The Cleveland Browns in the offseason moved forward with their plans at quarterback, passing up the opportunity to take the second quarterback in the draft—or to move up to grab the top quarterback—instead signing former second-overall pick Robert Griffin III on a relatively low-dollar two-year deal and giving him the keys.
Actually, the Browns didn’t exactly give him the keys. In fact, they didn’t name him their starting quarterback until they were about to play their first preseason game. But he did not stay in the starter role for long, since he suffered an injury in Cleveland’s season opener, an injury that landed him on injured reserve.
He was able to return to practice within the past few weeks however, finally, and was recently taken off of the injured reserve list. He returned to practice on a full-time basis since then, but even considering that the Browns managed to go 0-11 without him, Head Coach Hue Jackson was still not ready to name him the starter.
Jackson wanted to see how the week of practice would go first before taking that step, which is an understandable precaution. But he had seen enough by Thursday, which is when he did announce that Griffin would be under center for the Browns in their next game as he returns to the starting lineup.
While speaking to reporters, Jackson sort of indicated that Griffin’s return to the starting lineup for, presumably, the final four games of the season represents a sort of audition to examine his potential as a long-term option for Cleveland’s offense going forward.
“I think the fact that we’re putting him out there says that”, Jackson said when asked about that scenario. “We want to know, I want to know more. I’ve only seen him play for not even a full game so I think the more information, the more time I get an opportunity to evaluate, the better it’s gonna be”.
Jackson is hoping to get a lot of tape on Griffin to see what he and the Browns will have to work with before they begin piecing together another offseason, to help them determine what direction that they want to go with the quarterback position.
“I’m not expecting everything to go perfect”, he acknowledged; “I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on anybody. It’s his second game in two years so hopefully it’ll go right but if it doesn’t that’s okay too”.
Over the course of the past 11 games, the Browns have turned primarily to rookie third-round quarterback Cody Kessler, who has taken a beating, including suffering two concussions, but he has generally been fairly efficient.
Josh McCown has been less so, and he was the backup who started after Griffin until he was injured in his first game as well. McCown is clearly not an answer going forward. I don’t know if the Browns seriously consider Kessler a hypothetical long-term option starter or backup. But Griffin gets his audition before thy construct their offseason plans.