There has been much talk recently of what the Browns should do to the offense this off season. Much of that topic has revolved around the quarterback position. Many have suggested an addition at this position is a priority if the Browns want to improve while a few have stuck with the notion that the Browns need to build an offense around Colt McCoy this year to fairly assess the quarterback. My contention is that no matter who plays quarterback on the current roster, success will be fleeting without major upgrades to the offensive line and wide out corp.
Robert Griffin III, or RGIII, is high on the list of many media types and fans alike. Many see him as the savior our team needs to get us to a playoff caliber let alone winning more than 4 games. One of the biggest arguements to drafting RGIII is what Cam Newton did last year. He broke many rookie records at the position, became a fantasy diamond in the rough and proved he was NFL ready. The only problem is that did not translate into a winning season. The Panthers only won 6 games in the 2011 season. The reason? One player can not control the outcome of a game, unless that player is maybe Tom Brady. You need a complete team in place to translate to success on the gridiron.
The Browns started building from this concept of a complete team the past two years on defense. Key players such as Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, Jabaal Sheard and Phil Taylor have been drafted in the first two rounds of the last two drafts. Others such as Ahtyba Rubin (2008 6th round pick) and D’Qwell Jackson (2008 2nd round pick) have brought solidity to a defensive unit. There are still holes but a solid foundation has been built. Now it is time to focus on the offense in this years draft.
Many see the need to draft a QB with the 4th overall pick. Others have gone as far as to say the Browns should trade up to #2 to get RGIII. That makes little sense to me when it would mean giving up picks or players to get there. There is already a big enough hole on offense, giving up picks that could be used on offensive linemen and wideouts seems like a step backwards no matter who you put at quarterback.
Lets look back from 2003 to 2008 at some quarterbacks drafted in the first round. 21 quarterbacks were drafted in the first round during this time period. Eight of them are good by the standards that they made it to the Super Bowl or Pro Bowl. They are, Carson Palmer (1st pick 2003), Eli Manning (1st pick 2004), Philip Rivers (4th pick 2004), Ben Roethlisberger (11th pick 2004), Aaron Rodgers (24th pick 2005), Matt Ryan (3rd pick 2008), Joe Flacco (18th pick 2008), and Matthew Stafford (1st pick 2009). I am not bothering with Cam Newton (1st pick 2011) or Sam Bradford (1st pick 2010) because while Newton made the Pro Bowl this year neither has taken their team to the playoffs. The point I am making is there is a 38% chance you draft a good quarterback in the first round. If you really look at the teams these players get drafted to the biggest upside for any quarterback is coming into a team that is already built. Ben Roethlisberger is the greatest example of this who led his team to the playoffs his rookie year after being thrown in as the started during the 3rd game due to injuries and then won the Super Bowl his 2nd year in the league. He did this because the team as a whole was complete not because of his talents alone.
This should be a lesson to Browns fans and local media. If we simply grab the best available quarterback each year with no talent to support the guy we can’t possibly expect success. I believe we need to focus on building up an offense and then, if Colt McCoy proves he is not the guy we can plug in a top prospect to take his place. That is the winning formula, not the other way around. Draft picks that could be used on wide receivers and offensive linemen would be wasted on a quarterback at this point in the building process of the team.
The other point is that it does not take a first round draft pick to bring in a franchise quarterback. The two greatest examples of this are Joe Montana (3rd round, 82nd overall pick in 1979) and Tom Brady (6th round, 199th overall in 2000). These are arguably two of the best quarterbacks to ever step foot on the field. This doesn’t happen every day but this just goes to show there is more involved to the success of a quarterback than where he is drafted. I don’t think we need to get into the Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell examples to prove the point that drafting a first round quarterback will not always work out.
If we can bring in a veteran receiver in free agency, draft an offensive lineman and a wide receiver with our two first round draft picks and shore up the running back position by resigning Hillis or signing another RB through free agency then we can use our other draft picks to add depth and give Colt McCoy a shot at proving himself on fair ground. The only way I think it makes sense for the Browns to bring in a quarterback is through free agency since they have the money available. Chances are the one guy that would be a solid addition, Matt Flynn (7th round pick 2008), might not be available since his offensive coordinator will try to lure him down to Miami. I think bringing in a free agent to compete for the spot makes sense only because it allows the Browns to use their resources in the draft to build up the offensive talent needed to make it possible for any quarterback to succeed on this team. Between the talent disparity and amount of drops by his receivers, replacing McCoy by giving up a high draft pick at this point would be unfair to the assessment of Colt McCoy and a step backwards for the Cleveland Browns.