Browns and former wunderkind coach Eric Mangini told Dan Patrick of Sports Illustrated this week that the quarterback job in Cleveland is "Jake Delhomme's to lose
To which the only natural response from Browns fans is, "Oh, f*ck me! F*ck me, f*ck me, f*ck me!!!"
The problems with dysfunctional organizations such as Cleveland almost always begin and end at the quarterback position. Teams that field high-quality quarterbacks almost always field playoff contenders. Teams that do not field high-quality quarterbacks always struggle.
And this struggle has been the single greatest issue with the Browns since they reorganized in 1999 with rookie overall No. 1 pick Tim Couch at quarterback. He was the top guy for the better part of five years. But his career was a disaster, and the organization has quite literally never got over the fact that they took Couch instead of Donovan McNabb, who was grabbed by the Eagles with the No. 2 overall pick that year.
The Browns have enjoyed just two winning seasons since 1999, made one playoff appearance and have yet to taste the sweet nectar of a postseason victory during this time.
(Those Eagles fans who never warmed to McNabb, now with the Redskins, should console themselves with wondering what might have been had the Browns left their team with Couch. McNabb was a very good pick in any instance, but a brilliant pick by comparison. Of the 13 quarterbacks drafted that year
, only McNabb and Daunte Culpepper made any kind of impact on the NFL.)
Fast forward to 2010, to a Browns team still swimming against the tide in the wake of the sinking of the S.S. Couch, and we're left with a club where, sadly, the QB job is "Jake Delhomme's to lose."
The news couldn't be worse for Cleveland. Now, Delhomme was a fair country quarterback in his day: a former big-game gunslinger who dabbled with the greatest postseason passer rating in history at one point in his career.
But the recent history is not good. He was horrendous in his last playoff appearance (five picks in a 33-13 loss to Arizona in the 2008 postseason). And it marked a portent of things to come in 2009. Delhomme kicked off the year with a four-pick effort against the Eagles – that's nine picks in two consecutive games for those of you keeping score at home. He was finally benched at the end of November following yet another four-INT outing, this one in a loss at the Jets.
And now it seems this is the best the Browns have to offer, at least according to no less an authority than the team's head coach.
So here's a quick overview of the Cleveland quarterback situation as we head into another disastrous season by the lake.
Jake Delhomme (aging gunslinger)
Career numbers: 1630 of 2755 (59.2%), 19,892 yards, 7.2 YPA, 123 TD, 94 INT, 82.1 rating
It's all done. All over for the plucky Delhomme. At 35 years old, he's reached the age where even once Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks generally start to decline in performance. He's just a little bit ahead of the curve: hell,
we wish we had a big mallet and a gong to smash just so we could have called an end to his performance somewhere much earlier during the 2009 season. He's just holding a spot for a year, but still apparently the best Cleveland has to offer right now.
Colt McCoy (rookie/college phenom from Texas)
Career numbers: n/a
We love Colt McCoy. He got screwed out of both the national title and the Heisman in 2008
. He led the Longhorns in both passing and rushing in 2008 and nearly pulled off the feat again last year (he was second on the team in rushing). He's kind of an undersized Tim Tebow, without the hype. Drew Brees, meanwhile, has proven that guys McCoy's size (6-1, 215) can excel in the NFL. He fell to the third round in the draft, despite an incredibly prolific career. If he succeeds in the NFL, it will be as a mobile, undersized high-percentage type in the Joe Montana or later-career Brees mold.
More importantly, McCoy is the only sign of hope at the position for Cleveland right now. Our advice to Browns fans? Pray to the Ghost of Otto Graham over their Colt McCoy bobble-head every night for the rest of the year
Brett Ratliff (who?)
Career numbers: n/a
Ratliff has spent three years in the NFL – two years bumbling around the Jets organization, lets year in Cleveland – and has never attempted a pass. Here's a sign of how insignificant his career has been: he doesn't even show up
in the otherwise all-encompassing database at ProFootballReference.com. Apparently, you have to actually exist in the known football world to make their database. At one point during his career at Utah, Ratliff was considered the second coming of Alex Smith. So at least he's got that going for him.
The only thing scarier than having Ratliff on the roster is if Mangini announced "the job is Brett Ratliff's to lose."
Seneca Wallace (pint-sized journeyman)
Career numbers: 333 of 556 (59.9%), 3,547 yards, 6.4 YPA, 25 TD, 14 INT, 83.1 rating.
Wallace has spent five years in Seattle as Matt Hasselbeck's back-up and even has 14 starts under his belt, making him the second-most experienced quarterback on the Cleveland roster. To be honest, he hasn't entirely sucked during his limited time on the field.
His career numbers actually make him the most efficient quarterback on the roster (83.1 rating), though the meager 6.4 YPA in his career speaks to limited effectiveness getting the ball downfield. His 14 career INTs represent about three games worth of work for Delhomme.
So our advice, Mr. Mangini: Start Wallace instead of Delhomme, because the former still has some upside in his career, even if it's only for a year, while Delhomme does not. Use the aging gunslinger to teach McCoy the ropes –but avoid the ropes about throwing five picks in the playoffs. And then slowly work in McCoy, much like Bill Walsh did with another third-round pick, Joe Montana in 1979 and 1980, and hope he fulfills the greatness we saw out of him in college.
Then, only then, when McCoy emerges from the current collection of cast-offs, has-beens and nobodys currently vying for the most important job on the field in Cleveland, will Browns fans find a reason for hope after the past decade of despair.