Why the Browns should NOT draft a quarterback

by Marc Mathyk ·

Ever since the Cleveland Browns have returned as an NFL team in 1999, they have been abysmal.  In 19 seasons, they have had a combine total record of 88 wins and 200 losses.  They have had only two winning seasons and have made the playoffs once, as a wildcard in 2002.  They lost their only playoff game that year to the Steelers.  Apart from 2001, when Tim Couch played the entire season at quarterback, The Browns have never had a starter play the entire sixteen game season. The last two seasons have been the worst in Cleveland, winning only one game while losing 31.  In order for Cleveland to turn around their franchise and develop young, talented rookie quarterbacks in the future, they need to sign free agent Kirk Cousins.

Just Bad at Drafting Quarterbacks?

Since their reemergence, the Cleveland Browns have drafted ten quarterbacks. Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, and Johnny Manziel were all first-round picks. Tim Couch was the most productive quarterback out of the bunch and he is still considered a bust.  In 1999, Cleveland drafted him ahead of two other first round quarterbacks, Donovan McNabb and Daunte Caulpepper.  In 2000, Cleveland drafted Spergon Wynn one round ahead of Tom Brady. In 2012, Cleveland drafted Brandon Weeden two rounds ahead of Russell Wilson, and three rounds ahead of Kirk Cousins. In 2014, Cleveland drafted Johnny Manziel ahead of Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr, and Jimmy Garoppolo. In 2016, Cleveland drafted Cody Kessler a round ahead of Dak Prescott.

The Brown’s ten drafted quarterbacks total 200 games played in Cleveland, throwing 191 interceptions and only 167 touchdowns.  They have played 53 games less than Tom Brady, not including any of his playoff games.  In six years, Russell Wilson has thrown only six fewer touchdowns than all of these Cleveland Browns quarterbacks combined. In ten attempts, Cleveland has never drafted a quarterback that has been successful. Is it a case of evaluating badly and drafting the wrong guy, or is there more to this? Would Brandon Weeden have succeeded if Seattle drafted him instead of drafting Russell Wilson? And if Cleveland drafted Brady in back in 2000, would the Browns be greatest NFL Dynasty of all time and Brady the best quarterback to play the game?


The Browns are not bad a drafting quarterbacks.  In fact they have drafted some potentially great ones. They are bad at introducing them to the NFL game, setting them up for disaster. By throwing young talent into the deep end without carefully nurturing them into a system, the Browns have ruined so many quarterbacks. And their solution?  Draft another one and repeat the process.

Avoid Drafting a Quarterback in the 2018 Draft

This year’s quarterback class has been touted as very strong and deep.  There could be five quarterbacks taken in the first round of this year’s Rookie Draft. Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Baker Mayfield might be drafted in the top ten, and depending on team needs, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson might be later round picks.  Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen both look like the typical NFL quarterback and are said to be the safe bets. Both have solid yet uninspiring college throwing stats, and while Darnold is drawing ambitious Andrew Luck comparisons, Rosen drawls parallels to Matt Ryan and Eli Manning. Mayfield’s college throwing stats are through the roof,  though many question his size and attitude.  He gets Russell Wilson and Johnny Manziel comparisons. Josh Allen has been the most polarizing prospect so far – some consider him to have the best raw potential with the strongest arm, while others think that he is not worth the hype.  His college production is so unimpressive statistically it is really hard to see him mentioned in the same breath as the others.  Despite his stats, he has been compared to the likes of Carson Wentz and Matthew Stafford. And then there is the wildcard, Lamar Jackson.  Many believe his athleticism and quarterback style is reminiscent of  Michael Vick. However, Jackson’s college stats are much more prolific like Cam Newton‘s.  He’s the toughest one of the group to evaluate – and seems to be the biggest boom or bust candidate.  All the NFL comparisons mentioned above were all first round draft picks, except Russell Wilson, the only one of the group to have have participated in winning a Super Bowl.  So were the quarterbacks drafted by Cleveland that much worse than the quarterbacks available in this draft? Below is a comparison chart that takes the best year of each player and lists his stats:

Mayfield is definitely the most productive quarterback and Josh Allen is the least productive. Apart from that, everyone else has similar stats. Some might be more accurate (Weeden and Couch); some might like to air it out more (Mayfield and Manziel); some have a better touchdown to interception ratio (Mayfield, Kessler, and Quinn). However, the biggest takeaway is that all of these quarterbacks drafted by the Browns were as productive as this year’s class. Therefore, Cleveland has not been drafting bad prospects.  The problem is they have been drafting without a plan in place. These Browns quarterbacks have failed not because they were terrible but because Cleveland threw them into the fire immediately without giving them time to be mentored by an established veteran quarterback on the team.

Rookies vs. Veterans

Aaron Rodgers was was mentored by the great Brett Favre.

Think about the best quarterbacks today – Tom Brady had Drew Bledsoe; Aaron Rodgers had Brett Favre; Russell Wilson had Matt Hasselbeck.  Who did Manziel and Kessler have as mentors? Perennial backups Brian Hoyer and Josh McCown. How about Kizer?  He had Kessler! Some quarterbacks have done well playing in their rookie season like Dak Prescott, but for the most part but most of them have have struggled before getting better. And don’t forget that Prescott did have Tony Romo helping him in his first year, which happened to be a more productive year than his second without having Romo’s guidance and insight.

