Though sports fandom is inherently a cynical and Quixotic pursuit — only a handful of teams win a championship every year — fans have a remarkable ability to convince/delude themselves into believing the best. That’s why Thursday, despite 17 years and 24 quarterbacks of evidence to the contrary, Cleveland Browns fans are getting excited about Robert Griffin III and his potential pairing with possible draft picks Carson Wentz or Jared Goff. Like Tim Couch, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel before him, they’re going to be the saviors that lead the Browns out of the NFL muck and into a different stratosphere.
A good Browns fan will, and should, actually believe this. But deep down, they really know, even if they can’t see it today: Robert Griffin III is just another Cleveland disappointment, another used jersey tucked away deep in your kid’s closet. He’s the Browns’ next ex-quarterback.
Those Browns fans have reason to be excited. With the second pick in this year’s draft, the franchise is almost certain to pick a quarterback, one who they think can take a backseat to Griffin for a year or two and then come in to be their Aaron Rodgers. (Such is the delusion of a fan.) They’ll convince themselves of it.
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"Maybe it’ll be different with Hue Jackson!" "Maybe Griffin’s ego was put in check by the last three years and he’ll be ready to learn how to be a quarterback in the NFL, not just a college quarterback playing one on TV." "What injuries? He looks as healthy as an ox!" "The Browns went out and got him, meaning Hue Jackson wanted Griffin, as did co-GMs Sashi Brown and Paul DePodesta. Yeah. Yeah! I can see this working out!"
It won’t. I like Jackson and he’s a good fit to turn around a quarterback. He’s also had eight jobs since 2007 and recently praised Terelle Pryor’s abilities as quarterback. Plus, I don’t care if he’s the Pablo Pi-freaking-casso with quarterbacks (which he’s not). When you’re given a piece of old Play-Doh and some cheap markers used incorrectly for years by kindergartners, it’s not going to matter.
As for molding RG3 into something new, do 26-year-old quarterbacks ever really change the style of play that got them to the NFL? You can probably count the converts on one hand. And the fact that Cleveland desired Griffin is meaningless. First, two GMs? Yeah, that’s gonna work. Second, of course they wanted him. They needed a warm body and with so few of those on the market, bringing in RG3 was a natural move. Who else was it going to be: Case Keenum? It’s like being the second-to-last pick in kickball and patting yourself on the back for being so desired.
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Look, I hope the optimism of Browns fans is rewarded, if there’s any optimism left in Cleveland. I hope RG3 resurrects his career, mixing a bit of what made him so good (his speed and deep-ball accuracy) with what a QB needs to succeed in the NFL (pocket presence and an ability to slide). Unfortunately for the Browns, there’s zero evidence to suggest this will happen. (The odds are much better for the rookie, though no one in either camp will be celebrating getting a Browns hat on draft night.)
Cleveland getting RG3 is a low-risk, high-reward move. They’ll make a medium-risk, high-reward move by taking a quarterback at No. 2 next month. But if history is any indication, these guys will just be QBs No. 25 and No. 26 to play for the team since 1999. And then it’ll be on to the next one.