The news today that Austin Davis will start on Sunday for the Browns continues a long and disappointing trend in Cleveland: The team simply cannot find a franchise quarterback.
Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have started an NFL-high 23 different quarterbacks, with Davis slated to become the 24th on Sunday.
Here’s the full list of Browns quarterbacks since they re-entered the league as an expansion team in 1999: Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Ken Dorsey, Brady Quinn, Bruce Gradkowski, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, Thaddeus Lewis, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw, Josh McCown, Austin Davis.
You’d have to be both a huge Browns fan and a masochist to have that entire list committed to memory. Wasted first-round picks in Couch, Quinn, Weeden and Manziel. Veterans who had previously had success elsewhere but failed in Cleveland with Garcia, Dilfer and Delhomme. Players who would later go on to start for other teams in McCoy and Hoyer. Both McCown brothers. The list has a little of everything.
For a contrast with a successful franchise, here’s the entire list of Patriots starting quarterbacks since 1999: Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady, Matt Cassel.
Maybe some day the Browns will find a franchise quarterback who can lead them for 15 years or so, like Brady in New England. But at this point Browns fans would probably settle for a franchise quarterback who can last 16 games.