If there is one thing that is 100 percent needed in the NFL to produce a winning team, it is a quality quarterback. We point to examples like Trent Dilfer as a Super Bowl winner or Rex Grossman as making it to the Super Bowl as points that you don’t need a “great” quarterback in order to make it, and win, a Super Bowl. Both of those examples are absolute outliers on the true Super Bowl winning formula. An absolute stud defense — which the Cleveland Browns are closer to than we think — will get you there, but it takes a stud quarterback to put you over the top.
That’s why I couldn’t disagree more with my colleague Bonder Carthen’s assessment of the Browns’ options in this year’s NFL Draft. Now is absolutely the time to take a quarterback, although the top four candidates may not be the best options.
The Browns are a lot closer to being contenders than many want to admit. The offense has two of the best weapons in football in Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. Gordon is the closest thing to Calvin Johnson since, well, Calvin Johnson, and we might as well call Cameron the AFC’s answer to Jimmy Graham at this point. The Browns also went out this offseason and added a legitimate tailback threat. Ben Tate averaged around eight yards per carry for the Houston Texans, although he was not the feature back.
Now this is all not to say that Brian Hoyer does not deserve the starting job — he absolutely earned that in his limited action last season — but the Browns need to go out and draft a quarterback to develop him for the future. I do not think the answer is any of the top four, but rather a player who you can probably get later in the second or even the third round. That answer is Alabama National Championship winner AJ McCarron.
McCarron brings a level of maturity to the game that is incredibly rare for young quarterbacks. Often times you’ll see quarterbacks come in and try to do to much, simultaneously ruining any shred of confidence they may have had as a rookie in the NFL. Carthen uses Colt McCoy as an example of a failed Browns quarterback, and McCoy certainly meets that description. But let’s not forget that McCoy came in with a noodle arm after being pummeled so hard in the National Championship (against McCarron’s Alabama team) that he missed three-quarters of the game with an injury. He never had a chance to be successful for the Browns because he thought it was his responsibility to make things happen on the field. If you come in on a bad team, you’ll simply never be given the chance to recover.
Browns fans, don’t fret; the time is near. But the front office needs to make the right decisions, and that includes taking a quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft.