Over the course of the offseason, new Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson has played it close to the vest as far as naming a starting quarterback is concerned. While the prevailing belief throughout the offseason has been that free agent signing Robert Griffin III would be the team’s starter after signing a two-year, $12 million deal, he has not been handed the keys, if Jackson is to be believed.
In fact, the head coach refrained from even setting a deadline for determining who would be the starter throughout the spring, but he finally relented on the opening of the Browns’ training camp yesterday, when he told reporters that he will have a starter named when Cleveland takes the field for its first preseason game.
Cleveland’s first game is on August 12 on the road against the Packers, so Jackson has between now and then to determine who will get at least the first crack at heading the team’s offense entering the 2016 regular season, in two weeks’ time.
While the Browns did sign Griffin, they still retain quarterback Josh McCown, who they signed during free agency the year before, and was their primary starter last season. He played in and started eight games, completing 186 of 292 passes for 2109 yards and throwing 12 touchdowns to just four interceptions, though that did not exactly translate in the win-loss record.
Also purportedly in the mix is rookie third-round draft pick Cody Kessler, who despite being regarded as undersized for the position at 6’1” was also one of the most accurate passers in college football last season. The new Browns front office and coaching staff seems to be fond of him, and of facts such as that, based on their inaugural draft class, which is riddled with players with productive backgrounds.
While Griffin may have gotten the big deal—comparatively, that is—the fact remains that he did not play a down last season for the Redskins, and that was a fact not entirely exclusive of performance-based issues. Washington gave up a king’s ransom to draft him four years ago, and they chose to ride on with the other quarterback they drafted in that class.
The Browns have some intriguing pieces on offense, and have restocked the shelves at the wide receiver position, but what they have lacked virtually since they returned to the NFL was any semblance of an answer at the quarterback position, short of a season or two from Derek Anderson.
Jackson was brought in with the belief that he knows how to work a quarterback and run an offense, as he did most recently with Andy Dalton and the Bengals’ offense, which blossomed into one of the best in the NFL.
Fingers are crossed in Cleveland that the new coach and work his magic with this cast of pass throwers and cobble together an offense that can compete every Sunday, for a start. And the first step toward that is determining which among them gives the offense the best chance to succeed. The next two weeks will determine that.