In 1996 the Cleveland Browns were forcefully relocated to Baltimore and renamed the Ravens by owner Art Modell, also known as Cleveland’s most hated man, save for, perhaps, LeBron James.
In 1999 the NFL held true to its promise of bringing football back to Cleveland and the Browns returned as an expansion team.
Since then, the Ravens have gone on to win two Super Bowls while the Browns have managed a whopping one playoff appearance, of which the team lost in the first round.
During the time since that 1999 season the Ravens have fielded 13 starting quarterbacks. While still high, that number pales in comparison to Cleveland’s 19 signal callers in said period.
Over that time, only one quarterback has started all 16 games in a single season for Cleveland: Tim Couch during the 2001 campaign. That year also marked one of only three times the Browns finished a year 7-9 or better. The other two times you ask? In 2002, when Couch started 14 games and 2007, when Derek Anderson started 15. Anderson got the nod halfway through the season opener.
The biggest difference between the old Browns (Baltimore) and the new Browns (Cleveland) is stability at the quarterback position. The Ravens have had a quarterback start all 16 games seven times since 1999, including five straight seasons out of their current quarterback, Joe Flacco.
It is time for the Browns to commit, and that can’t happen if they hire a new coach and draft a new “quarterback of the future” every few years.
Cleveland has three options at the position right now. It can ride it out with 29-year-old second-year quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has shown flashes but may be too far away from stardom considering his old-age. The Browns could wait out the rest of the season with Weeden, then fully commit to the currently injured but promising Brian Hoyer.
Or they could draft a quarterback in 2014.
Some might argue they could pick up a free agent like Matt Flynn, but a player who has failed to capitalize on the QB situations in Seattle and Oakland has to have some issues. Keeping Weeden, waiting for Hoyer or signing Flynn are the only viable options in Cleveland, and they must pick one right away in order to have any chance at stability.
For me, the best choice is Hoyer. Weeden has talent, but he has a knack for playing game to game, there is no consistency so far, plus he is nearly 30. Hoyer is two years younger and spent three seasons learning under Tom Brady with the New England Patriots. While he has made a grand total of two starts in his Cleveland career, Hoyer won both of them and provided hope for a fan base that has been searching for a spark for nearly two decades.
In past seasons I might choose the “draft a new guy” option, but I do not see anyone in the upcoming draft that I would commit to from day one, and that is what Cleveland has to do.
No more quarterback battles in training camp. No more drafting of a Couch or a Brady Quinn, no more gambles on a too-old rookie like Weeden. It’s time for Cleveland to pick a player, give him the job and stick with him through thick and thin.
Without stability the Browns will continue to be one of the laughing-stocks of the NFL, and the blame can only be placed on themselves.