Quarterback problems? Browns starting 19th QB in 15 seasons vs. Vikings

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 19, 2013 - 7:41 AM

Brian Hoyer will become Cleveland’s 19th different starter since the team returned to the NFL.

 

Looking for a reason the Cleveland Browns are 73-153 since they returned to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999?

Here are 18 of them:

Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Jake Delhomme, Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace, Thad Lewis and Brandon Weeden.

Looking for a reason the Browns are expected to lose yet another one when they visit Mall of America Field for the Vikings’ home opener on Sunday?

Brian Hoyer.

For the 19th time since 1999, the Browns will have a different starting quarterback when they face the Vikings in a meeting of 0-2 teams. Hoyer had been the Browns’ No. 3 quarterback until Wednesday morning when Browns coach Rob Chudzinski opted for and executed a rare spill-the-beans moment for an NFL coach.

Not only did Chudzinski rule Weeden out of Sunday’s game four days early because of an injured thumb on his throwing hand, but he also announced that Hoyer would leapfrog No. 2 quarterback Jason Campbell for only the second start of his career.

That was welcome news to Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, whose staff had been studying Campbell closely on Monday and Tuesday.

“It’s a lot better than finding out on Sunday at noon, I promise you that,” Frazier said.

Of course, when it comes to the Browns and the decisions they’ve made at quarterback since 1999, one has to wonder if Wednesday’s gift from Chudzinski is even necessary.

With the advantage of hindsight, here’s a what-if look at a Browns team that has had only two winning seasons and one playoff berth since 1999:

• What if the Browns had picked Kurt Warner instead of Scott Milanovich in the 1999 NFL expansion draft?

• What if they had drafted Donovan McNabb No. 1 overall instead of Tim Couch in 1999?

• What if they had used their sixth-round draft pick in 2000 on Tom Brady instead of Spergon Wynn?

• What if they could relive the 2001 draft, when they took defensive tackle Gerard Warren third overall, 29 spots ahead of Drew Brees?

• What if they had signed Tony Romo as an undrafted rookie in 2003?

• What if they hadn’t selected tight end Kellen Winslow II sixth overall, seven spots ahead of Ben Roethlisberger, in 2004?

• What if they hadn’t selected receiver Braylon Edwards third overall, 21 spots ahead of Aaron Rodgers, in 2005?

• What if they hadn’t selected defensive tackle Phil Taylor 21st overall, 14 spots ahead of Andy Dalton and 15 spots ahead of Colin Kaepernick, in 2011?

• What if they hadn’t selected Weeden 22nd overall, 53 spots ahead of Russell Wilson, in 2012?

Hoyer backed up Brady in New England from 2009 to 2011 before moving on to Arizona last season. He has played in just 15 games, with his only start coming for the Cardinals in Week 16 a year ago. In that 27-13 loss at San Francisco, he completed 19 of 34 passes for 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Campbell, a ninth-year pro and former first-round pick of the Redskins, is 31-40 in 71 career starts. Before backing up Jay Cutler in Chicago a year ago, Campbell went 11-7 in two injury-riddled seasons with the Raiders.

Campbell replaced the injured Weeden with 3 minutes, 34 seconds left in Sunday’s loss at Baltimore. He was ineffective, completing one one of four passes for 6 yards.

“We just felt like where we’re at offensively and what we need to do from a game plan standpoint that Brian is the best fit,” said Chudzinski, whose team has scored one offensive touchdown while giving up league highs in sacks (11) and quarterback pressures (51).

“[Hoyer] gave us a spark in the fourth preseason game we played against Chicago. He’s a smart guy and an efficient guy who finds a way to make plays.”

With starters resting on both sides in that Bears game, Hoyer completed 24 of 35 passes for 307 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and an 81.5 passer rating in an 18-16 victory.

So far, the Browns haven’t shown the kind of quick-passing attack that has neutralized the Vikings pass rush, particularly in the season opener at Detroit.

“But I would not be surprised if that changes coming into our ballgame,” Frazier said. “They’ve taken a lot of sacks.”

Perhaps Hoyer, a Cleveland native who starred at Cleveland St. Ignatius High School, will provide a spark at the Metrodome. Maybe Chudzinski can recapture some of what he had in 2007 when he was the Browns’ offensive coordinator the year Derek Anderson went 10-5 in a rare Pro Bowl effort by a Browns quarterback.

Asked if Hoyer could win the job long-term, Chudzinski said, “We’ll play that by ear and see where Brandon is from a health standpoint and how Brian has performed and how we’re doing as a team.”

Unfortunately for the Browns, playing it by ear at quarterback is something they’ve been doing for most of the past 14 years.

 

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com







 

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