Last year, the Los Angeles Rams tried another approach. As a rookie quarterback in 2016, first overall pick Jared Goff had awful stats. He had a Passer Rating of 63.6, which was 56th best in the league.  In 2017, the Rams fired Jeff Fisher and hired a young, dynamic, and offensively-minded coach in Sean McVay.  They also brought in established personnel with talent like Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, improved their offensive line and drafted well. That transformed Goff from rookie bust into the comeback quarterback of the year. In 2017, Player Profiler added a new metric, True Passer Rating, which factors out unpressured throwaways and dropped passes and is a better reflection of that quarterback’s rating. Goff’s True Passer Rating was fifth best among quarterbacks. Talk about a dramatic turnaround. So whether it is having a veteran quarterback help a new rookie quarterback integrate into the NFL or to revamp the entire system completely by hiring a new coach and philosophy, something needs to be done if that rookie has failed during his initial season.  After Brown’s rookie quarterback Cody Kessler started most of the games for Cleveland in 2016, and did not earn a win that season, what did the Browns do to address the problem?  Did they sign a free agent quarterback in the off season to help develop Kessler? No. Did they head a new head coach with a better offensive philosophy? No. Did they bring in any established players? Not really. Instead they drafted another quarterback, DeShone Kizer, who had only two years of quarterback experience at the collegiate level to start. And what about that 2017 season?  The Browns lost every game.  So after two years of failure under Hue Jackson, the Browns decided to keep the same coach and fire their forward thinking General Manager instead. Absolutely mind-boggling! No wonder Josh Rosen does not to play for a franchise like Cleveland.

Sign Kirk Cousins

It is about time that the Cleveland Browns right the ship. They do not need to draft a another rookie quarterback destined for failure. They need to sign a free agent veteran quarterback who has enough experience as a starter. They need to sign Kirk Cousins. Luckily, the Browns are well beneath the salary cap and have tons of cash to splash. Out of all the free agents, Kirk Cousins will be the most sought after.  Cousins might not be a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers but is a proven quality quarterback.  If they sign him, Cleveland will start to win games and then perhaps in the next few years they can start drafting productive rookie quarterbacks to learn from him.  In the past three years as a starter for the Washington Redskins, Cousins has been consistent and productive.

Kirk Cousins Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

As a passer, Cousins has a rocket for an arm.  His Throw Velocity is 59mph, which is in the 90th-percentile.  In three full years as a starter, he has never been outside the top ten for Passing Yards a season.  In 2017 he was seventh, and in 2016 he was third.  When Cousins has competent receivers to throw to he can be one of the best. In 2016, Cousins was at his best having decent weapons in DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder.  That year he ranked number one in Air Yards and Deep Ball Attempts.  Imagine him throwing to the likes of Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman and David NjokuJosh Gordon is best comparable to Allen Robinson on Player Profiler; Corey Coleman is best comparable to Odell Beckham Jr.; and David Njoku is best comparable to Travis Kelce.  Cousins is a very efficient quarterback, finishing in the top five in Production Premium for the past two seasons. In three seasons, Brown starters have thrown 47 touchdowns and 52 interceptions. Kirk Cousins, on the other hand, has thrown 81 touchdowns compared to 36 picks. It should not surprise anyone, however, that Cleveland is not one of teams linked to signing Kirk Cousins or any other free agent quarterback out there.

Trade Down

Assuming Cleveland does win the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, and signs him to a longer contract, then it would make sense for Cleveland to trade down in the 2018 NFL Draft.  By giving up the first and the fourth draft pick could be the best move they could make.  By trading those picks for some later first round picks or later, the Browns could get more picks for later years.  For example, if they sign Cousins to a five-year deal and put their trust in him for at least the next three years then they can seek higher draft picks for 2020 or 2021 by trading down this draft.  This will help set them up for drafting a quality quarterback to eventually replace Cousins, and still have a year or two watching Cousins play.  By having this mentality, the Browns start a process that thinks ahead rather than just picking for right now.


For the past few years Cleveland has had so many draft picks and for the most part have picked well.  However, their approach to getting a rookie quarterback seems sporadic and desperate. The Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes last year knowing that he would not be part of their offense. Many wanted him to take over right away because he is such an electric prospect, but Andy Reid knew better. Instead he sat Mahomes giving him time to watch and learn the game from a competent, seasoned veteran like Alex Smith.  During this offseason they unloaded Smith to Washington and now Mahomes is the guy. He is more game ready, has weapons in place, is part of a good organization, and most importantly has a year of studying the NFL game under his belt.  This formula is not necessarily fool-proof but is better than just throwing a rookie into a desperate situation without having time to develop properly.


Cody Kessler and Deshone Kizer may or may not be the future for Cleveland.  However, both were very productive in college, are still young and could only improve backing up a productive, quality NFL starter in Kirk Cousins. In their NFL rookie seasons, both Kessler and Kizer had a higher  Total QBR Rating than Goff during his rookie campaign. Kessler’s Completion-% was eleventh best in 2016, ahead of fellow rookie turned sophomore sensation, Carson Wentz. In 2017, Kizer had the fourth most Deep Ball Attempts. By analyzing the metrics, there are some promising potential. There has even been comparisons between Cody Kessler and Kirk Cousins.

The Browns need to learn from their dismal nineteen-year old past. If they keep drafting great quarterbacks and continue to put them in a system of failure, they will continue to fail. By signing a productive veteran quarterback like Kirk Cousins, the Browns can let their young talent mature, develop and learn the NFL game. At the same time, the Browns will inevitably win a few games with Cousins and start cultivating a winning culture in Cleveland, setting up their coveted quarterback prospect for success in the future.