The Cleveland Browns quarterback rook is entirely different from what it was a year ago—or, at least, it will be by the time the 2022 regular season starts, most likely. There’s simply the matter of figuring out how and with whom to trade their previous starter, Baker Mayfield, after making one of the most seismic moves in many years by trading for Deshaun Watson.
The team still has to move Mayfield, which is all but an inevitability, but they have also already moved on from Case Keenum and Nick Mullens, their other two quarterbacks from last season, both of whom started at least one game. Since, they have added Jacoby Brissett and Joshua Dobbs to take their places.
Quarterbacks coach Drew Petzing talked about bringing “a renewed focus where you can have another set of eyes in the room and be able to critique and coach and make sure they’re prepared”, he told the Browns’ website about his new-look room. “I’m going to make sure that they have the resources they need to make sure they’re successful and that we can see that growth”.
Watson, obviously, is the centerpiece of all that. A three-time Pro Bowler, he did not play at all last season after requesting a trade, and the team being unable to find a trading partner for him, while he was facing possible criminal charges in addition to 22 civil lawsuits that remain outstanding against him accusing him of sexual misconduct, some rising to the level of assault.
While they work to handle the off-field business, knowing that at least, for now, there are no potential criminal repercussions on the horizon, they are gradually plotting to put together an offense around Watson, even though they feel he can play in any system. In the meantime, they’re just thrilled to have that kind of talent to work with.
“I’m extremely excited”, Petzing said. “I think anytime you can get a player of that talent level and that type of teammate, just knowing what he has been able to accomplish in this league, we’re very excited to bring him here to Cleveland, put him in this offense and adapt a little to him and go out and play at a high level”.
The 12th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Watson started six of seven games as a rookie before getting hurt, but threw 19 touchdowns in that limited sample size. He made the Pro Bowl in each of the next three seasons, culminating in his leading the NFL with 4,823 passing yards in 2022 with a career-high 33 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions, completing more than 70 percent of his passes.
Yet they went 4-12 in what was an abysmal year that truly saw the breakup of the team. And now the Browns hope that he and his career 28-25 record can turn their franchise from a borderline playoff roster to a Super Bowl contender. It’s exciting, indeed, to think about the prospects, but another matter entirely to achieve.