The 1985 Cleveland Browns made two appearances on the television screen during the first weekend of the 2010 NFL Playoffs.
In the weekend’s first game, the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks played host to New Orleans. The Seahawks were the first sub-.500 team to play in the postseason. There have been nine 8-8 teams and the 1985 Browns won the AFC Central with that record.
A day later, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco became only the third quarterback to lead his team to the playoffs in his first three seasons, joining Miami’s Dan Marino and Cleveland’s Bernie Kosar. Kosar’s streak began in, yes, 1985.
The Browns were a perennial playoff contender during that time. Cleveland had a solid front office in place with good coaches and talented playmakers on both sides of the ball. Most importantly, there was stability at quarterback.
Since then, quarterback stability has been a pipe dream. There is no need to run down the list of quarterbacks who have slid their hands under a Browns center since 1999. We all know the names. There have been too many.
Among the highlights of the 2010 season — and there were some highlights — was the emergence of rookie quarterback Colt McCoy. While he did not produce a playoff berth like No. 19 did more than a quarter century ago, McCoy offered hope.
Could it be? Do the Browns have their long-term answer at quarterback?
Maybe. Perhaps. With any rookie quarterback, there were positives and there were negatives.
Regardless of the next coach, general manager Tom Heckert will need to find more talent for this team and, just as any good GM would do, he will look for upgrades and any and all positions — quarterback included. Depending how you look at it, the options abound for quarterbacks this offseason.
Option No. 1: The emerging rookie class. Fresh in our minds is Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. At 6-foot-6, 247 pounds, Newton was a difference maker, helping the Tigers defeat Oregon 22-19 in the BCS National Championship game on Monday. In addition, other quarterbacks like Jake Locker, Ryan Mallett and Blaine Gabbert could go in the first round. Outside the first 32 picks, quarterbacks like Ricky Stanzi, Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder, Pat Devlin and Jerrod Johnson are also available. With the Browns selecting No. 6, they have a chance to select a talented but unproven quarterback.
Do the Browns want to go the rookie route again? If the answer is, “no,” that brings us to…
Option No. 2: Opt for a young quarterback with limited experience and limitless potential. Yes, we’re going back to Philadelphia and revisiting Kevin Kolb. The Eagles may decide Vick is the long-term answer. If so, they could trade Kolb. In 19 games, Kolb has completed 60.8 percent of his passes, with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Coaches rave about Kolb’s potential.
Now, if the Eagles aren’t listening and want to keep Kolb, or if the Browns brass deem Kolb too young, that brings us to…
Option No. 3: Trade for the elusive veteran quarterback. This doesn’t happen often. In 2009, Chicago traded for Jay Cutler, who was an established signal caller in Denver. This offseason, a similar scene could play out with Denver’s Kyle Orton or Tennessee’s Vince Young.
In Tennessee, owner Bud Adams has already said Young’s days in Nashville are over. Young hasn’t been the model NFL player since arriving in the league in 2006, but he is a two-time Pro Bowler and for his career he has completed 57.9 percent of his passes for 8,098 yards with 42 touchdowns and 42 interceptions. Meanwhile, out west among the Rocky Mountains, it appears as if the Broncos are lining up behind Tim Tebow. Orton started 13 games this season and he finished 293-for-489 passing for 3,635 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. For his career, Orton has passed for 12,744 yards with 71 touchdowns and 48 interceptions.
If Tennessee or Denver is not interested in, say, a John St. Clair-for-their-QB-straight-up trade, that brings us to the fourth and final option.
Option No. 4: Stick with the kid. On the day the Browns announced Eric Mangini was fired as head coach, team president Mike Holmgren was asked about McCoy and The Big Show’s response did not ooze total confidence. “If Colt is the guy…” was the phrase Holmgren employed.
In eight games, McCoy completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 1,576 yards with six touchdowns and nine interceptions. He was accurate. He showed leadership. He showed a willingness to work hard to get better. Do the Browns want to continue to develop McCoy with the pressure to win-now as great as it ever will be in Cleveland?
Most of us play the general manager role via fantasy football or in the video game “Madden NFL Football.” Heckert plays the real fantasy football and the quarterback decision is one of the hundreds of real decisions he and the Browns’ front office must face this offseason.
What would you do? Let us know in the comments.