The Cleveland Browns have a quarterback competition looming once training camp commences in late July. This should come as no surprise. There are four quarterbacks on the roster, with two in particular—Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown—having the most clear path to being the starter come Week 1. Head coach Hue Jackson has made it a point during offseason activities thus far to make it clear that no one has an advantage heading into the summer’s padded period, but that hasn’t done much of anything to clear speculation or to quell the desire to read between the lines on comments he’s made over the previous months.
Jackson said in early June of Griffin’s odds of being ordained the starter once summer’s work completes, “Quarterbacks are made by wins. That's how a guy has to do it consistently, then he becomes a franchise quarterback. We're back in the first stages, trying to find a quarterback, then naming a quarterback, then letting him play, and over time we'll see.” Meanwhile, respected NFL analyst, producer of NFL Matchup on ESPN and senior producer at NFL Films, Greg Cosell—a man who is only second to Jon Gruden in tape analysis of players and possessing an iron trap of a mind for the game—said on the Fantasy Guru podcast last month that “RG3 [Griffin] can’t play,” a determination made based on Griffin’s previous accomplishments as well as “the quotes coming out of Hue Jackson.”
Now, we’ve all parsed Jackson’s comments on Griffin and the quarterback situation within an inch of their lives over the past months—it’s simply a by-product of the offseason to over-examine every scrap of information in search for a kernel of truth with no football action of any sort (OTAs barely count) taking place. And while there is little to indicate that Jackson has the same dismal outlook on Griffin’s prospects of being successfully Redesigned, Rebuilt and Reclaimed, one thing is certain: We have no idea who Cleveland’s starting quarterback will be in Week 1, Week 3, Week 10 or Week 17. https://www.instagram.com/p/92X8tfOU4J/
Cosell praised McCown in the podcast, calling him “the best quarterback on their roster right now,” which may very well be true. Griffin hasn’t played a snap at quarterback since the 2014 season, spending most of 2015 as a scout-team safety for Washington in the team’s practices. Cody Kessler is a rookie and a third-round draft pick. Austin Davis is best suited for a backup role, whether in Cleveland or anywhere in the league.
Perhaps the best option truly is McCown; right now, on paper, that would make the most sense, given his level of experience and professionalism, his proven ability to adapt, his recent history of serving as a starter and, to be frank, his payday. He’ll get a chance at the job, that’s guaranteed. But to know, definitively, where Griffin stands now and where he will stand in September is premature and impossible. Griffin is with a new team, a new coach, a new system and working with a receiving corps that is, itself, not just new to the system but also, by a large margin, new to the NFL itself. Minicamps and OTAs have just been a period of installation and of getting players to memorize and internalize what will become just the first three days of training camp. There have been no pads donned nor pressure applied. There has been no hitting. Therefore, what information we have about Griffin or any of Cleveland’s quarterbacks is minimal and, most importantly, almost entirely not useful.
Jackson will make his final quarterback decision when he is good and ready, a sentiment he has reiterated countless times to the point of his own visible personal frustration. That time may not come until Week 4 of the preseason, and whatever decision-making process he chooses to employ is well within his rights. The impatient among us may want him to say something, anything now, but that he has refused to does not belie any subtext about his feelings regarding Griffin, McCown, Kessler or Davis. This is a competition that has barely begun. These are quarterbacks who, because of CBA rules, Jackson hasn’t even spent much time talking or working with. While this doesn’t mean Griffin will succeed over the course of the summer, it also does not mean he is already doomed to failure. Any and everything is possible.