The Browns haven’t been very good on the field since returning to the NFL in 1999, but there is one area that they’ve been very good at —and that is having a quarterback controversy. The most popular quarterback in Cleveland for a long, long time has been whoever is the backup. In their 16 seasons since the return, there have been numerous quarterback dilemmas as the Browns have tried to find that elusive ‘franchise’ quarterback. The Browns have had 20 different starting quarterbacks. If Johnny Manziel takes over for Brian Hoyer, he will be No. 21.
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First round picks
The Browns have drafted four quarterbacks in the first round, all with the hope that they would be the answer at quarterback. Those selected in the first round were Tim Couch (1st overall-1999), Brady Quinn, (22nd overall, 2007), Brandon Weeden (22nd overall, 2012) and Manziel (22nd overall, 2014).
More high round draft picks
Besides the first round picks, the Browns drafted several other quarterbacks in the top half of the draft with hopes of them being the quarterback. Luke McCown (4th-2004), Charlie Frye (3rd-2005) and Colt McCoy (3rd-2010).
QB free agents
The Browns also signed Jeff Garcia (2004), Trent Dilfer (2005) and Jake Delhomme (2010) to be their starting quarterbacks as unrestricted free agents. The Browns have tried everything with little success. They have staged competitions that haven’t worked and they have handed the position to individuals that haven’t worked out, as well. Here is a capsule summary of the quarterback derbies since 1999.
1999: Ty Detmer vs. Tim Couch
Detmer agreed to waive a no-trade clause he had with the 49ers in order to be traded to the Browns to be the starting quarterback until No. 1 draft choice Tim Couch was ready. However, after one game, the front office decided to go with Couch and Detmer’s stay with the Browns lasted just the one season.
2002-03: Tim Couch vs. Kelly Holcomb
Butch Davis inserted Kelly Holcomb into the lineup in the only playoff game the Browns have been in at the end of the 2002 season against the Steelers and played well in the 36-33 loss. Davis announced an open competition for the position in the 2003 training camp, which was won by Holcomb. However, Holcomb struggled and Couch regained the starting job before the season was over, which was Couch’s last season with the Browns.
2004: Jeff Garcia named starter
Butch Davis decided to part ways with Couch and bring in Garcia for the 2004 season as an unrestricted free agent. Garcia lasted just a year and the Browns finished 4-12 in Davis’ final season with the Browns.
Getty ImagesEzra Shaw
2005: Trent Dilfer named starter
Dilfer was brought in as a free agent to mentor Frye but didn’t warm to the role and lasted just one season with the team.
Ron LeBlanc/Icon SMIRon LeBlanc/Icon SMI
2007: Derek Anderson vs. Charlie Frye
Romeo Crennel announced a quarterback competition between Derek Anderson and Charlie Frye for the 2007 training camp. During the process, Crennel joked that he might just “flip a coin” to determine the winner. Frye was announced the winner and started the first game against the Steelers. The competition gave Frye exactly one half of playing time as he was replaced by Anderson at the half going just 4-of-10 for 34 yards with an interception and was traded to the Seattle Seahawks the next day.
Anderson successful in 2007, regresses in 2008
Anderson went on to have a Pro Bowl season for the Browns throwing 29 touchdowns and passing for 3,787 yards in leading the Browns to a 10-6 season. Anderson’s big season was rewarded with a big contract and the Browns thought they had their franchise quarterback. First-round draft pick Brady Quinn threw only eight passes in his rookie season. However, Anderson struggled with injuries in 2008, as well as in his play.
Tom Croke/Icon SMITom Croke/Icon SMI
2009: Derek Anderson vs. Brady Quinn
First year coach Eric Mangini staged a charted out quarterback competition during his first training camp declaring Quinn the winner at the end. However, Quinn was never able to take the job and run with it and he and Anderson went back and forth the whole season.
Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMIAaron Josefczuk/Icon SMI
2010: Jake Delhomme named starter
The Mike Holmgren era began with high expectations that the quarterback guru would be able to solve the Browns woes at the position. Holmgren parted ways with Anderson and Quinn and brought in Jake Delhomme to be the stop-gap starter with Seneca Wallace the veteran backup. The pair were to bridge the gap in hopes that rookie Colt McCoy could develop into a starter someday. However, both Delhomme and Wallace were hurt early and McCoy had to play as a rookie. McCoy kept the job for most of the 2011 season until suffering a severe concussion against the Steelers.
Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMIAaron Josefczuk/Icon SMI
2012-13: First-round pick Brandon Weeden named starter
Weeden was drafted in the first round and given the job immediately by Pat Shurmur replacing McCoy. Weeden was given every opportunity to be the quarterback for the Browns until he played himself off the team. Rob Chudzinski leap-frogged Brian Hoyer from third string to become the starter in the third game of the 2013 season. Hoyer suffered a season ending torn ACL in his third game and Weeden and Jason Campbell traded spots back and forth the rest of the season.
Matthew Visinsky/Icon SMIMatthew Visinsky/Icon SMI
2014: Brian Hoyer vs. Johnny Manziel
Hoyer showed the new brain trust of Ray Farmer and Mike Pettine enough to be retained as the starter, but traded up in the first-round to select Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Texas A&M. Pettine declared it an open competition in camp, but Hoyer was never seriously challenged and given the job. He has led the Browns to a 7-5 record at the three quarter mark of the season, but was benched in the fourth quarter of the Bills game with the Browns trailing 20-3. Manziel came in and led the Browns 80 yards for a touchdown, with a 10-yard sprint himself for the score.
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What's next? Stay tuned
The question now facing the Browns is have they found their franchise quarterback in Johnny Manziel? Brian Hoyer? Connor Shaw? Or will they continue to try to search for the answer to that ever elusive question?