The Cleveland Browns were once a proud NFL franchise, putting legends like Jim Brown and Otto Graham on the field and exiting seasons with NFL championships. They won eight, to be exact, but by the time the first NFL Super Bowl rolled around, their great players were gone.
Times changed, and even though the Browns had some solid seasons in between 1965 and now, they have mostly been in a downward spiral for the better part of 50 years. That’s especially been the case since they were reborn in Cleveland, years after Art Modell moved them to Baltimore to become the Ravens.
Since then, the Browns have had one 10-win season and have made the playoffs exactly once. During that stretch, starting in 1999, Cleveland has registered two seasons above .500 and has started 24 different quarterbacks under center. Not a single one could stick, and many of them were supposed to be franchise saviors. From Tim Couch to Johnny Manziel, Cleveland has been swinging and missing in the draft and has nothing but losing to show for their efforts.
Still, a loyal fan base can’t help but wonder, could 2016 finally be the year the Browns get it right and get the quarterback that can lead them into the fray? Sitting with the #2 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Browns certainly are in position to take the plunge on another passer, and it may come down to simply deciding between Jared Goff and Carson Wentz.
But what if Cleveland’s answer resides in free agency?
RG3 to Cleveland?
Per reports, the Browns have loosely been connected to trade rumors involving Colin Kaepernick, but the buzz around a potential Robert Griffin III signing is what has grown to be the loudest piece of news.
Cleveland has taken a strong interest in RG3, who just a few years ago was a rookie sensations, led the Washington Redskins to an NFC East division title and a trip to the playoffs. Just like that, he was quickly living up to the billing of a #2 overall draft pick.
Tragedy struck in the playoffs, when Robert Griffin III re-injured his knee and tore his ACL. RG3 was never the same, as he was asked to rush back too quickly from his injury and in the process was never allowed to properly develop his pocket presence and accuracy. RG3 went from a quarterback who could escape a jam with his athleticism to one that suddenly was not the same athlete he once was.
RG3’s injury and rushed rehab led to a complete destruction and before long, he was out of D.C. As bad as it got, there resides serious untapped potential with the former Baylor alum, as RG3 undoubtedly still has plus athleticism, good size, a strong arm and plenty of upside.
Is RG3 the Answer?
The downside is obvious, of course. RG3 has been a locker room distraction and there are concerns about his character, he has a lengthy injury history and he’s proven to be inept in the pocket at times.
But here’s the kicker: Hue Jackson, a brilliant offensive mind that has turned a supposedly pedestrian talent in Andy Dalton into a borderline elite performer under center, is now calling the shots in Cleveland. The Browns, as much as they’re lacking for talent, may finally have the inner core in terms of system and coaching they need to take flight as an offense. More importantly, Jackson could be precisely what RG3 needs to turn his career around.
Cleveland’s dilemma is two-fold. They already have a capable clipboard holder and game-manager in Josh McCown. They also have some quality young depth in Connor Shaw and Austin Davis. If they’re bringing in RG3, it’s more than kicking tires. It has to be because they believe a former #2 overall draft pick still has something to offer and could end up being their franchise passer of the future.
There is serious risk involved with that assumption, however. First, does bringing on RG3 mean the Browns pass on a quarterback with the second pick in this year’s draft? It certainly shouldn’t. RG3 is certainly capable of turning his career around and being the answer the Browns have long been searching for. Unfortunately, the odds may be against it, so Cleveland needs to diversify their eggs and bring another basket into the table. That needs to involve spending that early pick on a quarterback and letting RG3, McCown and whoever they draft duel for the starting gig.
If it ends up being RG3 who saves Ohio, then the quarterback they draft can be traded down the road. There’s also the possibility that RG3 works out, but then gets hurt, as he tends to. In that event, on top of journeyman McCown, the Browns would also have an insurance plan in terms of a franchise answer under center.
One Fell Swoop
This is a layered solution because its a layered problem. The worst part is, it doesn’t just stop at quarterback or a new coach, either. Cleveland still has a headache in Josh Gordon to deal with and they’ve had more talent turnover this off-season than arguably anyone else in the entire league.
That’s by design, however, and by all indications, that’s probably a good thing. Cleveland is changing the culture in Ohio and they’re bringing in fresh blood across the board to make sure they have talented, hard-working football players that want to make the Browns good again.
It’s certainly worth wondering if RG3 is more of a distraction or hindrance than an answer, but that’s why the Browns are vetting him so hard and taking their time. For the first time in a while, Cleveland fans can probably assume the Browns are actually doing their due diligence. And if RG3 is signed as a potential starter, Cleveland might actually be doing it for a good reason.
An RG3 signing is not automatically the answer and wouldn’t push the Browns atop the AFC North right away, but if done right, it could be a huge step in the right direction.