Earlier this season, after weeks and weeks of asking people to give Cleveland Browns quarterback Cody Kessler a chance, I gave up on him. The rookie had shown positive signs after taking the reins in Week 3 despite the fact he wasn’t even supposed to play this year. However, as the losses piled up it became clear that, while Kessler would be a serviceable backup, he just didn’t look like a franchise QB.
Which is why today was so intriguing. After suffering a broken bone in his shoulder in Week 1, Robert Griffin III was making his return to the field. It certainly made a ton of sense, seeing as though the Browns came in to today at 0-12 and haven’t had anything to play for in months. Why wouldn’t you go back to the guy you started the year with?
Griffin’s return added some optimism to today’s bout with the Cincinnati Bengals. It was seen by many as the last remaining winnable game on Cleveland’s schedule, one last legitimate chance to prevent a winless season. The assumption was the energy brought by Griffin would provide a boost to help the Browns beat a mediocre Bengals squad.
To say that wasn’t how things played out today would be a laughable understatement. Cleveland lost 23-10, fell to 0-13 on the year and looked miserable in doing so. Despite brief moments of looking like a competent club, the Browns proved to be just as hapless even when given extra time to prepare thanks to a bye.
Another conclusion which was proven today is, if you thought Griffin could be some sort of answer at quarterback, even for a season or two, you were sadly mistaken. Today’s blunder-filled defeat was proof he’s nothing but another failed attempt to find someone, anyone capable enough to play QB for the Browns.
To be fair, coach Hue Jackson tried to set expectations with everyone by saying Griffin could come out rusty. It was certainly understandable, considering he hasn’t played since Week 1 and didn’t touch the field last year in Washington.
Yet, nothing from today indicated all Griffin needed was to chip off some rust.
Cleveland’s quarterback led a weak and sometimes purely inept offense through the first half this afternoon. It took the unit as a whole three quarters to top 100 total yards. The Browns collected just three first downs in the first two quarters.
Meanwhile, the Bengals went up and down the field with ease, building up a 20-0 lead before the few hundred fans in attendance had time to get to their seats. A Cleveland defense which has spent the entire year incapable of stopping opposing tight ends or running backs showed everyone said problem won’t be getting fixed any time soon.
The story of the day, though, is Griffin. It only takes one quick look at his stat-line to see this story was a tragedy.
Jackson’s hand-picked quarterback for the 2016 season finished the day going 12-for-28 for 104 yards. He also notched his second interception of the year, which will happen when you throw an ill-advised flea flicker into triple coverage.
The play itself did a good job in summarizing most of Griffin’s pass attempts for the day. Too many times, he simply tried to throw 50/50 balls, with the result almost always going in the Bengals’ favor.
You can blame it on rust all you want, but all in all there was nothing you could see in today’s eyesore of a game that gave any indication Griffin is someone the team can build around. Heck, he didn’t even look like a reliable stopgap.
At the end of the day, while Griffin did make significant progress through the offseason, he still looks nothing like the 2012 Rookie of the Year. The Browns may have felt they could be the ones who could help him find that form again, but there’s no indication such a lofty goal will come into fruition.
Jackson claimed afterwards that Griffin will be starting again next week as Cleveland heads out to take on the Buffalo Bills. I’m sure those most excited about this news live in western New York. While Griffin may look a little more competent after getting his return game out of the way, I highly doubt the end result will be much better.
At the end of the day, Griffin’s return to the field resulted in two solid accomplishments. For one, he was able to survive an entire game, which is quite the feat. The most important thing he did, though, was prove to Cleveland that the quarterback of the future is not on the team’s current roster.