Is the AFC North worried about RG3 on the Cleveland Browns?
By Thomas Moore
The Cleveland Browns have a new quarterback in town, but is he one that can strike fear in the hearts of their division rivals?
The Cleveland Browns made headlines on Thursday – and mostly positive ones at that – by singing free agent quarterback Robert Griffin III to a two-year contract.
If healthy – a big if – and if he can play near the level he did in 2012 when he was the NFL’s Rookie of the Year – perhaps an even bigger if – Griffin has the opportunity to easily become the most talented and most successful Browns’ quarterback since the team returned to the NFL in 1999.
To achieve that success, however, Griffin is going to have to accomplish something that has vexed Cleveland quarterbacks from Tim Couch to Josh McCown – he’s going to have to figure out how to win in the AFC North Division. Since returning to the NFL, the Browns are:
- 12-22 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and have lost 11 of the past 15 meetings
- 9-25 against the Baltimore Ravens, and have lost 14 of the past 16 meetings
- 6-29 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and have lost 22 of the past 25 meetings
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Add it all up and the Browns are just 27-76 (a .262 winning percentage; perhaps an acceptable batting average if you are an outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, but not a good number for success in the NFL).
So before we can even talk about Griffin helping to lead the Browns to their first playoff appearance since 2002, let alone their first playoff win since 1994 or first title game win since 1964, he needs to figure out how to survive and compete in the league’s toughest division.
The Griffin signing created a buzz in Cleveland, which got us wondering if the move sent a corresponding chill in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. So we reached out to the other FanSided sites in the division to find out if the thought of facing Griffin twice a year in Cleveland is something that will keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night. Starting in reverse order of the divisional standings, here is what they have to say.
First up, Chris Schisler, editor at Ebony Bird:
"The deal with RG3 is that we know who he is. He can’t read defenses. He can’t be a pocket passer. If you build the entire offense around him, it can work. The problem is when you want to add elements to the offense, Griffin is not taking that step forward. He can make plays out of the pocket. He can sling it. But until he shows us that he can do the other stuff, the Ravens won’t be afraid of him. The Ravens are focusing on defense right now."
"Honestly, there is a part of me that hopes it works out. Browns fans deserve it to finally go your way. But if Griffin was a franchise-changing quarterback, he’d still be playing in the nation’s capitol."
"The bottom line is that Griffin has talent; but you have to let him do his thing. That does not always work in the NFL."
Next, we hear from Kim Myers, editor at Still Curtain:
"I think the question of what role RG3 will play for the Browns will be the most obvious question for anyone. If they plan to start Griffin then what do they plan to do with the No. 2 overall draft pick? However that situation plays out will determine how the Steelers and the other AFC North opponents react."
"If Griffin is the starter Week 1 for the Browns, then there’s not a whole lot of reason for the defensive coaches to be up at night worrying about a quarterback that hasn’t played a regular season snap in over a year. It’s true that the Steelers have had trouble against mobile quarterbacks, but whether the Browns start Griffin or a rookie quarterback they’ve lost a lot of other weapons this offseason."
"The only team to allow more sacks last season than the Browns were the Titans, and after losing center Alex Mack and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz to free agency their offensive line won’t exactly be a strength of the team this season."
"The Browns are again in a rebuilding period and head coach Hue Jackson isn’t going to turn it around in one off-season and with one signing. Should be interesting to watch how this one plays out though, that’s for sure."
Finally, we check in with Dylan Testin, co-editor at Stripe Hype:
"Absolutely, as RG3 still has the capability to be a playmaker."
"A lot of people wrote him off because of the Washington, D.C., debacle, but he is still the guy who won the Rookie of the Year and threw for 20 touchdowns, while posting a 102.4 quarterback rating (still a rookie record)in 2012. As good as his arm is, his legs may still be his biggest threat to defenses; not a lot of quarterbacks post 4.4 40 times."
"He was mistreated in Washington, and didn’t receive the credit he deserved. The league is going to see a re-emergence of RG3 and plenty of people will be jumping back on the bandwagon."
Thanks, as always to Chris, Kim and Dylan for their interesting perspectives.