The Cleveland Browns are wise to start quarterback Robert Griffin III in Week 14, but the front office can’t make the mistake of thinking he’s a long-term solution.
Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson is wise to start quarterback Robert Griffin III in Week 14 when the 0-12 Browns host the Cincinnati Bengals. It’s the only logical move to make at this point of a lost campaign. Journeyman Josh McCown deserves credit for his willingness to sacrifice his body to the cause, but the 37-year-old and the Browns will likely part ways next spring.
Moreover, rookie Cody Kessler suffered a pair of concussions over a period of five weeks. That he’s active, let alone second on the depth chart heading into Week 14, suggests Jackson either doesn’t know or doesn’t care about protecting the 23-year-old over the final month of the season.
Griffin is Cleveland’s only hope, which is downright sad when you realize he has started one game since September 2015.
There are several potential outcomes with Griffin hopefully starting the final four games of the season. Griffin may play well and excite and the Cleveland fan base. He may look as bad as he did during the first Sunday of the 2016 season when the Philadelphia Eagles routed the Browns. He may be somewhere in-between. He, may, of course, end the season on injured reserve. We just don’t know.
Whatever happens, the Browns cannot go all-in on Griffin as the team’s starting quarterback next fall. In fact, they can’t even entertain the idea.
Unless you accidentally stumbled upon NFL Spin Zone by clicking a link that led you here, you are probably familiar with at least part of Griffin’s injury history. It would be easy to forget one of the many physical setbacks Griffin has experienced over the years, and thus Erin Flynn of SI.com provided a handy list this past September after RG3 injured himself in the fourth quarter of Cleveland’s loss to the Eagles.
Griffin suffered multiple knee injuries during the 2012 season before he tore his LCL, ACL and meniscus in January 2013. The winner of the Rookie of the Year award was never again consistently as dynamic a player following that gruesome injury. A dislocated ankle sidelined him in 2014 and a concussion he suffered in August 2015 proved to end his season and his Washington career.
The Redskins released Griffin earlier this year.
Cleveland then took a flier on Griffin in free agency, but the 26-year-old failed to last four-straight regular-season quarters of action. A fractured coracoid bone in his left shoulder kept him inactive through the start of December.
Fans holding onto the hope Griffin can be the best quarterback the Browns have started since 1999 must realize his future with the club, if he has any, likely won’t be determined by how well or how poorly he plays. Griffin provided sparks and moments of brilliance on multiple occasions as a member of the Redskins, and he admittedly looked like a rejuvenated athlete this past preseason.
Griffin’s abilities to make plays with his leg, stretch the field with his arm and win games are all reasons as to why teams such as the Browns and New York Jets looked into acquiring his services back in March.
The harsh reality, as of the second weekend of December 2016, is that there is now zero evidence Griffin can survive an entire NFL season. Nothing he does between the morning of Dec. 11 and the evening of Jan. 1, 2017 can change that. That’s the primary reason why the Browns cannot consider him to be a franchise quarterback at the start of 2017.
You will hear and read plenty of hot takes over the next several months about the quarterbacks available in next year’s draft class. The Browns must fist determine if they can upgrade the position before the draft.
Per Spotrac, Cleveland can save a considerable amount of money by moving on from Griffin after the 2016 season. Veterans such as Jay Cutler and Tony Romo will likely become available. Are either better options than Griffin?
Current Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup Mike Glennon will enter free agency in March. Subsequently, Jackson may become intrigued with working with the unproven commodity who has promise. The Buffalo Bills are not fully committed to Tyrod Taylor past Jan. 1. Taylor would easily be the best quarterback on the current Cleveland roster.
Cutler versus Griffin, Romo versus Griffin, Glennon versus Griffin and Taylor versus Griffin are only some of the hypothetical conversations the Browns must embrace beginning in January.
Remember, the Browns possess a ton of cap space. Cleveland could, theoretically speaking, keep Kessler, overpay for a quarterback in free agency and then draft a quarterback with the first pick in the draft, assuming the Browns finish the season with the worst record in the league.
It must be said that the Browns don’t have to give up on Griffin over the next 12 months. Cleveland could keep Griffin, Kessler and an unnamed rookie on the roster at the start of next season. That decision would involve the Browns passing on multiple quarterbacks, all of whom may prove to be better and more durable than Griffin by the end of 2017.
What’s unfortunate is that the nightmare scenario for the Browns may be that Griffin plays well, guides the team to a few wins in December and earns a spot in the lineup through next fall. Of course, that would all come before experiencing one last injury that ends his Cleveland tenure and sets the Browns back even further. That plausible scenario is why the Browns must be cautious regarding Griffin’s future with the club.