Obviously a hot button issue for the Cleveland Browns and their fans at this time, as it seems to be every off season.
Recent articles on this site include an examination of what has happened recently at the position, found HERE.
Another assemblage of recent thoughts of both Lane and I which can be found in the ATI. That link is provided HERE.
When looking at the previous incarnation of those under center, it seemed pretty simple. Neither showed any type of consistent ability to be a legitimate NFL quarterback, thus they were jettisoned.
A veteran who has proved himself over time, albeit struggled greatly last year, was brought in to provide stability. Jake Delhomme does have some west coast experience, he can make all the NFL throws, plus he will command a huddle and locker room.
A legitimate backup option in Seneca Wallace was also acquired. This provides even more stability to the position since the former Seahawk backup has shown the ability to play in this league and perform at an adequate level when called upon to start. With Brian Daboll still calling the plays, maybe he can also get a little creative with this talent.
This all leads to the NFL draft where quarterback will receive a large bulk of concentration. There are five prospects which should be discussed in regards to the Cleveland Browns:
Sam Bradford - By most indications, the Browns are very high on this prospect. He may, by all intents and purposes, be considered the only true franchise talent at the position.
Scouts and talent evaluators love his accuracy, the touch on his passes, and his ability to consistently spin the football. As President Mike Holmgren pointed out, he possesses the most ideal skill set which is being a natural passer. Bradford has also impressed scouts by using his off time accordingly and gaining much needed bulk to play in the NFL. Now this prospect is up to 236 pounds, instead of the slender 213-223 lbs. he was listed.
There still can be some questions raised. System is a concern because of Oklahoma's spread. Most seem to revolve around his footwork and how comfortable Bradford is in his drops. Bradford defended himself quite adamantly at the Combine stating each practice his position coach puts his QB's through the proper steps under center, while the Sooners also played under center more often his first year as a starter. Maybe the one key concern is the style of offense itself and its "look at me" audibles from the sideline. As good as Bradford was, he certainly wasn't Peyton Manning surveying the field in college. And obviously the injuries this year are a major concern. Some sources close to this prospect even stated his workouts weren't going nearly as good as being portrayed just a few weeks prior to the Combine. So, that ever looming upcoming pro day is as important as anyone has seen in recent years.
Jimmy Clausen - Maybe the most interesting case of any prospect at the position, at least in regards to the Cleveland Browns.
By most intents and purposes, he would appear to be the most logical fit and value for the team in the first round. Clausen played at a very high level at a major program (albeit Notre Dame again). He has very good accuracy. I've personally stated multiple times that Clausen was asked to consistently fit the football into tighter windows than any other prospect in the nation. He has the arm strength. It is not overwhelming but is much in line with that of Mark Sanchez of a year ago. One just has to put on the tape against Boston College this year and see this quarterback repeatedly complete the 10-15 yard out, from the opposite hash, on a rope because that was what the defense was giving them. Clausen is mobile and effective on bootlegs and avoiding pressure. In fact, his toughness cannot be questioned after playing through a toe injury most of the season which required surgery afterwards. This prospect also showed up at the Combine measuring in slightly better than expected at 6'2.5" and 222 lbs.
The knocks on this particular signal caller most often heard do not come from the field of play. Granted some scouts are concerned about his overall potential growth and upside. But most worries are off the field concerns, specifically his perceived arrogance. Some of this is overblown due to being a young kid, who has the world by the gonads at a very young age, and flaunted it. By most indications he was very good with his teammates (spends the off season with them at his California home) and has learned to work within the system as he has gotten older. These are still questions that are swirling, and his interview periods with teams are the most critical component to the off season for Mr. Jimmy Clausen.
Tim Tebow - Currently the most intriguing name as it pertains to the Browns. Recently, the entire group of decision makers were down in the Swamp to watch Florida's pro day. Also, Cleveland already has a personal workout lined up with this collegiate great.
