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Season Preview: Ranking the 26 starting QBs who came before DeShone Kizer

You’ve seen the infamous jersey. You know the outrageous number.

DeShone Kizer will be the 27th quarterback to start for the Browns since the franchise returned in 1999.

Upon being named the starter, Kizer said his goal was to be the last name on the list. That’s the perfect attitude.

He won’t be the last quarterback to start for the Browns, but if he can hold down the job for a decade, it would be considered a huge success and he would vault to the top of the following list.


As Kizer prepares to start Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, I wanted to take a (bumpy) trip down (bad) memory lane by ranking the previous 26 starters. Maybe it’ll be the final time we have to go down this road for quite some time.

The criteria aren’t complicated. It’s my opinion, based mostly on the player’s performance while in Cleveland, with a bit of attention paid to his talent and the rest of his career.

Starting at the bottom of a depressing list …

No. 26: Johnny Manziel, 2014-15
Comment: Gotta start with a bang, right?
Manziel wasn’t the worst of the bunch but he was the biggest disappointment. And no one else is in the same universe.
The Browns — owner Jimmy Haslam? general manager Ray Farmer? the homeless guy? – traded up to draft Johnny Manziel at No. 22, sending a jolt through the fan base and drawing the attention of the sports world.
Manziel proved to be way more hype than hope and had nobody to blame but himself. He never stopped partying, despite a stay in rehab, didn’t work nearly hard enough and wasn’t talented enough to be a first-round pick.
He went 2-6 as a starter in two seasons before the Browns put an end to the distractions. He’s out of the league.

No. 25: Spergon Wynn, 2000
Was picked 16 slots ahead of Tom Brady in the sixth round of the 2000 draft. That’s a regrettable choice.
Wynn went 0-1 as a rookie, was gone the next season and out of the league by 2002.

No. 24: Ken Dorsey, 2006-08
You thought Cody Kessler has a weak arm. Dorsey put the linguine in noodle.
He was 0-3 in 2008 with a 26.4 rating after injuries hit the position. He quickly transitioned to a coaching career and could be a head coach someday.

Nos. 23-21: Bruce Gradkowski, Thaddeus Lewis, Connor Shaw
Call them the Finale Fellas.
Each made one start for the Browns, in the final game of the season. All lost.
Gradkowski fell 31-0 at Pittsburgh in 2008. Lewis 24-10 at Pittsburgh in 2012. Shaw put up a fight at Baltimore in a 20-10 defeat in 2014, earning the top spot among the one-and-dones.

No. 20: Austin Davis, 2015
Two starts without embarrassing himself gives him the edge over the above trio. He went 0-2 with a 66.2 rating.

No. 19: Luke McCown, 2004
The first of the McCown brothers to come through town. He was a fourth-round pick, went 0-5 when pressed into service as a rookie and was gone by the next season.

No. 18: Doug Pederson, 2000
He’s doing all right for himself as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Went 1-7 with a 56.6 rating filling in for an injured Tim Couch.

No. 17: Ty Detmer, 1999
The first quarterback of the expansion era lasted one game as the starter. And what a game it was — a 43-0 welcome back loss to the Steelers. Was replaced by No. 1 pick Tim Couch in Week 2 and finished Browns tenure 0-2 with a 75.7 rating.

No. 16: Cody Kessler, 2016-
Handled himself well when he went from third on the depth chart to the starter by Week 3 as a rookie last year. Finished 0-8 and suffered a pair of concussions but had a respectable 92.3 rating.
His future with Browns and in the league is in doubt because of physical limitations.

No. 15: Robert Griffin III, 2016
Didn’t make it through the opener before getting hurt. Returned to get the season’s only win and finish 1-4 as a starter.
His ranking on this list is helped by a historic rookie season with Washington.

No. 14, Brady Quinn, 2007-09
The Columbus native who grew up a Browns fan and went to Notre Dame was supposed to be a savior. It didn’t turn out that way.
He was stuck behind Derek Anderson, then went 3-9 with a 66.8 rating.

No. 13: Seneca Wallace, 2010-11
A dual threat who kept waiting to start, then didn’t produce when given the chance. He went 1-6 with a 76.6 rating.
A big-time athlete who was as smooth on and off the field as anyone I’ve encountered.

No. 12: Charlie Frye, 2005-07
A gutsy Ohio kid who went 6-13 with a 71.1 rating. Won a torturous preseason competition with Derek Anderson in 2007 only to be benched in the opener and traded before Week 2.

No. 11: Trent Dilfer, 2005
The Super Bowl champ was supposed to add credibility but was gone after a season. He went 4-7 with a 76.9 rating before being replaced by Charlie Frye. Wasn’t the leader the Browns envisioned.

No. 10: Jeff Garcia, 2004
Remains the lone winner of a season opener, stunning the Ravens. It went downhill in a hurry, including coach Butch Davis calling him “skittish” in the pocket.
Garcia went 3-7 with a 76.7 rating.

No. 9: Jake Delhomme, 2010
Went to a Super Bowl with Carolina but couldn’t stay healthy in Cleveland. Finished 2-2 with a 63.4 rating.
Was a true professional and had a positive impact in his lone year.

No. 8: Colt McCoy, 2010-12
One of the youngsters who never got a fair shot to succeed.
Was forced to play as a rookie and pulled off stunning wins vs. New Orleans and New England while completing only 23 passes. He couldn’t sustain the run with below-average size and arm strength.
He went 6-15 with a 74.8 rating.

No. 7: Jason Campbell, 2013
He looked the part — tall, athletic, strong arm — but wasn’t as good as Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer, who preceded him in his lone season. Campbell went 1-7 with a 76.9 rating.

No. 6: Josh McCown, 2015-16
His helicopter concussion made for the most memorable debut drive of this sad bunch.
Fans shouldn’t be fooled by the inauspicious start or the 1-10 record in Cleveland. He was among the best teammates ever to step foot in the locker room, accepted any role he was given and gave the team a chance to win with a respectable 85.7 rating.
Would’ve been the perfect mentor for DeShone Kizer.

No. 5: Brandon Weeden, 2012-13
He was 28 years old when drafted but still wasn’t ready despite being a big-time thrower. Showed flashes of good play but couldn’t sustain them, going 5-15 with a 71.8 rating.

No. 4: Kelly Holcomb, 2001-04
Had the honor of playing in the lone playoff game in the expansion era in 2002, when he threw for 429 yards in a gut-wrenching loss in Pittsburgh. His competition with Tim Couch paved the way for the yearly controversy surrounding the position.
Holcomb had spurts of brilliance but went 4-8 with an 83.3 rating.

No. 3: Tim Couch, 1999-2003
The No. 1 pick of the expansion era was put in one impossible situation after another. A great teammate who occasionally showed the talent that made him the first pick, but was dragged down by injuries and a lack of talent around him.
Was 22-37 with a 75.1 rating.

No. 2: Brian Hoyer, 2013-14
The hometown kid (North Olmsted and St. Ignatius) was never fully embraced by the fans or front office because Johnny Manziel lurked behind him. But Hoyer is the only one on this list with a winning record in his tenure, going 10-6 with a 77.6 rating.
Reconnected with Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco and is a starter again.

No. 1: Derek Anderson, 2006-09
He won 10 games and made the Pro Bowl in 2007. That’s more than enough to top this list.
Anderson has a giant arm and took advantage of having Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and Joe Jurevicious as targets. Anderson was unable to duplicate his Pro Bowl form in 2008 and finished 16-18 with a 69.7 rating.
He’s gone on to a good life as Cam Newton’s backup in Carolina.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.


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