Off Day Tuesday: 2013 QB Review

It would be extraordinarily difficult for any class of QB's to follow Luck, Griffin, Wilson and (thinking of the other 2012 rookie QB's)…oh right, and Kirk Cousins.

When we last left our executive hero Joe Banner, he was sweetly nestling his misunderstood love, Mike Lombardi, while the Mongol-esque hordes of Browns' fans and media tried to burn down Berea with negativity. A couple weeks later, Banner has again emerged from his Ivory Tower – this time with a declaration of sorts.

PD – Banner Says Weeden Will Start, Be Pushed

Banner told WKNR that Weeden will get the first-team reps (the first minicamp is April 16-18) and that "open competition" is too strong. "But we're going to go through minicamps and training camp and by the time we get to the first game, our goal is to play whoever the best players are. So (Campbell) will certainly get a chance to compete."

Did I type "declaration?" I must have meant "aimless generality."

Or, is it 2009 2007 2005 2003 2002 all over again?

It must be Spring if we're talking about the latest in a line of completely irrelevant QB competitions in Cleveland. Been there, done that – but then again, if we approach it from a purely historical perspective, I suggest that Weeden compete with not only Jason Campbell and Colt McCoy (never mind), but also Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson and any other marginal quarterback dredge of the past decade plus. Let's just call it a Battle Royale to the figurative death, a.k.a., another 5-11 finish.

On a personal note, this idea won me a rather prestigious award from Frowns.

Frowns Comment of the Week, at least, from @DaveKolonich:http://t.co/Km7RKBLzZH #NFL #Browns #seppukutweets

March 27, 2013 4:19 pm via webReplyRetweetFavorite

@ClevelandFrowns

Cleveland Frowns

Anyway, a battle between Weeden and Campbell will no doubt stoke the fires of oblivion here, but should ultimately prove to be as meaningless as Quinn/Anderson, Frye/Dilfer, et all. Of course, there is some hope that even a modest coaching upgrade – which anyone following the archaic Pat Shurmur should provide – will at least propel a wobbly Weeden into the realm of passable NFL starters.

If not, and if the shaky proposition of relying on either Weeden or Campbell – both older quarterbacks known for sailing passes into next week – doesn't work out, then the question becomes:

What next?

If it's Spring, that means the Browns' (next) next Quarterback is lurking somewhere in April's draft. It's just that easy, until some nagging reminders re-emerge:

1. The Browns aren't great at drafting Quarterbacks.
2. CORRECTION – The Browns are quite adept and experienced at literally selecting Quarterbacks.
3. Still, the Browns have been seeking a Quarterback since the days of Todd Philcox.
4. According to everybody who is somebody, this isn't the best year to draft a quarterback.

You can find a similar narrative all over, but this summary from Walter Football expresses this last idea.

The 2012 class was a banner year for quarterbacks. It looked great a year ago and lived up to the billing after the class' first season in the NFL. So this comparison features a class with an A grade versus a class with a D grade. Thus, it is rather ugly for the 2013 group.

If you were to take Geno Smith and include him in last year's class, I would place him behind Tannehill and above Weeden. Smith is pretty comparable as a prospect to Tannehill.

Of course, it would be extraordinarily difficult for any class of QB's to follow Luck, Griffin, Wilson and (thinking of the other 2012 rookie QB's)…oh right, and Kirk Cousins. This would suggest that perhaps the 2013 crop of QB's is being cast in the unfair light of last year's wonder class.

I posed this question to Aaron Aloysius of the outstanding DraftBreakdown.com.

Unfortunately, there's no "sure thing" at the top of this quarterback class. Even more so than in other years, the '13 signal callers' success will be highly dependent on where they land.

For example, if you put Ryan Nassib in Chud's vertical offense or Mike Glennon behind Arizona's porous o-line, you'll likely end up with some very unpretty football. However, in the right situation, each has the potential to be a successful starting QB.

To me, Geno Smith is the best of the bunch and accordingly will go higher than he would in another class. I expect him to come off the board before the Browns pick, so the team will have to explore other options, perhaps in the 3rd Round or later. Ironically, this is the kind of draft in which you'd want to put Mike Holmgren to work looking for the right mid-rounder.

Last year, Michael Lombardi was highly critical of how the Seahawks addressed the position, but I could see the Browns doing something similar: add both a free agent and a non-first round rookie to the fold, then see who emerges.

The likelihood of finding another Russell Wilson is rather slim, but a mobile gunslinger like Zac Dysert would be an intriguing addition. After his underwhelming Senior Bowl week, you could get him at a major discount.

