McCown to join the Factory of Sadness, Luke was a fourth-round pick of the Browns in 2004. Following the resignation of Butch Davis before Game 12, interim coach Terry Robiskie tabbed McCown as the starter for the next four contests. He lost all four, and Cleveland traded him during the ensuing offseason.
Romeo Crennel Era (2005-08)
Derek Anderson (27 starts, 2006-08)
In the 19 seasons since the Browns resumed operations, Derek Anderson is the only QB who amassed a 10-win campaign. That happened in 2007 when he threw 29 scores and made the Pro Bowl, though Cleveland missed the postseason due to a tiebreaker. But in the years sandwiching 2007, Anderson trudged to a combined 3-9 mark.
Charlie Frye (19 starts, 2005-07)
The team's third-round pick in 2005, Charlie Frye never had a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio in three seasons with Cleveland. Prior to getting traded in 2008, Frye posted 6.2 yards per attempt with 18 total touchdowns (four rushing) and 23 interceptions.
Trent Dilfer (11 starts, 2005)
Five years removed from winning a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, Trent Dilfer tried to resurrect his career in Cleveland. Didn't work. His 4-7 record in 2005 contributed to a 6-10 finish during Romeo Crennel's debut as a head coach.
Brady Quinn (3 starts, 2008)
The Browns chose Brady Quinn No. 22 overall in the 2007 draft. He broke into the lineup midway through 2008 and went 1-2, but a finger injury derailed his hopes of becoming the full-time starter.
Ken Dorsey (3 starts, 2008)
One of the winningest quarterbacks in college football history, Ken Dorsey's success at Miami did not translate to the NFL. He replaced Quinn following the finger surgery, and Dorsey proceeded to throw zero touchdowns and six interceptions before an injury of his own ended his 2008 season.
Bruce Gradkowski (1 start, 2008)
Bruce Gradkowski opened the final outing of Crennel's tenure. The Toledo product narrowly outdid Wynn's disaster of a start, ending a 31-0 loss to Pittsburgh 5-of-16 for 18 yards and two picks.
Eric Mangini Era (2009-10)
Brady Quinn (9 starts, 2009)
Quinn recovered from his surgery, initially won the quarterback competition, lost his job and took it back before a foot injury ended his year. Quinn, who Cleveland then traded during the offseason, went 2-7 as a starter in 2009 and 3-9 overall.
Derek Anderson (7 starts, 2009)
First-year coach Eric Mangini alternated between Quinn and Anderson, and a three-touchdown, 10-pick showing in 2009 spelled the end of Anderson's tenure. He finished 16-18 in 34 total starts.
Colt McCoy (8 starts, 2010)
The departures of Quinn and Anderson opened the door for 2010 third-round pick Colt McCoy. The Texas star entered the starting lineup in Week 6 and opened eight games—though an ankle injury separated that into Games 6-10 and 14-16. McCoy registered six scores and nine interceptions with a 2-6 record.
Jake Delhomme (4 starts, 2010)
After a seven-year stint with the Carolina Panthers, Jake Delhomme headed to Cleveland and edged Seneca Wallace for the 2010 starting job. However, a high ankle sprain in the season opener relegated Delhomme to the bench. He replaced an injured McCoy in Games 11-13 and finished 2-2 at the helm.
Seneca Wallace (4 starts, 2010)
Wallace replaced Delhomme, but a high ankle sprain also relegated him to the sideline. The Browns were 1-3 in 2010 with Wallace, who had four touchdowns and two interceptions that season.
Pat Shurmur Era (2011-12)
Colt McCoy (13 starts, 2011)
McCoy brought a little stability to the Browns in 2011, starting every game until a concussion in Game 13 ended his year. Stability does not always generate success, however; McCoy was 4-9.
Seneca Wallace (3 starts, 2011)
Following the season-ending concussion to McCoy, Wallace took over and wrapped up the campaign. He proceeded to lose all three games despite Cleveland surrendering no more than 20 points defensively.
Brandon Weeden (15 starts, 2012)
The No. 22 pick of the 2012 draft, Brandon Weeden immediately snatched the starting job. Fifteen games and a 5-10 record later, the Oklahoma State product had 14 touchdowns and 17 picks.
