Life as a fan of the Cleveland Browns hasn’t been much fun since the city got an expansion franchise in 1999. The Browns have had but two winning seasons in the 13 seasons since – and somehow managed to miss the playoffs in one of those years, despite sporting a 10-6 record.
Perhaps the revolving door at the quarterback position in the past 13 years highlights best the struggles of the franchise. And it has certainly been revolving, as 16 different QBs
have started at least one game since 1999. Several QBs have played decently – including Cleveland’s first pick in the 1999 Draft, Tim Couch – but for most of those years there simply were not enough offensive pieces in place for any kind of success.
Cleveland drafted a QB in the first round in the 2012 Draft, and Brandon Weeden will likely start the season at the top of the depth chart. Perhaps the Browns will even be lucky enough to have a single QB start all 16 games in a season for the first time since 2001.
CLEVELAND STARTING QBs BY SEASON SINCE 1999
Record in games started during each season
1999: Tim Couch
2-12; Ty Detmer
2000: Couch 2-5; Doug Pederson
1-7; Spergon Wynn
2001: Couch 7-9
2002: Couch 8-6; Kelly Holcomb
[playoff game: Holcomb 0-1]
2003: Holcomb 2-6; Couch 3-5
2004: Jeff Garcia
3-7; Luke McCown
0-4; Holcomb 1-1
2005: Trent Dilfer
4-7; Charlie Frye
2006: Frye 4-9; Derek Anderson
2007: Anderson 10-5; Frye 0-1
2008: Anderson 3-6; Ken Dorsey
0-3; Brady Quinn
1-2; Bruce Gradkowski 0-1
2009: Quinn 2-7; Anderson 3-4
2010: Colt McCoy
2-6; Jake Delhomme
2-2; Seneca Wallace
2011: McCoy 4-9; Wallace 0-3
RANKING THE QBs, BEST to WORST
: 22-37 team record in games he started over parts of 5 seasons
With a halfway decent team, Couch might have had a longer, more successful career. But as it was, the overall No. 1 pick in 1999 was beat to a pulp in his early years in Cleveland. Sadly, he never got to taste the fruit of his labors; he was 8-6 in games he started in 2002, only to get injured in the final game of the regular season – and miss the franchise’s lone playoff game since returning to Cleveland.
Couch provided the two greatest moments for the Browns 2.0, twice throwing 50+-yard Hail Marys for dramatic victories, including the new team’s first win in 1999.
Couch posted a career completion percentage of 59.8, with 11,131 yards, 64 TDs, 67 INTs and a career QB Rating of 75.1.
: 16-18 over 4 seasons
Anderson guided the Browns to their best single-season record, going 10-5 in 2007 (with Charlie Frye starting and losing the other game). Of course, the Browns were left out of the postseason (just their luck).
Anderson passed for 7,083 yards in Cleveland, including an impressive, Pro-Bowl level 2007 where he threw for 3,787 yards and 29 TDs. He passed for over 300 yards three times that season.
: 4-8 record over 4 seasons
The privilege of starting the playoff game went to Holcomb, who acquitted himself well in Cleveland’s 36-33 meltdown loss to Pittsburgh; in fact, his 429 yards were the most ever in a playoff game against the Steelers. But Holcomb could never translate that success into the regular season.
Holcomb passed for 3,438 yards, 26 TDs and 21 INTs during his Browns tenure.
: 4-7 in 1 season
Nothing was expected of the 2005 Browns (coming off a 4-win campaign), so the fact that Dilfer was able to win 4 out of 11 starts was somewhat surprising. He started the first 11 games of the 2005 season, with wins against the likes of Green Bay and Chicago. Dilfer posted a 76.9 Rating, with 2,321 yards, 11 TDs and 12 INTs.
: 6-15 over 2 seasons
Placed in a similar position as Couch, McCoy simply has not had many weapons to work with. McCoy threw for 4,309 yards, 20 TDs and 20 INTs the past two years. McCoy was on pace to shatter Brian Sipes’ franchise record for passing attempts in a season before injuries ended his 2011 season; he finished with 463 throws last year, completing 57.2%.
