CLEVELAND (AP) — Just one week into a new season, the Browns are re-huddling to address their plan at quarterback.
It’s been thrown for a significant loss. Sacked, really.
Robert Griffin III’s shoulder injury will keep him off the field for at least eight games, time the Browns were hoping to use to assess whether he could be their long-term answer at a position that remains mystifying to the franchise. Griffin sustained a broken bone in his left shoulder during Sunday’s loss at Philadelphia, a setback to the 26-year-old’s career and another unexpected twist for the Browns, who have started 25 quarterbacks since 1999.
While the rest of the NFL has made strides in finding the most important player on any team, the Browns remain lost.
Griffin may return this season, but until he does, the Browns will play 37-year-old Josh McCown. And although McCown may be a solid backup and an ideal teammate, he’s nothing more than a stop-gap on Cleveland’s never-ending quest to find its future quarterback.
The Browns are still looking — usually in the wrong places.
“It is frustrating, but at the same time, I do get it,” first-year coach Hue Jackson said Monday after announcing Griffin’s injury. “I have always been part of the saying, ‘Next man up.’ It is real in this league. It is unfortunate you have the injuries that you do, but you have to be able to move on from it because nobody is going to feel sorry for us about it. We have to move on to the next guy and keep going.”
When the Browns signed Griffin in March to a two-year, $15 million contract, there was an assumption it wouldn’t preclude them from taking a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in April’s draft. However, the team didn’t think enough of Jared Goff to move up or Carson Wentz and traded the selection to the Eagles. As luck would have it — and the Browns have been sorely lacking in that department — Wentz, thrust into a starting role when Sam Bradford was traded to Minnesota, made his debut against Cleveland on Sunday and threw for 278 yards and two touchdowns to beat Cleveland.
Jackson publicly dismissed the notion that he and the Browns’ new front office second-guessed their decision on Wentz, but it’s safe to assume his name came up in their private discussions.
“He had a good game, a great game if you guys (media) want to term it that, and I respect that,” said Jackson, who has built his reputation as a quarterback expert. “He is a fine young man and they have good coaches and a good organization, and he is going to do well for them, but that was one game. He played well. We will look back and see where he is over a period of time, but the Browns have to get better.”
The Browns knew about Griffin’s injuries and some of his off-field issues in Washington before they signed him, so they can’t be too surprised he’s already hurt. But it was their decision to give up a chance to select one of the top two quarterbacks in the draft — something they haven’t done since taking Tim Couch No. 1 in 1999 — that they may regret if Griffin doesn’t pan out and their forced to start anew with a rookie QB next season.
Maybe that’s been the strategy all along, but Sashi Brown, the team’s Vice President of Football Operations, said last week that the team views Griffin as more than a temporary, two-year fix.
“To be fair to Robert, he’s young in his career,” said Brown. “We’ll develop him over time. We don’t look at it as certainly just a two-year venture or a week-to-week venture. We’re going to have to stick by him, put the right pieces around him and help him learn how to play that position as well.”
The Browns currently have two first-round draft picks next year, when they could finally the QB to end nearly two decades of futility and frustration.
Jackson, though, can’t let his mind drift beyond this week’s home opener against the Ravens.
“I haven’t thought that far yet,” he said of the 2017 draft. “There is Baltimore right around the corner here and that is probably what is totally on my mind and just making sure that our players grow from the experience that we had on Sunday. I’m sure it will be a conversation here pretty soon.”
In Cleveland, quarterbacks are always a talking topic.
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