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Hiring Coaches Is Fine, But Browns Must Still Find QB

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Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

The Cleveland Browns finally have their coaching triumverate.

Head coach Mike Pettine will have Kyle Shanahan, late of the Washington Redskins, as his offensive coordinator, and Jim O’Neil, who was on the staff with Pettine with the Buffalo Bills last season, as his defensive coordinator.

So now the Browns can at least move on in that regard.

While that’s all well and good, none of those hires – the coordinators, anyway – will mean anything at all if the Browns fail to get their quarterback situation straightened out.

And there’s no evidence to indicate they will be able to do that.

After all, the Browns have gone all 15 seasons in this expansion era without a long-term answer at quarterback. And while the members of the current management team – owner Jimmy Haslam, CEO Joe Banner and General Manager Mike Lombardi -- have been working together on the job for only about a year and thus can’t be blamed for all of the previous missteps, they did their part to botch things last year by going first with Brandon Weeden and then switching to Brian Hoyer, who won all three of his starts before getting hurt, only after Weeden got injured. So they didn’t survey the scene accurately.

Now they’ve got Hoyer and, with the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft in three months, a great chance to get a top-flight young quarterback to bring along behind him, if that’s what they chioose to do.

The Browns had six Pro Bowlers this season, and – especially if they re-sign two of them in soon-to-be free agents C Alex Mack and S T.J. Ward – have a good nucleus. But again, they’re not going anywhere without a quarterback. That’s obvious in today’s NFL. No quarterback equates to no chance.

The three other teams in the AFC North – the defending champion Cincinnati Bengals (Andy Dalton), the 2013 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens (Joe Flacco) and the 2009 Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers (Ben Roethlisbertger) – are all ahead of the Browns because of their edge at quarterback.

As compared to Roethlisberger, one of the best in the game over the last decade, and Flacco, who may be at the age and experience level where he will begin having the best seasons of his career, the Browns’ shortcomings at quarterback are precipitous.

Yes, of course, Dalton is hardly a world-beater, having proven for three years now that he may not be able to get the Bengals where they want to ultimately go. But even with that, he’s much better, partiucularly over the long haul, than anyone the Browns have trotted out there.

It has been since 1992, Bernie Kosar’s last full season with the team, that the Browns have been without a franchise quarterback. That’s 22 years ago. To put into better perspective just how long it’s been, Kosar celebrated his 50th birthday about 2½ months ago.

The best Browns quarterback since then? Instead of best, maybe we should just describe it as the one who has been not as bad as the others, and in that regard, we’re talking about people such as Vinny Testaverde, Derek Anderson, Kelly Holcomb and Tim Couch.

Yikes!

Those names don’t have quite the same ring to them as Kosar, Otto Graham, Brian Sipe, Frank Ryan and Bill Nelsen, do they?

And when the Browns figure out what they’re going to do at quarterback – whether it’s Hoyer or that draft pick or someone else – then he has to be on the very same wavelength as Pettine. They have to be able to finish each other’s sentences.

Really.

As for Shanahan, he will obviously have to be in tune with the quarterback as well, but it all starts with the head coach. Everything stems from there.

So the Browns are done with the big decisions for now. But the biggest and most impactful decision – that of finding a quarterback who can get the team out of the doldrums – has yet to be made.