Cleveland Browns need to get off the QB bridge to nowhere

Aug 13, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) in a preseason NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 13, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) in a preseason NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns may believe that Robert Griffin III can be more than a bridge quarterback, but can he help them finally get off that bridge?

The Cleveland Browns have continually swung and missed in a lot of areas since returning to the NFL in 1999.

Most notably and most crucially have been their continued misfortunes in trying to find a franchise quarterback.

The Browns have tried the draft, failing miserably with first-round selections Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and, most spectacularly, Johnny Manziel.

Those failures have led them to continually go in search of a quarterback to be a “bridge” to the future – Jeff Garcia, Trent Dilfer, Jake Delhomme, Jason Campbell, Josh McCown are names Browns fans are familiar with.

Robert Griffin III is the latest name on that list but this time, rather than being a placeholder on the wrong side of 30, the Browns are very cautiously optimistic that Griffin could be different.

“Our plan would be for Robert, if it carries out, to come in, solidify himself and then, if we felt like he’s our answer longer term, to begin working on a longer-term deal,” executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown said over the weekend. “(It is) way premature to be talking about that at this point. He’s got to be able to come in, earn the starting job and then be able to show that he can lead our offense in a manner that’s going to allow us to be successful to compete for this division and ultimately for the Super Bowl.

“He’s a little bit the mirror image of us, where he’s got a chip on his shoulder, there’s a lot of noise about him on the outside, and he’s a tremendous teammate, really passionate about football, wants to learn and get better, wants to be coached hard, wants to be the best he can be. He’s proven that. He’s done it before, but he knows also that he’s proven he’s got a lot of growth left for him to become the consistent player that we need him to be and he wants to be.”

While it is nice that the Browns are keeping their options open in regards to Griffin, it is also just as important that they keep expectations in check.

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The biggest advantage that Griffin has over the veteran quarterbacks the Browns have trotted out over the years is that he is “only 26 years old.” (A fact that Browns Twitter never fails to point out.) He also had the kind of season as a rookie that players like Dilfer, Delhomme and the rest could only dream of.

The problem, of course, is that was in 2012 and for a variety of reasons Griffin has not come close to matching his rookie season.

The Browns have nothing to lose with Griffin this fall, outside of some reasonably priced salary cap space. If he is re-injured or can’t duplicate his rookie success, the Browns have a high draft pick in 2017 to fix the problem. If he is decent, the Browns have enough draft capital in 2017 to fix the problem.

If, on the outside chance he turns back the clock and becomes the player he was in 2012, then that will be a happy problem for the Browns to solve.

The important thing to remember is that Griffin simply being better than the previous quarterbacks does the Browns no good. While you don’t want to see them be a disaster on the field, just being “good enough” doesn’t solve the problem.

All it will do is turn the Browns into a team like the Miami Dolphins, who are currently going through their own situation of having a quarterback who is good but may not be good enough, as Chris Burke points out at

"Ryan Tannehill is not a bad starting quarterback. But is he a good one? Can he ever be great?"

"This is the conundrum facing franchises trapped in a veritable no man’s land at the game’s most important position: They lack a truly “elite” option at QB, but are still better off than those clubs that are unsure of who’ll be taking snaps in 2016. Teams in this murky gray area suffer from the NFL treadmill effect. They are led by quarterbacks who keep their teams running but struggle to ever really go anywhere."

"Quarterbacks like Tannehill."

Tannehill was selected in the same draft as Griffin and the Dolphins may not have any more of an idea about their quarterback situation than the Browns do about their situation.

The Browns may be the team that everyone points to when it comes to needing a quarterback, but a quick look around the league reveals that there are other teams in the same situation, making that bridge to real success a crowded one.

It also means that it is time for the Browns to find the exit to finally get off that bridge.