: 2-2 in 1 season
The final four starts of a career that spanned 11 seasons – and included five playoff wins and a start in the Super Bowl – took place in a Cleveland uniform, in 2010. Delhomme passed for 200+ yards three times, but also threw multiple INTs in a game three times. Delhomme had one bit of magic left, as he guided the Browns to a late fourth-quarter comeback against his former team, Carolina, in Week 12 (completing all five passes on the GW drive).
: 3-9 over 2 seasons
The last QB the franchise selected in the first round prior to Weeden, Quinn simply couldn’t live up to the enormous hype. Quinn had three shining moments in a Browns uniform: tossing 2 TDs in his first career start, throwing 4 TDs and 0 INTs against Detroit in 2009 and following that up a few weeks later with a 3-TD performance against San Diego. As luck would have it though, Quinn and the Browns lost all three games. He did help the Browns pull off a startling upset of Pittsburgh in 2009 (knocking the Steelers out of the playoff hunt), but Quinn never had the confidence of the coaching staff or the fans, and made just 12 career starts in Cleveland.
: 3-7 in 1 season
The former, and future, Pro Bowler started the first 10 games of the 2004 season for Cleveland; Garcia managed to lead the Browns to wins over division rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati, but not much else went right. Garcia tossed 10 TDs – 4 of them in the win over the Bengals – and 9 INTs, completing 57.1% of his passes for 1,731 yards. He also rushed for a pair of scores.
: 6-13 over 3 seasons
The team’s third-round draft pick out of Akron had a few chances to make an impression for the home team, starting the Browns’ first 12 games in 2006. While Frye had a handful of productive games – including 3-TD effort against Oakland – he simply turned the ball over far too often; Frye tossed 17 INTs and also fumbled 8 times.
: 1-6 over 2 seasons
Wallace served primarily as McCoy’s backup the past two seasons, starting the final three games of the 2011 campaign and nearly engineering an upset of Pittsburgh in Week 17. Wallace’s lone win as a starter came against Cincinnati in 2010.
: 1-7 in 1 season
Nov. 12, 2000, was a grand day for Pederson, considering it was the one start he won with Cleveland, and one of just three he won in his career. In that win, Pederson threw a TD pass and avoided turning the ball over in the Browns’ 19-11 win over New England. In his eight starts for Cleveland, Pederson threw 2 TDs and 8 INTs.
: 0-2 in 1 season
The Cleveland brass tabbed him to put his head into the mouth of the lion in Game #1 for the New Browns. Detmer never had a chance to be successful, as the Browns were creamed by Pittsburgh 43-0 in the ’99 opener for the new team. Detmer started the first and final games of that season.
: 0-4 in 1 season
McCown played semi-decently in two of his 2004 starts, posting QB Ratings of 72 or above, and passing for 277 yards in one game against New England. But his overall numbers (49% completion, 4 TDs, 7 INTs, 6.2 Y/A) were not good.
: 0-3 in 1 season
The fact that Dorsey was allowed to make 13 starts in the NFL says a lot about the lack of adequate QBs in the league. Ohio (State) fans will forever remember him throwing the final incomplete pass in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl. Not much to remember from his short stint as a Cleveland starter: 0 TDs, 7 INTs, 26.4 QB Rating.
: 0-1 in 1 season
The fact that Wynn is not at the bottom of this list says a lot. He managed to out-do Gradkowski by passing for 17 yards in his start, a 48-0 loss to Jacksonville in 2000. On the plus side, he had a higher QB Rating in his one start than did Gradkowski: 40.6-1.0 (no, that’s not a typo).
: 0-1 in 1 season
Could his single start in a Cleveland uniform have been any worse? I suppose (he could have pulled a Tony Eason in SB XX by not completing any passes); as it was, Gradkowski passesd for 18 yards (to go with 2 INTs) in a 31-0 loss to Pittsburgh in the final regular-season game of 2008.