Few NFL organizations have failed as much as the Browns in terms of finding a franchise quarterback. The team has cycled through 22 starters at the position since 1999.
Several members of the media believe the 23rd quarterback could be the charm if the Browns select Marcus Mariota in the 2015 NFL Draft.
According to multiple reports, the Buccaneers will select quarterback Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall pick. However, the fate of Mariota hangs in the balance. The Titans hold the #2 pick, and could use the selection on the Oregon product. Tennessee currently has three quarterbacks on its roster: Zach Mettenberger, Charlie Whitehurst, and Alex Tanney.
The only other teams between the Titans at #2 and the Browns at #12 that do not have a franchise quarterback are the Jets at #6 and arguably the Bears at #7. The price for moving up would largely depend on the placement of the pick.
Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com first mentioned the idea on Thursday afternoon in an article on potential destinations for Mariota. La Canfora wrote:
"[The Browns] are picking No. 12 and clearly needy for a quarterback and a stable citizen at the helm. Josh McCown is a great caretaker but he's not the future. And Johnny Manziel had about as much of a lost rookie season as one could imagine. His future is already in doubt. The Browns have been peddling their 19th overall pick for Bradford – in both St. Louis and now Philadelphia – and owner Jimmy Haslam has been very intrigued by Mariota for quite some time. And make no mistake, his fingerprints were all over the Manziel selection. You can't rule the Browns out by any stretch here, with the draft picks and willingness to do it. Haslam likes splash moves."
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com followed suit on Thursday evening.
Jeremiah's latest mock draft has Mariota going to the Bears at #7, but the analyst said this on NFL Network:
"When Chip Kelly said he'd been offered a first-round pick, it seems like that was the Cleveland Browns, for Sam Bradford. That tells me Cleveland is not happy with their current quarterback situation. To me, that makes them the team most in need of an upgrade at the position. That's why I would say they have the most need for someone like Marcus Mariota."
Fellow NFL Network commentator Brian Baldinger added:
"They're going to draft a quarterback until they get it right. They're still trying to replace Bernie Kosar 20 years later."
ESPN.com's Pat McManamon devoted an entire article to the idea on Friday morning.
McManamon compared Mariota to Alex Smith, but called him a "better overall player." The veteran Browns beat reporter admitted that there will be growing pains with Mariota, since he played in a read option-based spread offense at Oregon. However, McManamon argues that the move would make sense:
"[The Browns'] quarterback situation remains a puzzle. But the notion of McCown joining the team to hold the fort as Mariota learns makes a lot of sense. And it makes a lot more sense than turning the team over to McCown.
Acquiring Mariota would raise questions about Manziel’s future, but the Browns can’t count on Manziel being available until they know where he stands after rehab. Then they have to make a judgment on whether Manziel can play in the NFL."
Fellow ESPN.com reporter Jeremy Fowler fully advocates the Mariota solution.
Fowler begins his article with a strong appeal for the 6'3, 222 pound prospect:
"The Browns’ offseason won’t be complete without that Pantone-2028C-orange-colored hat bill grazing Roger Goodell’s shoulder as Mariota hugs the commish from the stage in Chicago.
Trade for the man. Get yourself a quarterback. Dwayne Bowe will thank you."
Fowler uses more than emotional appeal to argue his case. Fowler advocates only pursuing Mariota if he falls past the Jets at #6, as trading up to #2 would be too big of an investment in Mariota, who "could require patience to grasp an NFL system."
The Browns currently have four quarterbacks on the roster: Josh McCown, Johnny Manziel, Thaddeus Lewis and Connor Shaw. Over the course of the offseason, Manziel checked into rehab, Brian Hoyer agreed to a two-year deal with the Texans, and the Browns signed McCown and Lewis.
On March 9, head coach Mike Pettine said he'd be "comfortable" with McCown as his starting signalcaller heading into the 2015 season. However, the Browns have made it clear that they are still searching for their franchise quarterback.
Reports recently surfaced that the Browns tried to acquire Sam Bradford from both the Rams and Eagles. On Tuesday, Adam Caplan reported that the Browns offered the Eagles a first round pick for the 27-year-old signalcaller.
While the Browns' need for a franchise quarterback is crystal clear, the answer is anything but.
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