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Going Through the Logic of Why the Browns Signed QB Josh McCown

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Explaining why the Browns tried to make the best of their quarterback situation with the signing of Josh McCown.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When the Cleveland Browns signed veteran Josh McCown this past Friday, he was not the answer at quarterback that fans were seeking, as voted upon by the DBN community:

Josh McCown Poll

It's not the first time the Browns have signed a veteran quarterback to be their starter, and each time I've had a similar type of reaction: it's an underwhelming signing that calls for a guy who can be an unselfish game manager in a finely-tuned system. The other veteran quarterbacks who Cleveland has signed in the past were Jeff Garcia, who was 34 years old in 2004, and Jake Delhomme, who was 35 years old in 2010.

When the Browns kick off the 2015 season, McCown -- the older brother of Luke McCown (drafted by the Browns in 2004), will be 36 years old. Older starting quarterbacks in the NFL will include Peyton Manning (39), Tom Brady (38), and Drew Brees (36). That's a good group to be among, but unfortunately, it's really the only thing McCown has in common with them.

McCown already has 12 years under his belt in the NFL, and at 16 games per season, he was eligible to play in a maximum of 192 games in his career. He's started just 49 games, though, and has never been a team's starter for an entire season.

He has faced the Browns twice in his career. The first time came in 2003, when the Browns routed the Cardinals 44-6. McCown, coming in the game as a backup, was 4-of-11 for 31 yards and 2 interceptions. In 2007, McCown started for the Raiders and beat the Browns 26-24. He was just 6-of-12 for 108 yards and 1 touchdown on the day before leaving with an injured foot.

In 2013, the Browns were ready for a different McCown. Filling in for the injured Jay Cutler for the Chicago Bears, McCown had thrown 13 touchdowns and 1 interception for a QB rating of 109.0 from Weeks 7-14. It was by far the best stretch of his career, and Cleveland was set to take on the Bears in Week 15. Cutler returned from injury that week and beat the Browns 38-31, but McCown's resurgence was enough to earn him a 2-year, $10 million deal with the Buccaneers.

When McCown first starting having his success in Chicago, it was the first time I had really paid attention to him because it was the first time he was really a relevant NFL quarterback. I felt that he benefited from having two tall receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and there is something positive to say about a guy who knows how to take advantage of his weapons.

When the Buccaneers signed him in 2014, I thought it was a good fit because Tampa Bay had a similar receiver situation with Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. Things didn't work out, though, as the Buccaneers went 1-10 in his 11 starts, and with Tampa Bay having Mike Glennon and the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, they cut McCown.

If you've read everything up to this point, then I suggest you take a few minutes to now go read McCown's interview with Mary Kay Cabot of the Plain Dealer, and then come back here after you are done.

I was a fan of Brian Hoyer. I liked the story of a hometown kid leading the team, and pre-Alex Mack injury, he was a solid fit for the offense. Hoyer always promoted himself as a starting quarterback, and while there is nothing wrong with that on his end, I'm sure it was the No. 1 source of tension between the front office and the coaching staff last year. Everything you've heard from Jason La Canfora and the lack of harmony in the Browns organization all stems back to last year's quarterback situation. Perhaps the best way to mend the fence between both sides -- the front office and the coaching staff -- was to find another game manager to replace Hoyer, but one who was less  of a polarizing figure.

If you've ready Cabot's article, then you can see how McCown is the very definition of that guy. His interview is more blunt than you'd expect to here from a quarterback -- he tells you exactly the type of player he is, he tells you that he's not going to come in here and make miracles, and he tells you that this needs to be a finely-tuned system that depends on the other pieces of the puzzle to get the job done.

"I would never shy away from it. (1-10) is what it is [with Tampa Bay last year] and I hate when I see it.  Only a few guys can (pull a team out of that)."
"I know who I am. I understand that. I know what fits me best is to play in a system that's tight and organized and well-planned and put together." -Josh McCown to Mary Kay Cabot


It's not a bad sales pitch, and I'm sure that is how the Browns looked at it. I said this offseason that I did not envy the situation the front office faced in trying to repair the quarterback situation. They'd love to give Johnny Manziel a shot, but there is no telling what type of place he is in right now. They'd hate to have to draft another quarterback in the first round, because that pretty much means they've given up on Manziel before we can give him a second chance.

The free agent field wasn't very enticing, and trading for a quarterback either gives you a guy who is chronically injured (Sam Bradford) or Mike Glennon. When the Buccaneers released McCown, that gave the Browns an alternative that was more attractive than the other options: they brought a more experience Hoyer back, but one who would come off as a better teammate in a "Johnny vs. Josh" type of competition.

McCown's situation in Tampa Bay was a disaster from the get-go. Their offensive coordinator left in September, and the offensive playcalling was in disarray as a result. The offensive line was atrocious in the pass blocking department, and the defense played unpredictably bad. The situation is the opposite in Cleveland, if we're being optimistic: the expectation is that the defense takes another step forward this year, and with Mack back at center, the offensive line is among the best in the NFL. In that type of situation, maybe, just maybe, McCown can make this work.

Did the Browns over-pay for McCown by giving him a 3-year, $14 million deal? Compared to other NFL teams, yes. When you have as much cap space as the Browns do, though, that is a sacrifice that shouldn't worry fans in the least, especially when you're trying to make the best out of a quarterback situation that you can. If that's the price that was needed to beat out the Buffalo Bills, then so be it. McCown's deal is only a commitment of 1-year for $6.25 million; everything after that can be wiped away if the team needs the space in the future...particularly if the best-case scenario happens, which is that Manziel develops into the exciting, young quarterback who we all want him to be.