Question: Does it ever get better for Browns fans? Answer: No. No, it does not.
In the latest episode of the team’s continual inability to properly address its quarterback situation, the Browns reportedly failed to complete a deal for the Bengals’ AJ McCarron just as the league’s deadline arrived at 4 p.m. Tuesday. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Cleveland and Cincinnati actually came to an agreement at 3:55 p.m., but while the Bengals sent their approval of the trade to the NFL in time, the Browns did not.
The Browns reportedly appealed to the league to allow the deal, which would have sent 2018 second- and third-round picks to the Bengals, to go through but were denied. But wait, it gets worse: According to ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Grossi (via Aaron Goldhammer), the reason that the Browns failed to send their approval of the trade to the league in time was that team executives were too busy celebrating it.
Ouch. Then again, what else would we expect from a brain trust that, in the past two drafts, has traded out of golden opportunities to draft Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson?
Even if Grossi’s account isn’t quite accurate, it’s fair to call this a debacle for the Browns, and a terrible outcome for the Bengals, too. After all, Cincinnati was set to get quite a haul for a player firmly behind Andy Dalton on the depth chart (despite some Bengals’ fans preferences) and set to hit restricted free agency after this season.
Cleveland already had a bad situation at quarterback, with rookie DeShone Kizer struggling badly and the only slightly more experienced Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler not looking at all like an answer, either. Now Kizer knows that his team not only just tried to replace him, but was willing to pay a fairly high price to do so.
Speaking of that price, if those reports are accurate, they raise the question of why the Browns were offering so much for McCarron when the Patriots’ more highly regarded Jimmy Garoppolo went to the 49ers on Monday for just one second-round pick. Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith offered an explanation, positing that since Garoppolo will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, while McCarron will be restricted, the latter figures to be much cheaper to sign.
It can’t be very comforting to Cleveland fans to think that their squad may be nickel-and-dime-ing its quarterback position. In fairness, Browns Coach Hue Jackson worked with McCarron when he was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator, so he may well have considered the former fifth-round draft pick a better fit for his offense.
There are also reports that Browns’ management was simply asleep at the wheel last night, when Garoppolo, who was widely viewed as a trade target for Cleveland during the NFL draft, got dealt instead to San Francisco. Jackson’s daughter lent credence to those reports, when she said to NFL.com’s Michael Silver on Twitter (via CBS Radio’s Daryl Ruiter), “Can’t land a player if you’re not on the phones.”
However, Browns radio analyst Dustin Fox claimed Tuesday that the Browns did, in fact, inquire with the Patriots on Monday about Garoppolo. Meanwhile, Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot reported that the Browns sent the trade document with their signature on it to the Bengals, but that Cincinnati went on to send a document with only its signature to the league, thus possibly making the latter team more responsible for the botched deal.
In any event, this will go down as just another not-so-great moment in Browns history, specifically its history with quarterbacks. Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the team has infamously trotted out a rotating cast of forgettable characters at football’s most important position, with Hogan becoming the 28th to get a start in that span, after Kizer led the team to an 0-5 start this season.
Cleveland is now 0-8, tied with the 49ers for the worst record in the NFL, this after going 1-15 last year. Little wonder, then, that some Internet observers felt that McCarron was lucky to have barely avoided being thrust into such a dysfunctional situation.
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