Steven King

Browns Can't Afford To Same Mistake Jets Did At Quarterback

Created on Dec. 19, 2013 8:01 PM EST

For the second week in a row, the Cleveland Browns will get a lesson about handling quarterbacks.

In last Sunday’s 38-31 loss to Chicago, they got to see the right thing to do. Bears coach Marc Trestman displayed patience with – as well as a belief and confidence in – Jay Cutler and was rewarded for that when the quarterback shook off a slow start due to rust to throw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a huge comeback victory.

And when they visit the New York Jets on Sunday, the Browns will get to see the wrong thing to do regarding quarterbacks.

In desperate need for a franchise passer, the Jets reached far and wide to take West Virginia’s Geno Smith near the top of the second round in the 2013 NFL Draft. Smith had been rumored for a while to be a possibility for the quarterback-hungry Browns at No. 6 overall, but they passed on him and he began to drop like a rock all the way down to No. 39.

Apparently, the Browns saw what other teams saw in that Smith. While athletic, he wasn’t nearly as NFL-ready as he was perceived to be by some. Smith has started all 14 games this year for the 6-8 Jets and really struggled, throwing just 10 touchdown passes against 21 interceptions for a 62.9 quarterback rating. That’s just a bit above his 55.3 completion percentage.

Maybe the Jets should have started former Browns KR Josh Cribbs, who registered a 109.7 passing rating in his three attempts out of the “Wildcat” before being lost for the season due to injury.

Will Jets coach Rex Ryan get fired after the season? That remains to be seen, but he is certainly on thin ice and has been for a while. And if he is dismissed, then it’s possible that his replacement will pick someone else to be his franchise quarterback. Then this whole process will start all over again in terms of the Jets trying to develop their guy. What a vicious cycle.

The Browns know all about that. They’ve been down that road countless times in the expansion era and they’re at that point again as they stagger to the finish line with five straight losses and a 4-10 record.

Jason Campbell will start at quarterback on Sunday for a third straight game and the seventh time overall this year. He’s done some very good things, but he’s not the long-term answer. The same could probably also be said for Brian Hoyer, who played well in three starts before seeing his season end with a torn ACL.

One or both current quarterbacks will hold the baton for the player the Browns may well take early in the 2014 draft to be their franchise quarterback.

The trick for the Browns, who have two first-round choices and a bucketload of picks overall in the top half of the draft, will be to determine if there are any difference-makers among the available quarterbacks. If so, can they get themselves into position to take one of them?

But if there aren’t any quarterbacks worthy of a high pick, then the Browns have to make sure to dig in their heels and address other positions with their first-rounders. They can’t do what the Jets did with Smith and take a quarterback well beyond where he’s valued just because they need someone.

Moves like that kill a franchise. The Browns know that all too well, with QB Brandon Weeden being the latest such example.

It will be up to the Browns’ top executives in CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi to do the right thing. And they don’t need to look any further than the Bears and Jets to see what to do – and not to do – when it comes to quarterbacks.

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