Opportunity knocks for Davis
Welcome to the Browns’ starting quarterbacks club, Austin Davis. You are No. 24, as in the 24th quarterback to start a game for the Browns since 1999.
If you’re not keeping count, let’s quickly review. That’s 24 different starting quarterbacks in 17 seasons. It is the quintessence of instability at the most important position of any football team.
From Ty Detmer, who started the very first game for the expansion Browns in 1999, to Davis, the Browns’ quarterback situation has been a litany of failure. The only quarterbacks with at least eight starts to hang up winning records in any one season were Tim Couch (8-6 in 2002) and Derek Anderson (10-5 in 2007).
To give some perspective to this latest move, consider that the New England Patriots have had only three starting quarterbacks in that span – Tom Brady, Matt Cassel and Drew Bledsoe.
In naming Davis to lead the Browns’ offense against the Cincinnati Bengals at home Sunday, coach Mike Pettine said Wednesday, “He deserves the opportunity.” Somehow, that rings a bell.
Isn’t that what he roughly said when naming Johnny Manziel the starting quarterback for the final six games of the season during the bye week? Something about working hard and deserving to move up to the No. 1 spot.
Then Manziel, anchored to the bench for the second straight game Sunday, spoiled it by reverting to his bad-boy ways after promising not to, angering his coach enough to yank the top job and demote him to the minors, a.k.a. third-team quarterback.
Then in the next breath, or very close to it, Pettine hinted that Davis keeps the starting job only if he performs well. The coach said he will “revisit this” in the event Davis struggles against the Bengals.
“We’ve got two young guys who are more than talented enough to play in this league,” he said. “We’ll see what they can do.” So the door remains slightly ajar for Manziel. It’s sort of like a National Football League version of a quarterback carousel.
Although he’s probably glad his coach picked him to start Sunday, it’s got to be somewhat unsettling for Davis to know he’s going to be out there attached firmly to a short leash, especially with the more popular Manziel chomping to get back onto the field.
One thing is certain, though. You can bet the Cleveland offensive line, which needs to be much more active and alert with the unpredictable Manziel operating the offense, will be happier with Davis, who possesses much better pocket awareness than Manziel.
And the wide receivers, forced to downshift into scramble mode every time Manziel leaves the pocket, won’t have to worry about that with Davis, whose release is much quicker and rewards disciplined route running.
Considering the Browns have all but clinched the AFC North basement and Pettine has nothing to lose by starting Davis, why not give him at least a couple of shots under center? What does the coach have to lose? Another game? So?
Even if Davis has a disastrous game against the Bengals, who hammered the Browns, 31-10, a month ago in Cincinnati (with Manziel at the helm), what’s wrong with one more shot? He didn’t embarrass himself as the starter in St. Louis last season, winning three of his eight starts.
Who knows? This could be the start of something big. It happened to Kurt Warner in St. Louis at the age of 27. Davis is 26. Both men are 6-2 and weigh 220 pounds.
OK, that’s a stretch. But at the same time, you never know when the Browns just might get lucky and hit it big at quarterback. Wishful thinking? Yeah, probably.