As for the "sure things", you may recall that even at this time last year, Griffin didn't exactly carry such a designation. As for Weeden, the book on him was written by the closest thing we probably have to a QB expert, NFL Films' Greg Cosell. Of course, the appeal of Cosell is that he doesn't market himself with such a title. He's just a very rational and observant student of game film.

(I know some of you were expecting Jon Gruden. Sorry.)

Take some time with this article. It's both a common sense approach to scouting quarterbacks, along with being a reference for those who don't subscribe to such an idea.

Cosell's Take – The Quarterback Paradigm

First and foremost, a quarterback must be able throw with accuracy — or, as I've always believed to be the more descriptive term, precise ball location. If you can't do that, you have no chance to be a quality NFL quarterback. You can see that on film. It's measurable.

You must be able to stand and deliver in a muddied pocket. That's an absolutely necessary attribute. That's why size is a trait, although it's never talked about that way. Taller, stronger quarterbacks can respond to the pocket closing down far better than shorter, lighter quarterbacks.

All I know is this: in just every NFL game, there are throws that demand a strong arm. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a quarterback not pull the trigger on throws that are there because he knows he can't make them, or he's just not comfortable turning it loose.

If you're not a power thrower, then you must compensate with great timing and anticipation, and you must be precisely accurate (as already discussed). Those attributes are magnified for those with lesser arms.

Another trait that is unmistakably measurable is decision-making. Watch enough film, and you'll understand route combinations and reading progressions based on the alignment of receivers, and the defensive coverage. You'll know where the ball should go within the precise timing of the play's design.

Naturally, the instinct is to try to find all of these attributes in one quarterback – something that is virtually impossible. When it happens, it becomes easy for the team to tailor an offense around such a player. In some respects, Luck is probably the closest to today's NFL prototype QB; however, it will probably be years before another player of his caliber and readiness is available in the draft.

Until then, the Browns will do what they have always done – which is try to fit a scheme to a quarterback, and/or take the opposite approach of what most successful teams do. As Aloysius pointed out, Syracuse's Ryan Nassib could be this draft's most accurate passer – something that Cosell and essentially all football people cite as the most important QB attribute to possess.

Regarding Nassib, here's this from Cosell.

NFL.com – Cosell Says Nassib is Best QB in 2013 Class

Of course, the Browns no longer run the kind of offense that Nassib is probably best suited for. Of course, regretting the departure of Pat Shurmur's West Coast system is a grand abuse of energy. However, in trying to establish a link between a potential QB and the Browns' latest offensive system, the projections again get skewed.

Certainly, there are some "strong-armed" QB's in this year's draft – highlighted by Mike Glennon. But then again, the Browns already possess such a player in Weeden. In a bit of circular (anti) logic, it's as if Weeden was just waiting for Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner's pseudo-Air Coryell roots offense to arrive in Cleveland.

But as usual, there's a catch – at least based on Cosell's scouting report on Weeden from this time last year.

NFL.com – Cosell Talks the Other Quarterbacks of 2012

When Weeden has time and functional space to deliver the ball comfortably, he's the purest and best pocket passer in this draft class.

He was particularly good on seam throws, and they're not easy.

Of course, in the NFL, the ideal scenario of a comfortable, secure pocket does not happen quite as often as quarterbacks would like. You must be able to function effectively in the eye of the storm or you won't play on Sundays. That's where Weeden had some problems. The sample was small, given how well he was protected, but it was there nonetheless. When blitzed, Weeden struggled with both recognition and execution. Mentally, there were times he panicked, and physically, he did not exhibit the kind of subtle pocket movement that must be part of a pocket passer's game in the NFL.

Sounds about right.

Granted, Weeden was handed a 1993 offense to work with, but if we roll the conversation back to those intangibles referenced earlier, we see that Weeden possesses the size, strength and arm strength, but falls short in the critical areas of accuracy, decision-making and handling pressure.

If you dig deeper through Cosell's various analysis and/or if you watched any college football last year, you could probably arrive at the same assessment for a number of other quarterbacks – including Glennon, E.J. Manuel and Tyler Wilson. Or, the Browns could easily find themselves another version of Brandon Weeden in a few weeks – if only in a less polished form.

But again, the hope is that a new coaching staff and a slightly less draconian offensive system allows Weeden – or whoever – to progress as an NFL QB. Otherwise, the Browns are left with yet another poor matchup of system to quarterback – featuring a player who doesn't possess most of the intangibles that make for successful NFL starters.

And that can only mean that the Browns will again have to reach into the draft to pull out the next in a long, long line of starting QB's.

Coming Soon: We'll start to take a closer look at this year's QB class and figure out if they are as bad as some say.

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