1. Ponder the chronology: Ray Farmer drafts Johnny Manziel. Brian Hoyer barely wins the job out of training camp, then holds onto it by playing well early. Eventually he leads the Browns to a 7-4 record. Farmer, though, sends in-game texts to assistant coaches as early as the New Orleans game. It was the second game of the season and a win for the Browns. He continues to text during games throughout the season, some of it about the quarterback play, and only acknowledges his mistake after the season when the texting becomes public. Farmer clearly was part of the front office effort that undermined Hoyer, and had him playing while wearing a straightjacket. The more Hoyer learned the front office was not supportive, the more he pressed. So the guy who undermined Hoyer by texting during games winds up, with the full support of the owner, ushering Hoyer out of town and signing a 35-year-old to replace him.
It's easy to look at this as a conspiracy theory to try to understand the steep drop off in the quality of Brian Hoyer's play, but the reality is found in the minutiae. Brian Hoyer began to struggle for three reasons:
1. The running game stopped being able to effectively rip off major YPC, which heavily affected the play action passing game. Obviously, the Alex Mack injury had was a key component of this.
2. Defenses started to get tape to study on how the Browns offense operated, which let them change schemes to more effectively crash the line by run blitzing. The defenses the Browns saw got progressively better as the season progressed, which put the struggles of the offense under a greater magnifying glass.
3. Hoyer's mechanics got progressively sloppier as the season progressed and teams learned that he struggled under pressure. Brian started to fade to the left and right during his throws, and his footwork became choppy.
I'm much more inclined to believe Hoyer's problems were developed between the hashes rather than as a result of not being loved by Ray Farmer and the front office.
2. McCown is a tremendous human being, a quality guy. He also was a teammate of LeCharles Bentley in the Senior Bowl. In 2002. Along with Dave Zastudil, Dwight Freeney, Brett Keiseland David Garrard. That was the same year the Browns took William Green in the first round.
Hey-o, Josh McCown is old! So are a host of other backup quarterbacks. He's only like 3 years older than last two starting quarterbacks, though, so......we have that going for us.
3. The Browns have maintained as they built their team that what was most important to them was they wanted to drive competition at every position. It’s been a mantra, right up there with "play like a Brown." In signing McCown, the Browns let Hoyer go because he wanted to start and they felt he was not their guy for the long-term. In signing McCown, they added a guy who will start, but is willing to be a mentor. How exactly is this driving competition?
The Browns did not let Hoyer go because of the two reasons outlined here. The Browns let Hoyer go for a half dozen reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Hoyer was offered a contract last year (to make fair backup money) and he turned it down by betting on himself. He also feels that he has the skills and mentality to be a starter in this league, and wants to pursue that dream. That's a fundamental difference of opinion, and they're happy to look into other options that provide the same-ish quality of play that Hoyer brings.
Also, the Browns are a far ways from declaring that McCown will start. On March 2nd, with your other reasonable option in rehab, he's the guy at the top of the depth chart. It's also obvious from his comments when he was introduced that McCown understands that the only person keeping Johnny Manziel or a yet-to-be-determined pick from the job is.....themselves. By bringing in Josh McCown, the Browns have said: "This is the bar of acceptable performance. It is not a high bar to vault, but you must be this tall to ride this coaster" (figuratively)
4. McCown was good with the Bears two years ago, going 3-2 in games he started. But that was the only year in his career he was above .500 as a starter. His second-best mark: 3-3 in 2005 and 1-1 in 2011. Take away the Bears season, and McCown is 14-30 as a starter, with 44 starts in 12 seasons.
We don't measure QB success in wins and losses, despite what many Browns fans want to do with Brian Hoyer. I can still objectively say that Drew Brees was the best QB in the NFC south, despite losing more games than Carolina. Team sport.
5. McCown went 1-10 in Tampa Bay. There he had two big and talented receivers and a poor offensive line, and he faced the NFC South, the NFL’s worst division. Carolina made the playoffs with a 7-8-1 record.
Yep, that division sucked. Trying to derive value from McCown's performance in it is corollary at best, and likely completely unrelated.
6. Kyle Shanahan preferred the Browns draft Jimmy Garapolo last year. In signing McCown, the Browns made a point that new coordinator John DeFilippo worked with him in Oakland. So the team gave a first-time coordinator who -- has never called plays -- his quarterback while denying the veteran coordinator his.
There's a lot of back-handed insults here, but some key points to remember.
1. NFL teams don't typically allow the offensive coordinator to dictate who they are going to draft. They sometimes let homeless people give input, but that's a different story.
