You don’t guarantee a man $230 million and give up three first-round draft picks in order for the right to give him that money and employ him without expecting him to have a dramatic impact on your business, for the positive.
That’s the dice roll the Cleveland Browns took on three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson, which owner Jimmy Haslam understands is “the most consequential” decision that he has ever made during his 10-plus years in that capacity with the organization, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “We spent more time working on it than anything else”.
Through the Browns just made Baker Mayfield the first overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, they determined at some point over the past year that they would seek alternatives it possible this offseason. Mayfield has had a couple of solid seasons, and looked to be rounding into form in 2020, but injuries plagued his 2021 season, and he never looked like himself.
That self may never wear a Browns uniform again, as it’s widely expected that the franchise intends to trade him, though that’s not yet written in stone. There is still a possibility that they end up carrying him as their backup, even though they have signed Jacoby Brissett for that purpose—and head coach Kevin Stefanski even spoke about needing to be ready to play with Brissett in the event that Watson begins the season serving a suspension.
As for Stefanski, he is entering his third season as head coach of the Browns, and would mark the first head coach to complete three seasons with the team since Romeo Crennel in 2005-2008. The longest-tenured head coach since then has been Hue Jackson, who made it two-plus seasons before being fired mid-year.
The Browns have gone 19-14 under Stefanski since he took over, posting a record of 11-5 in his first season in 2020. They advanced to the postseason and won their opening-round game as a road underdog to the AFC North-champion Pittsburgh Steelers—after having beaten them in Week 17.
They had a setback last year, however, going 8-9, which included losses in three of their final four games. Quarterback health certainly had a lot to do with that, but overall, it has been their pattern, both since Haslam and before him.
The 2020 season was the organization’s first non-losing season since 2007, marked their first postseason appearance since 2002, and resulted in their first playoff win since 1994, when Bill Belichick was still their head coach—and they were an entirely different Browns team.
Since Haslam purchased the team in 2012, Cleveland has had 19 different quarterbacks take the field, including 15 making at least one start. Close to a dozen of them at one time or another were their intended starter for some period of time.
Mayfield has, by far, seen the most action, with 59 starts. Brandon Weeden made 20 starts, Brian Hoyer 16, DeShone Kizer 15, Josh McCown 11, Jason Campbell 8, Cody Kessler 8, Johnny Manziel 8, Robert Griffin III 5, and Tyrod Taylor 3.
On second thought, maybe it’s more understandable why they would be willing to give up so much for a shot at a sure thing at quarterback. It’s not like they have much to lose, given how they’ve squandered so many first-round picks.