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Who will be the Cleveland Brown’s quarterback with Deshaun Watson suspended for 11 games?

One is an experienced former Super Bowl winner and the other a young player who’s made a name backing up some of the biggest in the game. Who you got?

Who will be the Cleveland Brown’s quarterback with Deshaun Watson suspended for 11 games?
Jason MillerAFP

With Watson’s suspension now official, the Browns are faced with the challenge of finding cover for the most important position on the roster. The question is ‘who will it be?’

How did the Cleveland Browns get here?

When the NFL and the NFLPA reached a settlement last Thursday, it brought to an end one of the biggest stories of the league’s offseason as with it the doubt as to just what kind of punishment Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson would face. As things stand, Watson will now face an 11-game suspension, a $5 million dollar and a mandatory evaluation by behavioral experts, which comes with an obligation to follow any suggested treatment program.

It should be noted, that the settlement effectively took the decision out of the hands of Peter C. Harvey, who was the attorney overseeing the NFL’s appeal. Fans will remember that on August 1st, disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson initially handed Watson the six-game suspension after finding that he, among other violations, had committed sexual assault during massage sessions. The NFL then argued that Watson’s punishment was not sufficient for what Robinson referred to as “predatory” and “egregious” behavior and appealed the decision. Commissioner Roger Goodell appointed Harvey, a former New Jersey attorney general, to rule on the appeal, however, as things now stand all parties seem to have agreed on an outcome. This of course now brings us to the current situation: The Browns are without a starting QB for the first 11 games of the regular season, so who do they go with? Let’s take a look.

A look at Jacoby Brissett

When the Browns signed Jacoby Brissett earlier in the offseason, it was with the understanding that Watson would likely be suspended, however, the general belief was that said suspension would only last for 6 games. Indeed, after Watson’s initial sentencing was handed down, reports suggested that the Browns were feeling confident about their chances of staying in the playoff picture with Brissett at the helm across six games. With the Watson now facing 11 games out, that notion has changed somewhat, but just who is the 29-year-old. Let’s find out.

At 29 years old, the Brissett actually has a great deal of experience when it comes to standing in for famous names having previously filled in for Tom Brady as a rookie with the Patriots in 2016. Once again in 2019, Brissett became the starter for the Indianapolis Colts after Andrew Luck’s suddenly announced his retirement. Then, just Last year Brissett replaced injured starter Tua Tagovailoa in Week 2 for the Miami Dolphins. “Since I’ve been in this league, it’s been the next man up,” Brissett said in training camp. “So that experience obviously helps with not only the playing but also the mindset of understanding - you’ve got to be ready whenever your number is called.” Interestingly, Brissett has 37 starts with a 14-23 record in a career that has seen him largely be the backup QB. If nothing else, at least Browns coach Kevin Stefanski has “been very impressed” with the signal caller as he stated that he’s “very comfortable with him.” Stefanski went on to say, “Very comfortable with him,” Stefanski said. “I think he has a very good understanding of what we’re trying to do offensively.”

What about Jimmy Garoppolo?

Though Stefanski’s public backing of Brissett must be noted, reports continue to suggest that the Browns may be ready to make a move for the 49ers QB now that Watson’s suspension has been extended. What’s more is that there are a few factors in play which make a possible trade quite doable. Firstly, the Browns have almost $50 million in cap space which makes restructuring Jimmy G’s $24.2 million salary a lot easier. Secondly, we’ve got the fact that as today, there are no real trade offers on the market for Garoppolo. Last but not least is the idea that Trey Lance is now San Francisco’s starter which means the likelihood of the Browns having to entertain high demands from the 49ers is quite low.

Some will of course point to Garoppolo’s recent shoulder surgery, but the fact is that he’s throwing again and looks to be on the way up. A 33-14 starter Garoppolo is one of only nine quarterbacks since 1950 to post a winning percentage of .700 with a minimum of 30 starts. This most recent campaign was perhaps one of his best as he averaged 7.7 yards per dropback, which led the NFL. Only the Bengals’ Joe Burrow averaged more passing yards per attempt (8.6) than Garoppolo. Indeed, Jimmy G was stellar in Week 18 when he spearheaded an overtime comeback win against the eventual Super Bowl-champions Los Angeles Rams. At 30, Garoppolo definitely has the playoff experience which Brissett doesn’t, but it should be noted that he’s not be heavily linked with a move to the Browns. When all is said and done, Garoppolo may not be a headline act, but he’s proven he can win when surrounded by decent talent. At this point we can only wait and watch.