For those who can still actually stomach news about the 2016 Cleveland Browns, brace yourself, another quarterback change has been announced. Cleveland is planning on going back to the man it opened the season with, as Robert Griffin III will be starting this Sunday when the team hosts the Cincinnati Bengals (and probably a very large group of their fans).
Honestly, this news shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The second it was announced a few weeks ago that Griffin was cleared to return after recovering from a broken bone in his shoulder, it was all but certain he’d see the field again this year. The quarterback picture is uglier than ever in Cleveland, so tossing the season’s original starter back out there isn’t going to make much difference on how the final four games go.
Seeing as though the team will spend the last few weeks of the season focusing entirely on not going winless, it’s difficult to really get excited about Griffin’s return. The absolute best possible outcome is him leading the Browns to a 4-12 record, something the fans have seen more than enough of over the past few decades.
At the same time, there actually are a few benefits to handing the reins back the man who started this tragic 2016 campaign.
For one, you can’t deny the fact we didn’t get enough of a look at Griffin this season. Obviously, with a resume of one great season and three miserable ones, the argument can be made we’ve already seen plenty from the 2012 Rookie of the Year. Nothing from his Week 1 performance indicated significant changes have been made in his game. Griffin was relatively underwhelming in the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles before his trademark refusal to slide got him shelved for the next 12 weeks.
Still, three and a half quarters isn’t really enough to close the book on his time in orange and brown. Coach Hue Jackson put in a ton of work this offseason trying to get Griffin on the right path, and no doubt wanted to see more from him. It took a while, but this opportunity finally came into fruition.
One of the most important benefits to Griffin’s return, I believe, is the energy he can bring on Sunday.
Let’s face it – anyone who’s endured even a portion of this 0-12 season has either had their soul crushed or is on the verge of having that happen. Getting a late season bye and then having to come back to endure four more weeks where winning is a long-shot? Doesn’t sound like something anyone in Cleveland’s locker room is looking forward to.
Except Griffin, that is.
Remember, his tenure with the Browns was seen by many as his last shot to prove he could be an NFL starter. That opportunity lasted just under one game before he got hurt again.
Now, given a late chance to prove his worth to both Cleveland and the rest of the league, it’s difficult to believe Griffin won’t be excited to get back out there. For a team in dire need of anything which can make Sundays more enjoyable, having an extremely motivated quarterback in the huddle could be a solid boost.
If there’s another silver lining to Griffin’s return, it’s who he’d be protecting. Mainly, I’m talking about rookie Cody Kessler.
Despite receiving the most starts this year and having his moments here and there, Kessler has suffered two concussions in a month. It’s clear sending him back out to play behind an offensive line which is as protective as a box of kittens is just too much of a health risk.
Will it hurt his chances of convincing the Browns they don’t need to draft a QB next spring? Absolutely. We’re talking about brain injuries, though, which Cleveland has to take seriously.
Unless starting Kessler is a completely unavoidable situation, he needs to be kept on the bench for his own safety.
In Griffin, too, you have a quarterback whose mobility can help him avoid the threats which come from playing behind Joe Thomas and four stick figures. Sure, his fleeing the pocket also induces the fear of him refusing to slide when staring down a linebacker. Still, the Browns might as well play a QB who can work around the struggles of the O-line.
Can Griffin be a long-term answer in Cleveland? Probably not. The same can likely be said with Kessler. At this point, though, the Browns need to do their due diligence and see what they have in the quarterback they spent so much time vetting this offseason.
If anything, it’ll at least give the fans who’ve suffered through a historically awful season something different to see on Sundays.