Browns starting quarterback Robert Griffin III got hurt in Week One. Browns starting quarterback Josh McCown got hurt in Week Two. And in Week Three, the Browns’ starting quarterback will be rookie Cody Kessler.
That makes Kessler the Browns’ 26th starting quarterback since the franchise returned to the NFL in 1999, a preposterous total that shows just how hard it has been for Cleveland to find stability at the most important position in football. The long list of starting quarterbacks in Cleveland includes a current NFL head coach, several first-round draft busts, veterans who came to Cleveland at the ends of their careers, young quarterbacks who later had more success elsewhere, and both McCown brothers.
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, Robert Griffin III, Cody Kessler.
Kessler will be the Browns’ fifth starting quarterback in their last five games as Manziel started Week 16 and Davis started Week 17 last year. With the exception of the 1987 strike year when teams used replacement players, no team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger has ever started five different quarterbacks over five consecutive games.
Five is also the number of starting quarterbacks the Packers have had — since Week 4 of the 1992 season. The Packers’ full list of starters since Week 4, 1992 is Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Seneca Wallace and Scott Tolzien.
The Browns’ list of starters since Week 4, 1992 is the above 26 players as well as Bernie Kosar, Mike Tomczak, Todd Philcox, Vinny Testaverde, Eric Zeier and Mark Rypien. Yes, the Browns have had 32 starting quarterbacks during a period of time in which the Packers have had five starting quarterbacks — and the Browns didn’t exist for three years during that period of time.
Maybe Kessler will show the Browns were smart to draft him in the third round, and will develop into that elusive Browns franchise quarterback. If he does that, he’ll be bucking a long trend of futility.