1. Not carrying a third quarterback
The decision to carry only two quarterbacks on the 53-player roster falls partly on Stefanski and ultimately lies with Andrew Berry. The Browns needed a third-string quarterback to win a game in 2021 and they came up empty.
They have been rolling the dice with only two quarterbacks on the active roster and a third quarterback on the practice squad. For all the commotion in Cleveland surrounding the quarterback position, you would think they would want to take out some additional insurance. Hello, the Covid situation the past two years dictated that three quarterbacks were necessary.
They had the right guy in 2019 and 2020 in Garrett Gilbert, but let him go. More specifically, they kept him on the practice squad, but other teams are allowed to sign players from each other’s practice squads each week.
There’s a rule that allows teams to protect up to four players on the practice squad, but it is not 100 percent. Even the protected players are vulnerable from the end of each week’s game until 1:00 pm Tuesday. That’s what happened to the Browns, and thus Gilbert became a Dallas Cowboy on October 13, 2020.
Gilbert didn’t have a great college career but finally put things together as a senior at Southern Methodist, with a 21-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio, 66.5 completion percentage and 3,528 yards.
At 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, he has the size that scouts look for and has an NFL arm. Most importantly, he had six years of NFL apprenticeship before coming to the Browns. He has been a stealth quarterback in the NFL since 2014, picking up a Super Bowl ring as a backup for Tom Brady along the way, though seeing very little regular season action. Still, it is way better to have an NFL veteran for your third string quarterback, rather than a rookie.
Had they kept Gilbert in 2021, he would have had three years of experience with the team and two years with the Stefanski system. That is a major edge for a third-string quarterback, compared to a guy like Nick Mullens who had more experience but was in his first year with Stefanski’s system.
The Browns didn’t keep three quarterbacks, figuring that Mayfield never gets injured (oops), and Keenum is another iron man. Well, that’s great, but what about Covid?
That indeed caught them in 2021, and wound up hurting them when they had to start Mullens. It was totally foreseeable that Covid was a problem and they needed three quarterbacks. No offense to Mullens, but wouldn’t it have made sense to have had a quarterback in his third year with the team?
For that matter, having suffered through one year with Mullens, it might have made sense to keep him for another year. It’s true he cannot throw accurately more than 20 yards, but as it is the Browns have three new quarterbacks this season.
This season, what with looming suspensions and the like, it appears that the Browns will carry three quarterbacks in Deshaun Watson (assuming he plays), Jacoby Brissett, and Joshua Dobbs. All three will be immensely more valuable in 2023 after they have a year of experience playing with the same teammates and in the Stefanski system.
However, if Watson is suspended for eight games or longer, and the Browns have a chance to sign Gilbert back, they should do so. Just in case.