When the Cleveland Browns selected quarterback Brandon Weeden in the first round of the 2012 draft and he subsequently won the starting job, it seemed as though their longstanding problems at the position had been solved.
Weeden's passing yardage of 3,385 was one of the best totals in rookie quarterback history, and though he threw only 14 touchdowns to 17 interceptions and had an astounding 21 passes batted down, he appeared to have made enough progress to warrant a second season as a starter.
Every quarterback struggles in his rookie year, though his 2012 counterparts Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson made that fact easy to forget, but another year under center would allow Weeden to finally develop into the passer that warranted him being taken in the first round to begin with.
However, as usual, things in Cleveland didn't stay stable for long. With team ownership changing hands from Randy Lerner to Jimmy Haslam last fall, the 2012 coaching staff and front office lost their jobs.
Instead of Pat Shurmur and Brad Childress, the Browns now have Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner as their head coach and offensive coordinator, respectively. The front office also saw major changes with general manager Tom Heckert and team president Mike Holmgren giving way to CEO Joe Banner, general manager Mike Lombardi and assistant GM Ray Farmer.
The changes meant that every position would be scrutinized leading up to the start of 2013's free-agency period and April's draft, including that of quarterback.
For Weeden, this means a quarterback competition is coming, and it also means the Browns will likely be bringing in someone from the outside to do battle with him for the starting spot. And though the 2013 draft class isn't considered particularly strong, some adamantly believe that the Browns should use their sixth overall pick to take one of the top prospects at the position, such as West Virginia's Geno Smith or USC's Matt Barkley.
But a first-round quarterback is not the answer for the Browns this April. It's not a move they should make for the second year in a row. In fact, it's insanity to even consider this a legitimate, intelligent option.
Yes, the Browns are under a new regime, which comes with it the notion of divesting of the past in an attempt for the new leadership to put their own signature on the team's course.
Making a statement with the quarterback position, in particular, makes sense, considering it's he who is generally the face of the franchise. But that's not reason enough to turn away from Weeden—at least to the extent of taking another quarterback in the first round this year.
If they want a competition, fine—there's nothing wrong with exploring options and trying to find the best formula to win—but two first-round quarterbacks in consecutive seasons doesn't make sense. Especially not in 2013, with a weak enough quarterback class to make Mel Kiper, Jr., declare that Weeden would be this year's top pick at the position compared to the rest of the options, and with the Browns needing to bolster their defensive ranks both early and often.
The reason the Browns selected Weeden last year and then chose to start him wasn't simply that he's not Colt McCoy, though some of Weeden's detractors want to label it that way. But to draft a quarterback in the first round this year would simply be an "anyone but Weeden" move that will result in the Browns taking a far greater gamble than starting Weeden in 2013.
The new Chudzinski-Turner offensive system is one geared towards Weeden's strengths and he deserves a chance to run it. Though he will—in the aforementioned competition—his odds to retain his job dip significantly if the Browns take a first-round quarterback this year.
After all, a 2013 sixth overall pick is more valuable in every way (except for maybe talent according to Kiper's pronouncement) than 2012's 22nd overall, and it wouldn't make any sense for a player that expensive, in terms of both the pick and the cash, to sit on the bench. It would be a competition in name only.
The only way the Browns drafting a quarterback this year makes any sense is if they do it in a later round and no earlier than the fourth.
Someone like Tyler Bray, Tyler Wilson or Zac Dysert would be a more economical pick and wouldn't hinder the Browns' plans to make their defense more aggressive (and, of course, more suited to defensive coordinator Ray Horton's 3-4 plans).
This later-round quarterback could compete with Weeden but not cost the Browns extra cash or extra shame if they wind up being the incumbent QB's backup, unlike doing so in the first round. And it would still be someone young and malleable enough to potentially take over the starting job in 2014 if Weeden doesn't shine in the new system this season.
Whether the Browns stick with Weeden in 2013 or turn to another quarterback, the position is still going to be a work in progress. Considering what Weeden did—and didn't do—in his rookie season and all of the changes that have taken place in the coaching staff and front office since it wrapped, competition for the job is understandable.
However, Weeden didn't have a failed first season; it was rocky, yes, but his full potential was nowhere near realized in those 16 games. If the Browns use their sixth overall pick on a quarterback, though, the message they send is that the Weeden experiment is already a failure. There will be no opportunity for Weeden to show improvement in his second year, because the pressure will be too high to make the newest first-round pick the starter.
If the Browns want to draft Weeden's competition—fine. But if they do it anytime before the fourth round, it will be a waste of a pick. Considering Cleveland's other draft needs and the actual talent of the quarterback they drafted last year—yes, it's there—there's simply no reason to make the panic move of overdrafting someone to compete with Weeden this offseason.
Though teams often make crazy decisions in the hopes that boldness pays off with big rewards, there's only one word to describe the Browns using a high draft pick on a quarterback this year: Craziness.
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