Cleveland Browns: QB competition is still ongoing

Jun 7, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) throws a pass as quarterback Josh McCown (13) watches during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 7, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) throws a pass as quarterback Josh McCown (13) watches during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

The Cleveland Browns will have a decision to make with two very capable, yet different quarterbacks on the roster.

Following the release of quarterback Connor Shaw, the Cleveland Browns find themselves entering training camp with four signal-callers on the roster. Although the signing of Robert Griffin III on March 24 led fans to believe that Griffin would start under center, the Browns are leaving all of their options open. According to offensive assistant coach Pep Hamilton, all of the quarterbacks on the Browns’ roster are involved in a “true competition”.

Though it may not seem abnormal for a coaching staff to be somewhat secretive regarding the quarterback position, the hesitance to name a starter extends to behind closed doors. It seems that the coaching staff genuinely wants to consider all four of their remaining options, giving each the opportunities to display characteristics sought after by the coaches.

Last season’s opening day starter, Josh McCown, seems very much in the running for the position. According to reports released by the Browns’ official website, McCown has impressed in his workouts with the team. Still however, head coach Hue Jackson is downplaying his performance, saying that he “would expect Josh to throw the ball as well as he does”. Though this could indicate Jackson’s desire to make Griffin the starter, it is more likely just another means by which the coaching staff wants to keep this competition open.

Hamilton states this more clearly, proving that he is on the same page with the rest of the offensive coaching staff when it comes to the quarterback competition. When asked about McCown, Hamilton praised him, mentioning his credibility, but also stated bluntly that the competition is wide open.

“He is competing with all our other quarterbacks to earn the right to be the starting quarterback”, Hamilton told the media.

Griffin, who appears to be McCown’s most formidable competitor for the starting position, is still trying to get acclimated with Cleveland’s offense. According to coach Jackson, Griffin “looks natural” and has shown improvement in his brief time with the organization thus far. If Griffin can continue to improve and stay healthy, he would be a more long-term solution for the Browns, who may be setting themselves up for contention in future years. Starting him this year may not bring immediate success, but it would help him gain necessary experience for the future.

Coming off of a year away from football due to injury, Griffin will need to continue working very hard to make a successful return. Griffin himself has set the bar at the top of Terminal Tower, shattering all sorts of records at Baylor, and receiving Offensive Rookie of the year honors in 2012 while in Washington. Due to this, he may be heavily scrutinized if he fails to impress early in the season. The coaching staff will take all of this into consideration before naming their starter, or even giving any inclination of who may have the upper hand. 

The only slightly strange part of this Cleveland Browns quarterback competition is the other two quarterbacks, Cody Kessler and Austin Davis. While neither Jackson or Hamilton directly talked to the media about either young quarterback, they both indicated that each quarterback is very much part of this competition. Browns fans know that the odds either start before Week 17 are slim to none, but they each certainly still have a role in this process. After all, the Browns wouldn’t have drafted Kessler in the third round if they weren’t planning on keeping him. Kessler could definitely benefit from such a professional seasoned veteran like McCown.

As for Davis, he may not make the 53-man roster, since it is extremely rare for a team to go into the season with four quarterbacks. Still, he’s worth considering, at least in the coach’s eyes. Besides McCown, Davis has the most experience with the Browns of all of the quarterbacks. He’s certainly not the favorite coming in, but it appears that the coaching staff will hold true to their word, and give each quarterback an equal opportunity.

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While the coaches claim that the competition is wide open, it seems that McCown and Griffin are the only two with a legitimate chance to be the starter. Considering the rich history of injuries of both McCown and Griffin, the likelihood that they both take snaps this season is very high. Therefore, having both of them is something the Browns will feel good about going in to the season, no matter who starts in Philadelphia.

Most of all, it is important that this quarterback competition is won in training camp, and doesn’t extend into the regular season. Two seasons ago, the team and fanbase were clearly divided between the two quarterbacks the Browns had at the time. This was not a healthy atmosphere for the organization, and the consequences impacted the team’s success.

Next: Browns release Connor Shaw

Fortunately for the Browns, the level of optimism seems different this time around, and appears to be more future-oriented. McCown and Griffin are both known for acting like professionals, and considering the similar journeys they have been on, it should help them both to be together. Though the negativity around the organization is swirling like never before, having at least two capable starting quarterbacks heading into 2016 is a plus.