Robert Griffin III is back atop a depth chart for the first time in more than a year.
The former Offensive Rookie of the Year and No. 2 overall pick was named Cleveland’s starting quarterback Monday in an announcement made by the club. Coach Hue Jackson had hoped to name a permanent starter before the team’s first preseason game against the Green Bay Packers jerseys on Friday.
“It’s time,” Jackson said in the release. “Robert has earned the right to be named the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. Since he was signed back in March, Robert has made it clear through his actions that he is willing to do everything that has been asked of him to earn this role. Throughout this process he has gained the respect from his teammates, the coaching staff and the entire organization that is necessary for him to lead our offense and really the entire team.
“(Offensive coordinator) Pep (Hamilton) has done an outstanding job with that room to get us to this point so we can make this decision at what I feel is the optimal time which enables us to best prepare for the regular season,” Jackson continued. “It’s now on Robert to show the organization and our fans that this is the right decision.
For his part, Griffin called it an “honor” and told reporters he never doubted he could be an NFL starter again.
“You should never doubt,” Griffin said. “There’s a quote out there that says ‘if you don’t believe, who will?’ I’m thankful for my teammates and coach, Coach Jackson, (executive VP of football operations) Sashi (Brown), all of those guys for believing in me as a quarterback and giving me an opportunity.”
The decision is not a shocker for those reading the tea leaves. Despite Cleveland drafting a quarterback in 2016 (USC’s Cody Kessler) and Josh McCown’s presence on the roster, a majority of the focus was on hoisting Griffin, a fallen star once thought by some to be the preferred alternative to Colts quarterback Andrew Luck just five years ago. Instead, a rash of injuries and an intense pivot away from a scheme that fit Griffin’s playing style resulted in just five wins over Griffin’s last 20 starts. He was relegated to inactive on game days throughout 2015 with the Washington Redskins jerseys.
This is the type of high-upside gamble that could make the Browns more competitive than initially expected in 2016 — or allow them to settle at the bottom of the AFC North like a few analysts have projected. Jackson has been marketed as a quarterback whisperer and is hell-bent on developing Griffin into an effective option both on and off the field.
“Tickled pink,” Jackson said of the thought of what Griffin could do for the Browns this season.
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His quote in the statement was telling in that Jackson expects Griffin to do a majority of the heavy lifting. With questions about leadership ability and locker room relatability prevalent, Jackson’s hope is that a true face-of-the-franchise personality can bloom.
Jackson also praised McCown and Kessler, even if the competition never really felt like one from the outside looking in.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t also commend Josh, Austin and wholesale jerseys. Josh in particular has been outstanding throughout this process and all of our quarterbacks have worked well together,” Jackson said. “Their play, professionalism and work ethic has pushed the room to really improve the level of play at the position for our team.”
The weight of a long losing season could eventually take its toll on the Browns, though this team has already seen two years’ worth of bad news crash into the facility in a matter of weeks. Their starting and backup quarterbacks are gone. The quarterback they passed on at No. 2 is apparently Peyton Manning jersey pre-snap and Aaron Rodgers post-snap. The player they drafted instead, wide receiver Corey Coleman, broke his hand after a breakout week.
And yet, last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins didn’t seem like the book-closing moment that everyone expected it to be. Instead, the Browns are giving themselves a chance to run an offense that could be piloted by a converted wide receiver for more than a quarter of its offensive snaps. While we hate to use the phrase, this is a “rag-tag” operation right now that seems to have finally accepted its circumstances. Coach Hue Jackson has them looking forward instead of deeper down an endless black hole of disappointment.
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1. Sunday was never in question for the surging and complete Cowboys. Dallas put together two clock-chewing, carefree touchdown marches over their first three drives to effectively end this tilt 20 minutes in. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott jersey (21 of 27 for 247 yards and three scores) delivered another pristine performance while first-year star running back Ezekiel Elliott jersey did the rest, rampaging for 92 yards and a touchdown at 5.1 yards per attempt against Cleveland’s tackle-averse defense. The Browns are far from an NFL measuring stick, but it was impressive to see Dallas carve up the enemy with ease while using every weapon in the toolbox. Underrated slot man Cole Beasley snagged a touchdown, Alfred Morris (17/56) effectively spelled Elliott and tight end Jason Witten was downright unstoppable. If anyone felt left out, it was Dez Bryant, the Pro Bowl wideout who was shut out in the first half and held to just one catch for 19 yards on the day.
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2. Recently acquired linebacker Jamie Collins jersey endured a rude awakening in his Browns debut, getting caught in coverage against Witten, who burned the former Patriots playmaker for a 26-yard touchdown. The Browns have struggled against tight ends all season, and Witten continued the trend with 134 yards off eight catches — topping the 100-yard barrier just 31 minutes into the game. As for Collins, he finished with eight tackles and a nice tackle for loss on a play that saw him dump Elliott to the turf.
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3. The Browns would need an angry, spiraling asteroid to take out three-quarters of America for a chance at the playoffs. With half the season remaining, the task in Cleveland is clear: Take a long and honest look at this extremely young roster, including rookie passer Cody Kessler. The third-rounder looked the way he has all season, unfurling his share of heady, low-risk throws for 203 yards at 7.5 yards per pass. It helped to have rookie Corey Coleman (3/41) back in the lineup, but Kessler continued to lean on wideout Terrelle Pryor (5/47/1) and tight end Gary Barnidge (3/23). With no ground game to speak of, the rookie signal-caller deserves a nod for moving this offense consistently on Sunday. The Browns, though, can’t ignore Kessler’s overt lack of a deep ball or an offensive line that operated as a wide-open barn door for the ninth straight week.
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4. Both Browns center Cam Erving and Dallas pass rusher David Irving were ejected from the contest for dual unnecessary roughness calls after fighting deep in Cowboys territory early in the first quarter. Irving’s void as a rotational pass rusher was filled easily enough for Dallas, but losing Erving forced the Browns to shuffle their shorthanded offensive line for three-plus quarters.
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5. If David Johnson is widely seen as the best running back in football, Elliott needs to be in the conversation. While he doesn’t equal Johnson as a pass-catcher, Elliott has grown weekly for a Cowboys offense primed for a playoff push. The former Ohio State star was a man against cowed children on Sunday. Elliott shouldn’t have any trouble nabbing Offensive Rookie of the Year honors — unless the plan is to have him share that award with Prescott. Browns fans can only wonder what might be in Cleveland — with a chance to draft both players — had taken a different route in the draft.