Thad Lewis (1 start, 2012)
Shoulder injuries to both Weeden and then-backup McCoy allowed Lewis to command the huddle during the regular-season finale. The Browns fell to Pittsburgh 24-10.
Rob Chudzinski Era (2013)
Jason Campbell (8 starts)
Signed during the 2013 offseason as a free agent, Jason Campbell started from Games 8-16, except for Game 12. He collected 11 touchdowns compared to eight interceptions, but the Browns were 1-7 in his starts.
Brandon Weeden (5 starts)
It was a complicated year for Weeden, who bounced in and out of the lineup three times. None of those forays proved successful, as Cleveland went 0-5 with Weeden as the starter.
Brian Hoyer (3 starts)
Brian Hoyer provided a brief glimmer of hope with five touchdowns and two victories over a two-week span in September, but a torn ACL put the veteran on the shelf for the remainder of 2013.
Mike Pettine Era (2014-15)
Brian Hoyer (13 starts, 2014)
Hoyer recovered from his knee injury and earned the starting nod in 2014. He helped the Browns open the campaign 6-3, but a four-game stretch where Hoyer had one touchdown and eight interceptions led to his benching. He managed a 7-6 record.
Johnny Manziel (8 starts, 2014-15)
Cleveland chose Johnny Manziel with the No. 22 pick of the 2014 draft. The Texas A&M standout lost both starts as a rookie—including one injury-shortened game—and went 2-4 in scattered starts the following year. The team released Manziel the next offseason, though he remains the winningest Browns quarterback since 2015.
Josh McCown (8 starts, 2015)
Eleven years after his brother Luke suited up for Cleveland, Josh McCown began his two-season tenure. A concussion and constantly shifting decisions separated his starts into three sections. Despite a 12-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, though, the Browns were 1-7 with McCown in 2015.
Austin Davis (2 starts, 2015)
Austin Davis made two spot starts as the injury replacement for McCown and then Manziel. Davis threw a trio of interceptions and took 10 sacks in a couple of losses.
Connor Shaw (1 start, 2014)
The only appearance of Connor Shaw's NFL career happened in the 2014 regular-season finale. He posted a 14-of-28 line with 177 yards and one interception in a 20-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Hue Jackson Era (2016-Present)
Cody Kessler (8 starts, 2016)
Hue Jackson's hand-picked third-round choice in 2016 didn't pan out. Cody Kessler opened Games 3-11—except for No. 8—as the injury replacement's replacement and lost all eight starts, as the offense scored 17 points or fewer five times.
Robert Griffin III (5 starts, 2016)
Entering the 2018 campaign, Robert Griffin III is the most recent Browns quarterback to win a game. It happened against the San Diego Chargers in the second-to-last contest of 2016. Griffin otherwise finished 0-4, but he's the answer to a gross trivia question.
Josh McCown (3 starts, 2016)
McCown stepped into the lineup after a broken bone in Griffin's shoulder temporarily sidelined him. The next week, McCown fractured his collarbone in a loss to Baltimore. He healed and later started twice more—and the Browns dropped both outings.
DeShone Kizer (15 starts, 2017)
A second-round draft pick in 2017, DeShone Kizer spent his rookie season looking over his shoulder waiting for Jackson to insert a backup. Between poor decisions and shattered confidence, Kizer threw 11 touchdowns and 22 picks. He failed to win a game in 15 starts and was traded to the Green Bay Packers.
Kevin Hogan (1 start, 2017)
After entering three games in relief, Kevin Hogan opened the sixth game of 2017. His final line read 20-of-37 for 140 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions.
What Could Be Coming
Perhaps the 30th—or 31st—time will be the charm.
Although the selection wasn't met with universal praise, the Oklahoma product put together a remarkable college career. He twice set Football Bowl Subdivision records in efficiency, tallying a 198.92 rating as a senior. Mayfield tossed 43 touchdowns to only six interceptions.
Jackson has wavered between quarterbacks throughout his tenure, so making any assumption about 2018 is dangerous. But the hope for Browns fans is Mayfield quickly overtakes Taylor and turns around the long-suffering franchise.