If you’re like me, you might’ve accidentally forgotten the city of Cleveland has a football team. I wouldn’t blame you, what with the Cleveland Cavaliers celebrating a title and the Cleveland Indians going on a 14-game winning streak. Why, in the midst of all these victories, would you want to remind yourself about the Cleveland Browns?
To be fair, the Browns haven’t really been up to too much lately anyways. OTAs have been over for some time, and training camp hasn’t opened up yet. That said, all isn’t completely quiet at the team facility.
Earlier this week, the Browns parted ways with quarterback Connor Shaw. The move wasn’t terribly surprising, as he likely wasn’t going to climb higher than fourth on the team’s QB depth chart. However, it’s the first significant removal from Cleveland’s quarterback room.
The team still has one too many QBs on the roster. There’s expected starter/reclamation project Robert Griffin III, soon-to-be 37-year-old Josh McCown, rookie Cody Kessler and Austin Davis. One of these four will have to go before the season starts.
One would think McCown is the clear choice. His days of being any team’s preferred starter are far behind him, and for a Browns team in the middle of a major rebuild, it certainly doesn’t appear to make sense to keep a player nearing his 40s.
However, if Cleveland was smart, it wouldn’t cut ties with McCown. In fact, you could even argue the team actually needs to hang on to him.
Again, even if McCown is the best looking QB in camp, it’s tough to believe he’ll win the starting job. Coach Hue Jackson is dying to convince the rest of the league he can make Griffin a great quarterback again. With that in mind, he certainly isn’t going to give up on him in camp after spending all offseason hyping him up.
So, if McCown clearly isn’t going to start, and his prime is miles behind him, why keep him around?
The answer is actually pretty simple – you keep someone like McCown for what he’s willing to do off the field instead of on it.
Despite being signed last offseason and labeled the starter for the 2015 season, he knew one of his main duties was to tutor Johnny Manziel. It was a role he accepted with open arms, though we eventually found out there wasn’t much he could do to help the younger QB.
Word is McCown is once again open to the role of locker room tutor, this time for two teammates. Griffin, as we know, is attempting to prove the dramatic drop-off in talent we saw with the Washington Redskins was not the death knell to his career. Kessler, on the other hand, is a player many felt Jackson drafted way too high.
As you can see, the Browns have two quarterbacks who could definitely use sound advice from a guy who’s been around a lot longer than them. That McCown is willing to be that teacher for them is something Cleveland can’t afford to throw away.
On top of this, having a proven vet ready to throw on the field if necessary is a much better situation than sticking with Davis.
Though he’s looked healthy so far, Griffin has dealt with many significant injuries during his short career. On top of this, Kessler is still in need of development. If Griffin were to get hurt early in the season, throwing Kessler on the field before he’s ready could be damaging to his career.
McCown proved to everyone he could still hold his own on the field last season, so if Cleveland finds itself in a situation where Griffin isn’t healthy and Kessler isn’t ready, McCown would be a perfect stopgap.
Yes, the Browns are making clear efforts to get younger and shed past-their-prime veterans. At the same time, McCown brings more value to Cleveland than one would initially think. Because of this, the team needs to find a place for him on its active roster.