After practicing all week on a very limited basis due to an injury to his throwing shoulder, quarterback Deshaun Watson took a few warmup tosses and determined that he would not be able to give it a go.
The Browns did what every NFL does when faced with not having their starting quarterback and turned to their backup, which in the case of the Browns is rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who had taken additional practice reps during the week.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Thompson-Robinson finished the day by completing just 53 percent of his passes for 121 yards, taking four sacks, tossing three interceptions, and playing like a fifth-round rookie making his first NFL start against a well-prepared defense.
Fast forward to today and the Browns are, in the words of Ray Davies, the talented frontman of The Kinks, right back where they started.
The Browns are preparing to face another well-prepared defense on Sunday in the San Francisco 49ers, Watson’s status is still up in the air as he is still dealing with what is now being reported as a rotator cuff contusion (a fancy way of saying a bruise). That injury, while maybe not stopping him from playing certainly would impact how well he can play given that throwing a football is a key component of playing the quarterback position. (Or it is a sign of “dysfunction” and ‘friction” in Berea, depending on your current mood as a fan.)
If/when Watson is unable to face the 49ers, the Browns are back to figuring out what to do at quarterback, but this time there is a twist.
Because of the void created by the Browns having a bye week following the Ravens game combined with Thompson-Robinson’s performance, a call has gone up from fans and the media for the Browns to turn to third-string quarterback P.J. Walker for this week’s game.
The logic appears to be that since winning this game appears to be a long shot for the Browns, they may as well let the experienced Walker take over and see what he can do.
Walker certainly has more experience compared to a rookie with just one career start in the NFL, but how much value would he bring to the field?
In seven career starts across three seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Walker completed 57.5 percent of his passes with five touchdowns, 11 interceptions and was sacked 18 times.
Walker signed with the Chicago Bears this past offseason on a two-year deal with $2 million in guaranteed money as the presumptive backup to starter Justin Fields. But after a rough preseason that saw him complete just 37.9 percent of his passes, the Bears said “Nope, we’d rather go with Nathan Peterman and undrafted free agent Tyson Bagent” and Walker was released.
#Browns QB Deshaun Watson remains day-to-day with what sources say is a rotator cuff contusion.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) October 10, 2023
After a surprise scratch in Week 4, Watson spent the bye resting and rehabbing. He didn’t practice Monday, but did some throwing. Status TBD for Sunday’s game vs. the #49ers. pic.twitter.com/tREXg6r83U
The Browns signed Walker to the practice squad, so he at least has a few weeks of meetings to get acclimated with the offense, but not as long as Thompson-Robinson, who spent the entire offseason program, training camp and the preseason working within the system.
Fans of a certain age will remember when Thompson-Robinson was the darling of the preseason, lauded for going out and grabbing the backup quarterback role. While that praise may have been over the top, it is a bit odd to see many call for the Browns to replace Thompson-Robinson with a player who is, at least statistically, an older version of Thompson-Robinson.
Teams go into the season hoping they never have to turn to their backup quarterback. And everyone wants a backup quarterback with the talent and experience to hold it together if they are called upon. Thompson-Robinson might have the talent (no one truly knows just yet) and the only way he will get the experience is if he plays when the need arises.
This may all be much ado about nothing if Watson is able to play against the 49ers. And even if he can’t it may not matter who is at quarterback given the way San Francisco is currently playing and the additional issues the Browns have on offense with no running game and injuries along the offensive line.
In other words, the Browns once again find themselves back where they started, simply going round and round again.
If Deshaun Watson can’t play against San Francisco, who should the Browns start at quarterback? Or does it not even matter?