What If Tyrod Taylor Is the Answer for the Cleveland Browns at Quarterback?

    Brady Quinn. Brandon Weeden. Johnny Manziel. On Thursday, those three men will likely be joined by a new member of the infamous fraternity of quarterbacks

    April 25, 2018

    Brady Quinn. Brandon Weeden. Johnny Manziel.

    On Thursday, those three men will likely be joined by a new member of the infamous fraternity of quarterbacks to be drafted in the first round by the Cleveland Browns this millennium.

    Since 1999, Browns fans have persevered through a twisted quarterback carousel that has featured 28 different starters, including stints from one-time Pro Bowler (?!) Derek Anderson and Spergon Wynn, who is not a Star Wars character.

    The Browns own the first and fourth picks in the 2018 draft, and one of those picks—likely the first—will be a quarterback.

    So who will it be?

    Will they choose brash Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield? What about Josh Allen, a small-school prospect who has impressed scouts with his intangibles, even though he failed to dominate opponents at the FCS level? Or could Mason Rudolph, a potential first-rounder who put up gaudy numbers at Oklahoma State, steal Cleveland’s hearts? Only Browns general manager John Dorsey and head coach Hue Jackson really know.

    But with that months-long speculation regarding the Browns’ next quarterback soon coming to a head, what if the solution to Cleveland’s deep-rooted problem was already right in front of them?

    When the Browns traded a third-round pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for Tyrod Taylor in March, league insiders expected him to be a stopgap at quarterback until Cleveland felt confident that their to-be-determined draftee was ready to be inserted into the lineup.

    But what if Taylor, and not a rookie quarterback, is the Browns’ savior under center?

    How ironic would it be if the former sixth-round pick by the division-rival Baltimore Ravens, who was once projected by analysts to play wide receiver in the NFL, halted Cleveland’s cycle of stomach-churning quarterback play and turned the “Factory of Sadness” into a “Workshop of Wins”?

    What happens then? Do the Browns stick with the former Pro Bowler? Does he get a pierogi named after him?

    Heading into the 2017 season, it was difficult to see a scenario in which Taylor, who was benched in Week 11 for the unprepared Nathan Peterman, would lead the hapless Bills into the postseason for the first time since 1999. But with a wide receiver corps headlined by Deonte Thompson and Zay Jones, Taylor shepherded Buffalo into the promised land with 2,799 passing yards and 14 touchdowns in 14 starts.

    In just three years in Buffalo, Taylor has become one of the league’s most consistent signal-callers, racking up 8,857 passing yards and 51 touchdowns while adding 1,575 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Remove running back LeSean McCoy from the equation and who was Taylor’s most consistent weapon during that period? Charles Clay.

    With Josh Gordon and Jarvis Landry as his top wideouts in Cleveland, the possibilities are endless. When you add talented tight end David Njoku and proven running back Carlos Hyde to the mix, Cleveland’s offense has the potential to heavily improve on their league-worst 14.6 points per game from the 2017 season.

    If Taylor does have success in Cleveland, what would then happen to the young quarterback drafted as the heir apparent to Taylor? After two decades of inconsistency at the position, would the Browns finally have to face the welcomed problem of having too many capable QBs?

    Let’s say that the Browns draft Mayfield with the No. 1 pick on Thursday. He starts the offseason as the backup to Taylor and heads into camp exhibiting the outgoing and competitive personality that his college teammates loved in Norman. The preseason arrives and Mayfield lights up defenses with his impressive accuracy and sneaky athleticism while serving as Taylor’s backup.

    With Mayfield’s endless potential on display, the 29-year-old Taylor would earn his paycheck opportunely orchestrating Cleveland’s loaded offense, proving his worth as an NFL starter while also silencing his doubters in the process. If Taylor were to increase the Browns’ 2017 win total from zero to, say, six in 2018 behind quality play, the trade market would be yearning for a chance to acquire either of Cleveland’s quarterbacks.

    Let’s say it all comes true. Both Taylor and the rookie light it up under center, leaving the Browns to choose which one to trade. Who would they deal?

    New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick dealt with a similar dilemma during the 2017 season. As the trade deadline approached, the Pats received interest in backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from several NFL teams. Thanks to the luxury of having future Hall of Famer Tom Brady as their starter, New England ultimately decided to trade Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick and stick with the trusted, but aging, veteran in Brady.

    Would the Browns follow the same strategy as the Patriots and hold onto the dependable Taylor, or would they fall for the idea of having Mayfield as the face of the franchise for years to come?

    Of course we don’t know. We probably won’t even get this far. But if you’re John Dorsey, could you really bring yourself to trade away the one quarterback to have success in two decades?

    The Browns may have a tough decision to make after the 2018 season. But first, they have a tough decision to make on Thursday.

    Will it be Mayfield? Allen? Rudolph?

    The Browns’ quarterback luck is due for a change in the NFL Draft, but it might not even matter with Taylor taking snaps.

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