Hue Jackson and the Cleveland Browns endured a terrible Freshman year in 2016. A new, if well respected, coach paired with a team who openly admit to being in rebuild mode can expect to struggle, but 0-16 was only avoided by the fortune of meeting with a Chargers team beset by the injury bug. As ever, the Browns lack of a Franchise QB rendered them impotent and unable to sustain any kind of fight once the opposition opened the flood gates.
There were bright spots amongst the misery, Isiah Crowell (952 yards, 7TDs) and Duke Johnson (379 yards rushing, 314 yards receiving, 1TD) combined to make an effective backfield pairing ,Terrelle Pryor (1071 yards receiving, 4TDs) and Corey Coleman (413 yards, 3TDs from 33 receptions) flashed excellence out wide before the latter was side-lined for the season with a broken hand. Coleman, Johnson and Crowell will all be back in 2017. Pryor, however, has been allowed to leave and signed a 1year deal with the Redskins. His replacement for the upcoming season will be Kenny Britt who signed from the Rams on the back of a 1000 yard season and 5TDs under difficult circumstances.
All these names and numbers mean little when the key offensive position remains unfilled. For what feels like the hundredth time the Browns enter the NFL draft searching for a quarterback to push the Franchise forward. There are few people think the draft contains any immediate answers this year so it may be that the Browns have to look inwards for the answer they seek. Last year the Browns fans saw 7 different QBs under centre. Much rested on the shoulders of RG3 when he was wheeled into Cleveland in the hope that he could recapture his pre-injury form as displayed way back in 2012, sadly, he could not. In 5 starts he produced 4TDs (2 throwing, 2 rushing) 5 interceptions and 4 fumbles, the game-tape wasn’t pretty. The Browns released Griffin at the start of free agency in March this year. Cody Kessler started 8 games for the Browns last season throwing only 2 picks and garnering a QB rating of 92.3. He also only threw 6 TDs and also fumbled 4 times, which indicates that he held the ball too long and was unwilling to heave the ball downfield at times. He certainly showed promise and must be given more time to develop his decision making, and to recover his confidence from going 0-8 to start his NFL career. Kevin Hogan (4apps, 2INTs, 1 rushing TD) also returns for 2017.The former 5th round pick is very much a developmental project that the Browns won’t want to throw back into the fray anytime soon.
That brings us to Brock. Only if you’ve lived under a rock for the last month can you have missed the blockbuster, contract-swallowing trade between Cleveland and the Houston Texans which saw Brock Osweiler and his mega-bucks deal shipped out of Texas along with a 2018 second round selection simply to relieve the burden from the Texans cap space. Last season’s hottest Free Agency QB started 15 games for the Texans (including playoffs) finishing with with 15 TDs to 16INTs and a 72.2 QB rating (down from 86.4 in 2015). He looked like the biggest thing holding Houston back from really going on a Super Bowl run, especially as he failed to mesh with their star receiver DeAndre Holmes. There are many who feel Brocks tenure in Cleveland will be even shorter than in Texas, and that he’ll be cut or traded-on again, but I think perhaps he is worth a closer look now that he’s in the building.
There is no doubt that as much as 2016 was a disaster for Hue Jackson, it was also a disaster for Osweiler. Both now have something to prove and maybe this cause can unite them for 2017. Lets not forget that Osweiler kept the Broncos Super Bowl hopes alive in 2015, throwing 10TDs in 7 starts, and he spent 3 and a half years learning his craft behind the great Peyton Manning before stepping in for the injured superstar. What he needs now is a team and a coach to show some confidence in his ability to turn his career back around. What Jackson needs is an experienced starter who’s desperate to prove to the league that his $32million contract wasn’t a joke after all. Cleveland’s offensive line is good enough to keep Brock upright, the great Joe Thomas has protected underperforming QBs for years, so if the receivers and running backs can be half as good as the Browns hope then maybe Brock can start generating some decent numbers and help to push both himself and the franchise forward. A confident Brock was what we all saw in Denver, and that Brock was a winner. How Browns-like would it be to push Osweiler out of the door only to see him picked up elsewhere and turned back into a viable starter who regularly puts up big numbers again them as punishment..? The Browns should roll the dice and see if their coaching staff can put the pieces in place to get the best out of a proven winner. There was much talk of a trade between New England and Cleveland for Jimmy G, but who’s to say that he’d be successful outside the Patriots system, with so little game-time to judge surely that’s an even bigger gamble than the Browns need to take. If all else fails then next season draft looks far more promising from a QB standpoint, and by holding fire this year the Browns will have strengthened the rest of the team without wasting a pick on an undermanned position. Sometimes the best way to make progress is to wait and play the cards you have. I laughed along with most NFL observers as Brock crashed down to earth last season, but now I feel it may be time to see if he can prove us all wrong and , for one, hope he can. Failing that they could always resurrect Clipboard Jesus…