The Pros and Cons of the Cleveland Browns Going Back to Josh McCown

Cleveland Browns v Green Bay Packers
Dylan Buell-Getty Images

Wow. I mean…wow. You know, sometimes you think the Cleveland Browns will eventually run out of ways to surprise you in their endless pursuit of fun new blunders. But if the past two days are any indication, such a thing won’t be happening any time soon.

First, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, they looked woefully unprepared and severely underwhelming in their Week 1 loss. This was coupled with the quarterback the Browns passed up on in the draft and went out of their way explaining why – Carson Wentz – outperforming the QB they felt confident in starting – Robert Griffin III.

On its own, this was enough to ruin the days of many Cleveland fans. But, oh, we wouldn’t be done there.

Turns out, when Griffin got lit up near the end of Sunday’s game and suffered what he claimed was a sprained shoulder, he was just a little bit off in his diagnosis. Instead of it being an injury he’d be able to play through as he intimated after the game, he instead fractured a bone in his shoulder. And, instead of him preparing to play this Sunday, he was placed on IR and will be out for eight weeks at the very minimum.

Again, wow.

So now, while the “Griffin can be a long-term answer at quarterback” theory the front office has been pushing took quite a significant hit, Cleveland turns to a familiar face as its new starter. Veteran Josh McCown will be handed back the reins Sunday for the team’s home opener against the Baltimore Ravens, a move that has its fair share of pros and cons.

First of all, I think we can be thankful the Browns didn’t trade McCown as they were rumored to be considering a few weeks ago. The reason for keeping him around was essentially to have an experienced backup just in case Griffin’s inability to stay healthy creeped up again, something which pretty much came into fruition as early as possible.

That’s one pro of having McCown back. The other is the simple fact many believe he’s actually the best quarterback on the roster, a belief which is honestly quite accurate.

Griffin was always going to be a reclamation project, despite his spot on the depth chart. His performance in the preseason as well as on Sunday proved he still can’t be viewed as a franchise quarterback. McCown, while not anyone’s idea of a long-term answer, is the more reliable option. Enough so that you could argue Cleveland might have better odds of winning with him behind center as opposed to Griffin.

As mentioned, though, starting McCown also comes with some concerns.

For one, this move in general is the main signal that the Griffin experiment failed. McCown going back in proves the injury concerns for Griffin are just as real as ever. It proves the Browns are already going to have to start focusing on which quarterback to take with their first overall pick next spring. It proves that, yet again, Cleveland is still miles away from having anything resembling a franchise QB.

The major concern with this development is how the Browns’ depth chart looks now. Basically, we’re one ill-fated end-zone dive from McCown away from rookie Cody Kessler taking the field.

All due respect to the former USC Trojan, but he’s not ready. Not even close. Quite frankly, it’s a reach to assume he’ll be fully prepared to play at any point this season. The quarterback Hue Jackson had to convince people to trust him with looked supremely raw in the preseason, and it’s difficult to believe things have changed just a week or two later.

If there’s one truth to the life of a rookie quarterback, it’s that their development can take a major hit if they’re thrown on the field too early. McCown was battered often last year, failing to finish the season. All it’s going to take is one brutal hit Sunday and Kessler is going to be thrust in front of a Ravens defense ready to introduce him to the NFL in fierce fashion. Many don’t believe he’s any sort of savior in Cleveland, and said belief will be made truer if he has to play before he’s prepared.

As you can see, there are reasons why McCown starting for Cleveland isn’t the worst news in the world. At the same time, it’s a tough blow which could get even tougher should he get beaten up often. Cleveland doesn’t become a worse team with him at the helm, but it will if he takes one hit too many.


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