Everyone knows the story. In fact, it may be more detrimental to Tebow that he is such an unfairly polarizing figure than anything else. Thankfully, he is as hard working and determined a young man as one could ever expect at the position. And this exact reasoning is why so many teams are intrigued, and one will eventually take that proverbial leap of faith much higher in the draft than many will probably expect. Watching him over the years, there are certainly traits to like outside the personal level. Tebow can make the throws. At one point in his career, I specifically remember him lacing an out route from the opposite hash from about 12 yards to the endzone, placed it perfectly in the outstretched hands of the receiver, just past the fingertips of the cornerback, which resulted in a touchdown. He may have never been asked to make these throws with any type of consistency, but he has shown the capability to do so. He does have more than enough arm strength. Clearly, his overall athleticism is a fantastic tool as well. Even if he is developed over a long period; this quarterback should be able to contribute in the short term on a handful of plays if needed.
Technique is the word of the day in regards to what Tebow has to continually work on throughout his career, and he admits as much. What many have to realize is that his release point isn't changing. His current quarterback coaches are merely improving his footwork and shortening his windup. These are things that can be changed. Recently watching NFL Network, it was pointed out that Phillip Rivers has tweaked his throwing motion of the years too. Long term accuracy and reverting to old habits are still the major concerns at this point. No one should fool themselves into think Tebow isn't a long term project, because he is. From a talent evaluator standpoint, he is the type of prospect you want in the locker room. And he has the upside to take a chance is put in the right situation. One which may be present in Cleveland.
Colt McCoy - At least statistically speaking, McCoy would appear to be the best fit in the ever evolving upcoming offense for the Cleveland Browns.
The Texas gunslinger, like many of his contemporaries, operated almost purely out of a shotgun spread offense. Of all those mentioned, he may have been the most deadly accurate in his system. His throws hit the receiver in stride, they're soft catchable footballs, and he generally spins the ball relatively well. All these things brand him as a natural passer. Add to the equation, McCoy is a quite athletic. This quarterback has led his team in rushing yardage combined over the past two seasons. He also won more games than any other signal caller in NCAA history. All these things are what to like in this prospect.
Earlier I mentioned "soft catchable football"; at times this is a pleasant way of stating, "The kid has a noodle arm". This is not entirely the case, but he has far from elite level arm strength. It will not prevent him from playing in the league, but it's merely average at best. Was it last year against Ohio State where anyone could see him literally spinning his entire body around in attempts to completely a 35+ yard go route along the sideline? Colt McCoy is deadly accurate, but it's predominantly within the 20 yard mark. In his case, this is not as bad as one would think simply because that's where 90% of NFL offenses operate. Then he hurts his throwing arm in the Championship Game. Although it appeared nothing more than a pinched nerve, or a "stinger", it has to be checked out thoroughly just in case.
All these things scream one thing about McCoy, a perfect west coast quarterback.
Tony Pike - A different type of prospect than those already mentioned. Pike is a limited starter, with previous injuries, who possesses a very good physical skill set.
Everything one needs to see to like about Tony Pike can be found in the Orange Bowl against Florida. Some may call this crazy simply because Pike got beat to hell and did not have a great game statistically. Absolutely. But it did show the toughness and aptitude as a quarterback many tend to overlook. Tony Pike has a good feel in the pocket and very good footwork. Against Florida, he was not overmatched; his offensive line was. The quarterback was using his feet to avoid some of the pressure and still completing some passes. He stood tall in the pocket, took more than his fair share of shots, and still completed passes. And most importantly, he continued to lead his team back even when his opponents got to a commanding and insurmountable lead. These are all vital traits many talent evaluators search for long and hard.
From a negative aspect, Pike started less than 20 career games at Cincinnati. In fact, he was their fifth string quarterback prior to 2008 before multiple differing circumstances led him into the starter role. He also has a plate and screws in his non-throwing forearm. This flared up once again this past season. What he plans on doing medically will apparently be the decision of his future NFL team, as suggested by the quarterback himself. Also, another spread quarterback who system was primarily based on simple reads. Last but not least, Pike has struggled this off season while trying to impress talent evaluators. He did so by attempting to tweak his grip on the football. This quarterback has never thrown very tight spirals, but struggled even more with the change. So he has reverted back.
There is plenty of natural talent in this long and lean quarterback prospect who may be a leading target if a team is willing to wait a couple rounds to land him.
Other names of potential mid to late round interest: Mike Kafka (Northwestern), Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan), Levi Brown (Troy), Zac Robinson (Oklahoma St.), and Matt Nichols (Eastern Washington).