2. The Browns did not sign Josh McCown because of Coach Flip. They signed McCown because he provides a capable presence in the quarterbacks room, and they viewed the familiarity with some of the offensive concepts as a plus. More than anything, the Browns needed to bring in a veteran to provide stability at the position, and were in a worse position to negotiate with a meager quarterback supply than nearly every other team ALSO looking to add a quarterback. They could not afford to waste their time and resources chasing a Sanchez or a Locker, both of which will undoubtedly have more stable teams fighting for their services, and a lot more weapons on offense to work with.
3. Connecting random haphazard dots is Grossi territory. Beware or catch copyright infringement activities.
7. It’s worth noting that DeFilippo worked with McCown as quarterback coach in 2007. That was seven years ago when DeFIlippo was a first-year quarterback coach.
This is a good thing, yes? The guys who will be working with the quarterback are familiar with his body of work and capability?
8. Relying on past performance seems to really matter with this organization. Farmer said he believes Manziel can succeed because of the way he played in college. Two years ago. The Browns signed McCown, presumably because he played well in Chicago. Two years ago.
My boss does this two. If I performed well on a project two years ago, they are reasonably confident that I'm capable of effecting the same results today. They also didn't pay millions of dollars and hire the best and brightest minds in the industry to confirm those educated guesses.
9. In fairness, the draft remains an option. A developmental guy like Garrett Grayson could fit. If Marcus Mariota falls to No. 12, the Browns would be nuts not to take him (which of course, based on history, means they’ll take a running back). But if it comes to trading up to acquire Mariota, the Browns would have to surrender both their first-round picks and presumably another to get him. Which means they’d be giving up everything they acquired to build a team that could sustain winning. Which would be continued madness.
Just playing devil's advocate here, because I do tend to agree with Pat on the value of these assets.
1. If you've identified a quarterback that can be a franchise/elite caliber player, 3 first round picks is not an absurd cost at all. (You've already wasted 2 in the last 3 drafts on guys, Weeden and Manziel, who may not end up factoring into the 2015 plans) You traded back in 2014 to give yourself a chance to make this kind of a decision in 2015.
2. I have a hard time believing that two firsts in 2015 represent, "Everything they acquired to build a team that could sustain winning." The team has a horde of young talent under club control, and is a QB and DL help away from being a contender. They're likely approaching it with that in mind.
10. This of course shrugs off that Mariota will need time to adjust to the NFL game and might not be ready as a rookie. Mariota said at the combine he hadn’t called plays in a huddle since high school, so Kevin O’Connell had him practicing reading plays at night. He also didn’t huddle in college, or take NFL drops. So … he’ll go through the same on-field adjustment Manziel went through.
It doesn't shrug this fact off at all. Manziel had a harder adjustment to make at the NFL level because he only played two years of college football and didn't dedicate himself to his craft in the off-season. (Which he admitted, himself) The list of quarterbacks that have succeeded after leaving college early is threadbare at best, with Michael Vick one of the only examples of quarterbacks who found success in this fashion. Manziel came into a situation where he was already at a huge disadvantage, and did not do what was required to compensate.
Signing a veteran quarterback like McCown is exactly the type of move you'd make with Mariota in mind. I believe Browns fans would view this signing with a lot more patience if they saw it through that lens. McCown could provide a safety net for Mariota, which still providing a fair bar of competition for the rookie. He'll provide this same service to Manziel. Both quarterbacks will struggle at the NFL level to adjust to the pro style offensive schemes, as would Bryce Petty and Brett Hundley. (Two much more likely candidates to find their way onto the Browns roster)
11. The Browns seem to be the only team that believes Manziel and McCown can be a starter. Buffalo was negotiating, but not to the effort the Browns did. What the Browns saw that 31 other teams did not is open to question. Though the draft could reduce the fuzziness, at this point it seems like Farmer simply did not want Hoyer. When McCown became available he became the most attractive quarterback to Farmer who wasn’t Hoyer. Signing a 35-year-old who went 1-10 a year ago, a guy much of the league felt was more ready to be a Matt Hasselbecktype backup than a starter, shows little long-term thinking. It seems more like the Browns are making it up as they go.
I'm still firmly in the camp that believes that Johnny Manziel, warts and rehab and all, is the favorite to start at QB for the Browns in 2015. He's obviously got a monumental way to go, cleaning himself up, but his talent is light years beyond what McCown provides on game day. Manziel will have to prove that he's willing to outwork the veteran and know the playbook inside and out, but if he does, McCown will prove a resource for him. If he's unable to do so, the Browns will not let their veterans down by starting him anyway. McCown starting 16 games or Manziel starting them will prove the same in 2016; it will show the team exactly where the 2016 draft position stands, in terms of quarterbacks.