This was supposed to be fun.
The Browns have been searching for a QB since Bernie Kosar was cut by then coach Bill Belichick in 1993.
In 1999, the Browns returned as an expansion team. With the number 1 overall pick they drafted QB Tim Couch out of Kentucky. He was the first of what would become a 20+ year quarterback search. We all thought maybe guys like Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Jeff Garcia, Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Kelly Holcomb (among others), and my personal favorite, Spergon Wynn, would be the answer (I loved the idea of Spergon Wynn-cannon arm, just didn't know where out was landing. I disregard his Browns career stat line of 40.7% completion rate, 167 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception, and 41.2 passer rating).
QB after QB would come and go, fans hoping each season would bring us someone who could take the helm and lead us to the promised land of a Super Bowl. When our Mighty Mighty Cleveland Browns drafted Baker Mayfield #1 overall in the 2018 draft, there was a feeling that we had maybe, finally, got it right, and found "The Guy" at QB.
After a great rookie year where he broke the rookie TD record, there was hope. After an up and down 2019 season with Freddie Kitchens at the helm, the questions returned, but when the Browns walked off the field after smashing the rival Steelers in January 2020, we thought the search was over, as Baker had led the team to huge playoff win, and even though they lost to KC in the next round, it appeared the future was bright. Hell, the NFL thought the same, as Baker was featured in commercials alongside Tom Brady for the NFL's 100th Anniversary Season, and was all over TV in Progressive commercials.
After a rough 2021, where Mayfield was injured in the second game of the year and never really looked right the rest of the season, the idea touted by the front office was he was going to get his 5th yr to show exactly what he is, as the previous 4 years didn't clear up anything, and there had been glimpses of greatness out of the OU product.
But that's not what was happening. Reports started coming out that Baker wasn't loved in the locker room, and the team could be looking at an upgrade. The Browns were shopping for a new QB just a year after winning a playoff game and seeming to be set at the position.
Who would it be, though? Some people were saying a small upgrade would be what they needed, as Baker had struggled in comeback situations. So names like Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr were thrown around, but the Browns had bigger plans in mind than what seemed to be possible lateral moves.
They entered the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes, apparently trying to rectify the mistake of not taking him on 2017.
On the football field, Watson was a clear upgrade, as he led the Houston Texans to the playoffs in back to back years. But now, a massage scandal had cast doubts on his career, and Watson had sat out a full season while waiting on a trade and battling the accusations of impropriety with more than 20 massage specialists.
The news got back to Baker that the Browns were actively looking for his replacement, and he requested a trade, leaving the Browns in a spot where if they didn't come out with Watson, they had alienated their current QB, so the position as a whole was in limbo. Could the Browns really have messed this up?
After being told they were out of the running for Watson, they somehow got back in, as Watson decided he wanted to come to Cleveland over Atlanta, New Orleans, and Carolina. For the second time in 5 years, it looked like the Browns had found their franchise QB.
They stated they had been studying up on him for 5 months. Meaning, while in October of 2021, a lot of fans thought they had "The Guy" at QB for the Browns, the front office clearly didn't feel the same way. They went out and found the QB they wanted.
But at what cost, and I don't mean the draft picks.
While finally finding a proven QB, there are now two clouds hanging over the franchise.
The Baker cloud is hanging over Berea, as it's clear he's gone, but how and when don't seem so clear. Baker Mayfield is now unable to be moved, as while there is interest in the former #1 pick, the rest of the NFL knows the Browns have to move him, as not only did the Browns get Watson, but they also invested in Jacoby Brissett to be the backup. The entire league knows Baker has to go, and on top of him coming off surgery and a bad season, teams aren't willing to give up anything unless the Browns eat a lot of the close to $19 million he's owed. Why do that when they know the endgame could be the Browns outright releasing him, and whoever wants him could get him for league minimum. Would you pay full price for a burger at noon, when you know they are going to be deeply discounted at 12:15? Exactly.
Reports also say the rest of the league doesn't appear to want to do the Browns any favors, as some of the owners don't appear to be real happy that the Browns reset the QB market after they gave Watson $230 million guaranteed.
On top of it all, the Baker exit saga has divided the fanbase, as some people don't think the way Baker has been treated is a good look by the Browns, as they feel like the team is discarding the guy that ended the QB carousel for 4 years, as well as helped the team get out of a 1-31 funk. While other fans thought he just wasn't good enough, couldn't get any better, and to be quite frank, he just sucked.
The other cloud is the Watson situation. Its pretty tough to hear some of the allegations, along with the number of women and not have an opinion on it. The NFL punishment for is on the way, but no one knows what or when the ruling on if he can play this year is going to come down. According to multiple outlets, Watson is meeting with the NFL this week. Will any kind of suspension come down this year, or since the civil suits are a year away from being heard, do they let Watson play, and then suspend him in 2023? How long is the suspension going to be if there is one? So many questions, and as of now, no answers.
The Watson trade has also torn the fanbase apart, as no one wants a person who could commit these kinds of allegations on their team, let alone as the face of the whole damn squad. We've seen fans who have cheered for the Browns for decades, renounce all association to the team, and some have even decided to start cheering for other teams, or not watch all together. Some Browns fans also dislike Watson because he is the guy that is replacing Baker
This is not how this was supposed to go. Once the Browns found their franchise QB, it was supposed to be smooth sailing. But that's not what this upcoming season feels like. Leave it to the Browns to in less than 16 months, find a QB, who it's now been decided that he isn't the answer (after he was), and then replace him with another QB who most people think is the answer, but he may miss time due to some alleged serious off field issues. I'm just hoping we don't have to wait much longer for the QB clouds over the franchise to go away before maybe the sun can shine and we can enjoy this season.
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