Tale of two quarterbacks...or three

Robert Griffin III was introduced to the Cleveland media for the first time Wednesday and he spoke along with Josh McCown about their roles with the Browns

BEREA, Ohio—As the Browns off-season begins, there is a lot of uncertainty at quarterback. 

One quarterback doesn’t know if he will be here, another one is trying to resurrect his career and there is expected to be a “to be named later” quarterback added to the mix later in April.

Josh McCown is the incumbent on the roster, but questions remain as to whether he will be with the team after the NFL Draft.  McCown is in his 14th season and he turns 37 this summer.

McCown is set to make about $4.375 million this season, which might be too much for a second- or third-team quarterback in a mentoring role. 

McCown is coming off a broken collarbone that finished his 2015 season but feels physically he can still play in the NFL.

“Right now, I feel good I will come in and compete and try to make our position group better and let everything else sort itself out.”

McCown was asked his feeling when the Browns signed Robert Griffin III, as well as the probability the Browns will use a high draft choice to select a quarterback.

“My reaction is the same no matter what player they add to the team to make our team better,” McCown said. “I’m for that. As a member of this team, you want to do everything you can to help make the team better. You trust the people in charge of putting the team together and if Robert helps us accomplish those goals and that gets us there, I’m all for it.”

Hue Jackson wouldn’t speak about McCown’s future but said he enjoys working with him. He wouldn’t rule out McCown being with the team in 2016.

“Josh McCown is a tremendous football player,” Jackson said. “I’m just excited to work with him and we’re not worried about the future.”

Griffin III is trying to resurrect his NFL career with the Browns after not taking a snap in 2015. Griffin III, signed a two-year $15 million contract, including a $3.5 million signing bonus and $3.25 million guaranteed with the Browns last month.

Griffin III, who was drafted second overall by the Redskins in the 2012 NFL Draft after winning the 2011 Heisman Trophy. He played in Washington for four seasons before being cut by the organization on March 7.

Playing in 37 games over his four seasons for Washington and accumulating 8,097 yards with 40 touchdown passes and a 90.6 QB rating, Griffin didn't play a single game for the Redskins in 2015, sitting behind Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy on the team's quarterback depth chart. 

“I just feel blessed to have an opportunity to compete,” Griffin III said. “I didn’t get to play last year and am just thankful for the chance and am looking forward to the opportunity.”

The 26-year-old took the NFL by storm amidst his 2012 rookie season, throwing for 3,200 yards with 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions over 15 games. 

The performance earned him the 2012 Rookie of the Year award and a place in the 2012 Pro Bowl, in which he did not take part due to injuries to both his ACL and LCL. 

Starting in 13 games for the Redskins in 2013, throwing for 3,203 yards and just 16 touchdowns with 12 interceptions, before suffering through an injury-plagued 2014 season in which he started just nine games. 

Joel Bitonio admitted he was excited when the Browns signed Griffin III.

"I was excited,” Bitonio said. “He seems like a guy that's going to be ready to work. Him and Josh are doing a good job leading the offense.”

And then there’s the strong possibility that the Browns will use the number two pick in the NFL Draft to select either quarterback Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. If they pass on those two, there is still a strong possibility they will draft another quarterback later in the first round or among the top three or four rounds. McCown doesn’t know if he’ll be retained, traded or outright released after the draft.

“I understand the situation could change,” McCown said. “If the situation changes, we’ll address it at that time.”

Griffin III had the right answer, as well when it comes to drafting a quarterback.

“I trust whatever they do will be in the best interest of the team,” Griffin III said. “Whatever they do in the draft is above my pay grade. I feel very blessed with this opportunity.”

Jackson said having Griffin III hasn’t changed the Browns thinking, in terms of the draft.

“If there’s an opportunity to make our team better, that’s what we’ll do,” Jackson said. 

Griffin III said he is savoring the opportunity he has with the Browns. 

“When you have something taken away from you, it makes you more excited (for the opportunity),” Griffin III said. “I’ve grown a lot since 2012. There’s things I could’ve done differently but I can’t focus on that.”

Jackson said he feels very good with where Griffin III is at both physically and emotionally.

“I feel very comfortable with Robert,” Jackson said. “After the doctors said he was healthy and watching him, we felt very good about him.”

Besides McCown and Griffin III and an expected high draft choice at quarterback, the Browns also have Austin Davis and Connor Shaw on the roster.

Griffin III is already making his presence felt in terms of leadership. 

Gary Barnidge said that Griffin called him after he signed with the Browns. 

“You can tell he wants to be a leader and he has a leadership part to him,” Barnidge said. 

Joel Bitonio said that Griffin and McCown have done a good job of leading the offense early in the off-season program.

Bitonio said that McCown and Griffin seem to be working together. 

“In the limited time they’re both taking leadership of the team,” Bitonio said. “Both coming in and trying to get everybody on the same page.”

McCown agreed.

“We want that room to be strong together,” McCown said. “The goal is to come along side of one another and make this team better.”

Griffin III expects to compete for the starting job, but respects those he’s working against. 

“That’s everybody’s expectation were all here to compete,” Griffin III said. “You have to have confidence.”

Griffin III was asked if he feels extra pressure to show what he can do with the Browns to prove to them before the draft that he can be the long-term answer at quarterback.

“Where there’s no pressure, there’s no diamonds,” Griffin III said. “I’ve seen the best and I’ve seen the worst in this league. I’ve  learned that it’s not about me, it’s about we.”

Extra Points

Browns Keep Five RFA’s: The Browns signed restricted free agents OL Austin Pasztor, LB Scott Solomon and exclusive rights players K Travis Coons, WR Darius Jennings and OL Kaleb Johnson.

 Pasztor, who was acquired via waivers from Jacksonville, appeared in all 16 games with the Browns with four starts at left guard in 2015. He has appeared in 42 career games with 27 starts (seven at left guard and 20 at right tackle).

 Solomon notched one tackle in two games before being placed on injured reserve (knee) on Oct. 14. He has appeared in 24 career games and logged 25 tackles and two sacks.

 Coons converted 28 of 32 FGs (87.5 pct.) and 22 of 24 PATs (91.7) in 2015. He set an NFL record with 18 consecutive FGs to begin his career.

 Jennings, an undrafted rookie in 2015, appeared in four games with one start. He recorded 14 receptions for 117 yards.

 Johnson, an undrafted rookie in 2015, was acquired via waivers from Baltimore. He was active but did not play in two games and was inactive one game with the Browns.

Haden Working Hard: Jackson said that DB Joe Haden is in the building every day working to get back on the field. 

“There’s nobody working harder than Joe right now.”

No Good Time: Jackson was asked about the decision to release DB Donte Whitner late. Jackson said the decision wasn’t made until the time they released him.

“There’s always tough decisions to be made and there’s no good time to release a player.”

QB Josh McCown was asked if he would like to know sooner than later if he’s not in the team’s plans.

“Any veteran player would appreciate that courtesy, but that’s what we signed up for because ultimately the club has your rights,” McCown said. “Hopefully, if the club came to the conclusion that you weren’t in their plans, you would like to have a chance (to go elsewhere) but that’s the (club’s right).”


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