The Cleveland Browns will face a rookie first-round quarterback for the sixth consecutive season on Sunday in Carson Wentz. How have they fared in recent years in the same situation?
While it may not receive the same level of romanticized nonsense as Opening Day in Major League Baseball, there is still plenty of excitement surrounding this weekend’s opening of the 2016 NFL season.
The Browns will open the year on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles, a game that will mark head coach Hue Jackson’s first in charge of the team, Robert Griffin III‘s first as a starting quarterback in almost two years, and more rookies in Orange and Brown than seems possible.
It all adds up to must-see TV in Northeast Ohio, and that was before Philadelphia head coach Doug Pederson announced that Carson Wentz will start the game at quarterback for the Eagles.
Wentz was picked by the Eagles with the second-overall selection of last spring’s NFL Draft using a pick that was originally owned by the Browns. The plan was to let Wentz sit and learn this season – think Tim Couch in 1999 with the Browns – but then the Minnesota Vikings lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for the year, the Eagles were somehow able to extract a first-round pick for Sam Bradford, and we are now just days away from the Browns facing a player that many thought would be Cleveland’s franchise quarterback.
While they haven’t been in this exact situation, this is the sixth consecutive season where the Browns will face a rookie first-round quarterback. Going back to the 2011 season, the Browns have taken on a team starting a first-round rookie five times, with mixed results:
In 2015, the Browns worked over Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans in a 28-14 win. Mariota finished 21-of-37 for 257 yards and two touchdowns, but took seven sacks in what was one of the defense’s few bright days on the year.
Overall, the Browns have fared decently in those match-ups as, for the most part, they made the rookie quarterbacks look like rookie quarterbacks, even if they haven’t always been able to pull out the victory.
History may not be the best indicator of what will happen on Sunday, but the odds are that Wentz will play like what he is – a rookie quarterback making his first start. The Browns can certainly make things difficult for him, but whether or not that results in a win remains to be seen. Judging by recent events, since it is an even-numbered year the Browns will lose.
Some are foolishly trying to paint Sunday’s game as a referendum on Cleveland’s latest rebuilding effort. Apparently, if the Browns win it will validate everything they have done; if not, then passing on Wentz will be a franchise-ending mistake.
That’s nonsense, of course, as Sunday’s game will have little to no bearing on the longterm success of either the Browns or Wentz. Rather, the game against the Eagles will simply go down as just the latest step in the latest rebuilding efforts by the Browns.