ORLANDO — It’s still unclear which quarterback the Browns, owners of the first and fourth picks, will select in the upcoming NFL Draft.
What is certain, however, is a unified plan to let said player sit and learn behind veteran Tyrod Taylor.
“It’s a conversation we’ve had. We’re going into this this way,” head coach Hue Jackson said at the league’s annual meeting. “God forbid something happens to Tyrod, then obviously that changes the whole dynamic of everything. But at the same time, I think we have a plan and we’re going to stick to it.”
While the Browns will almost certainly tab a quarterback of the future in the draft next month, they’re decidedly against the idea of rushing him into action after back-to-back seasons of playing rookies, en route to a 1-31 record. Instead, they'll lean on Taylor, whom Cleveland acquired via trade from Buffalo at the start of the new league year, and allow the veteran to guide the team next season as its starter.
“There’s so many other guys that have been No. 1 draft picks or No. 4 draft picks that hadn’t played in the first year,” Jackson said. “We would be asking a lot of a rookie quarterback in his first year, especially coming off an 0-16 season. I think that’s unfair. And so I think we’re going to travel the road with this veteran player in Tyrod Taylor, and see what he can do.”
The Browns watched DeShone Kizer struggled last season (22 interceptions) and Cody Kessler (eight starts in 2016) struggle the year before. Kizer was traded to Green Bay to weeks ago while Kessler was shipped to Jacksonville Wednesday.
“I’ve said it earlier. We’ve tried this the other way with two young guys, and it’s unfortunate it didn’t happen the way we wanted it to and I think they’re both fine players and I think they’re both gonna have opportunities to play in this league,” Jackson said, “but I think to do this right, to get to where we’re trying to get to, we need to get that veteran quarterback to go out and play and lead this football team to be the best it can be. And I think this is the guy for us.”
Taylor, a Pro Bowler who helped Buffalo snap a 17-year playoff drought, will command a new-look offense that also traded for three-time Pro Bowl receiver Jarvis Landry and former 49ers running back Carlos Hyde, who’s coming off back-to-back seasons of at least 1,000 all-purpose yards.
The Browns also added veteran quarterback Drew Stanton, who spent the past five years as Carson Palmer’s backup in Arizona, to give the room something of experienced passer who can help tutor his younger counterpart(s).
“It’s going to be outstanding. Like I said earlier, Tyrod’s our starter. Getting a veteran, proven guy like Drew Stanton and putting him in that room allows us the luxury of not having the starting quarterback have to be the guy that mentors a young guy,” Jackson said.
“You have a guy that’s done it, that can really take that guy under his wings and have him truly understand what it’s like to be a pro quarterback, the professionalism of it, all of it. So I think that was a really important move for us. Because that room is special and it’s different, and everybody can’t just be in there.”
With less than a month until the draft, the Browns will continue to evaluate the top quarterbacks in this year’s class, a group that includes USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield.
“There’s a lot of things that go into that. Is the guy going to be comfortable having to sit? Because more than likely, he’s going to sit. And if he’s talented enough to overcome the situation, then he is. We’re not gonna stop that, either,” Jackson said.
“But at the same time, we’re heading into this with this guy having a chance to sit and watch. Some guys can do that, some guys can’t. So who’s going to be two years from now, a year from now, the most talented of this group that can help lead this organization? I think that’s kind of where we are."