Browns can win with a rookie QB

For first time in years, Cleveland has environment to support young passer

Updated: February 23, 2014, 12:09 PM ET
By Chris Sprow | ESPN Insider

Josh Gordon, Jordan CameronGetty ImagesJosh Gordon and Jordan Cameron would make life easier for a rookie quarterback.

INDIANAPOLIS -- There's no such thing as a dysfunctional winner. The 1985 Chicago Bears had a head coach and a defensive coordinator who openly hated each other, and would have the offense and defense ride separate buses to games to maintain civility. But they weren't "dysfunctional" -- no, they were quirky, or motivated by all the internal angst.

See, you have to lose to get the dysfunctional label, and the football world has anointed the Cleveland Browns as the current belt-wearing champs. When they dumped Mike Lombardi last week and promoted Ray Farmer to general manager, it marked a 407-day period in which the Browns employed a third different GM to go along with a third different head coach, a Steinbrenner fever dream of turnover.

The overlooked reality, however, is that the quickest route to "dysfunctional" is to lack a franchise QB. Constant change at that position leads to constant change throughout an organization. It's an undisputed fact. And the Browns have been plagued at QB. A reminder:

• By almost any measure, the Browns haven't had what we could call an above-league-average season by a starting QB since 1992. Yes, 1992. The best season in that span is probably Derek Anderson's in 2007.

• Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have started an NFL-high 20 quarterbacks. And in that span of 15 seasons, Cleveland quarterbacks have completed 57.4 percent of passes -- lowest in the league.

• The only NFL team with fewer touchdown passes since 1999 is the Houston Texans (229). And the Texans didn't even exist for three of those years.

Last year we saw more of the same, with injuries playing a role. The Browns started three quarterbacks, the same number Bill Belichick has started during his entire tenure with the Patriots. He arrived there in 2000. When Farmer told us Thursday, "First and foremost I'm looking for a winner [at quarterback]," it almost didn't seem like a trite, throwaway line. It was the opinion of a man who knows his QB will largely dictate whether he keeps his job.

Drafting one should be the plan, and new coach Mike Pettine told us Saturday, "I've already started to have meetings with [my offensive staff], just speaking in general terms of what they're looking for in a quarterback."

The Browns shouldn't just draft a QB at No. 4 overall because of the positional need. They should do it because this is as good a personnel setting to start a young QB as they've had in years, and is certainly one of the more underrated settings in the NFL.


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