Evaluating the Cleveland Browns’ Quarterback Dilemma

The Cleveland Browns have been a pathetic excuse for a football team for the entirety of the 21st century. The organization has viciously cycled through 29 different starting quarterbacks since 1999, the most of any team in the NFL by far. It is not a coincidence that the Browns have not made the playoffs in 16 years. But, for the first time in what seems like forever, I can seriously say that the Browns have a shot at ending their playoff drought this season, and it all starts with the quarterbacks.

There are an endless amount of insults that can be thrown the Browns’ way – making fun of a team that has won just one game over the past two seasons is almost too easy – but I can say without any shame that Cleveland is allergic to good quarterbacks. That is why it is so weird that there is not one, but two capable quarterbacks on the team’s roster right now.

Let’s start with the obvious: Baker Mayfield. The first overall pick of the 2018 draft looks like he could be the quarterback of the future for the Browns. Mayfield has the attitude, accuracy and brains to be an NFL starter, but nobody is going to be considered legitimate until they prove it.

He has shades of former Browns’ quarter- back Johnny Manziel’s cockiness and a tendency to rely too much on his legs. There is, however, no questioning Mayfield’s commitment to football, which was Manziel’s biggest red flag. The sky is the limit for the reigning Heisman winner, but he is not yet ready to take on the full demands of being a starting NFL quarterback. Throwing him in that role too soon could potentially stunt Mayfield’s growth, adding his name to the graveyard of failed Browns quarterbacks, and push the franchise’s window of opportunity back an- other few seasons.

Enter Tyrod Taylor.

Taylor, the Browns’ current unquestioned starter, is a valuable player. Brought in this offseason from the Buffalo Bills, Taylor is on a one-year contract, meaning he is meant to serve as a stopgap starter for the team until Mayfield is ready to take over the job. He has nowhere near the potential of Mayfield and will probably never lead a team to the Super Bowl, but he can win games, which is more than I can say about any Browns quarterback since the 1990s. Taylor is solid yet unspectacular.

He does not have the big-play ability that Mayfield does, but he is excellent at taking care of the football, with just 19 career interceptions against 52 touchdowns. He is just the player the inexperienced Browns need, a quarterback who at least will not be detrimental to the success of the team. Taylor also has valuable experience, which is his biggest edge over Baker Mayfield. It was Taylor who led the Buffalo Bills to their first playoff appearance in 17 years just last season. Still, the Bills let him go.

The Browns should not take this opportunity for success lightly. They owe it to their fans to at least resemble a professional football team this season. If they win six this season, I would consider it a successful campaign. But, being the Browns, they also have an opportunity to fail spectacularly. Coach Hue Jackson needs to avoid the pit- falls that have enticed Browns coaches in the past, especially when it comes to their rookie signal caller.

Nevertheless, the Browns will inevitably lose games this season, and with the first overall pick waiting in the wings, fans are going to call for Mayfield to replace Taylor as the starting quarterback. Mayfield will take over the starting job at some point, but Jackson must avoid making the mistake of putting him in too soon.

Forcing the underprepared rookie into a tough situation will stunt his development. Instead, Jackson should allow him to sit and learn behind Taylor this year. Taylor is a veteran who has shown he’s capable of leading a team to the playoffs, and Mayfield can learn by sitting behind him watching, rather than being thrown to the wolves.

Far too many young Browns quarterbacks have been shoved into games underprepared, leading to injuries, deterioration of technique and a damaged confidence. The Browns aren’t great at drafting good quarterbacks, but they’re even worse at allowing rookies to develop and mature. Allowing Tyrod Taylor to be the starter for the entirety of the 2018 season, no matter how much the team struggles, is the best option for the Browns to succeed in the future. In order to allow Baker Mayfield to mature into the quarterback of the future, and for the Browns to finally break out of their decades long slump, they have to be patient.

Contact Kingston Perry at [email protected].