The last time the Browns drafted a franchise quarterback, they didn’t even know it.
In the 13th round of the 1972 Draft, the Browns used the 330th overall pick to select an undersized (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) relatively unknown quarterback from San Diego State named Brian Sipe.
In the history of the NFL, only two Browns players have won the Most Valuable Player Award: Jim Brown and Brian Sipe.
Sipe won it in 1980, when he led the Browns to a record of 11-5, and led the league with 30 touchdown passes. Sipe is still the Browns’ all-time leader in career passing yards, completions and game-winning drives.
In the 45 years since excavating Sipe, the Browns have failed to draft another franchise quarterback. (I’m not counting Bernie Kosar, a product of the 1985 supplemental draft).
It’s not because the Browns haven’t tried. Since selecting Sipe in the catacombs of the 1972 Draft, the Browns, according to Pro Football Reference’s Draft Finder, have picked 22 quarterbacks in the draft, ranging from the immortal Randy Mattingly in 1973 to the inaccurate DeShone Kizer in 2017.
Of those 22, seven never appeared in an NFL game. Ten never started an NFL game.
So who COULD the Browns have drafted in those 45 years that may have changed the course of Dawg Pound Nation history? I thought you’d never ask.
Since their return to the NFL in 1999, here are the top 15 quarterbacks the Browns could have drafted, but didn’t. (Feel free to breathe into a paper bag while reading):
- TOM BRADY (2000): Granted, every team in the league passed on Brady for six rounds, until the Patriots took a flyer on him in the seventh with the 199th overall pick. This is not to suggest that the Browns would have won five Super Bowls had they drafted Brady. It is, however, to suggest that the Browns, in selecting a quarterback 16 picks before the Pats took Brady, could have done a little better than Spergon Wynn.
- AARON RODGERS (2005): The first stop for Rodgers on his way to the Hall of Fame was to be selected by Green Bay with the 24th overall pick in the first round. With the third overall pick, the Browns went with Braylon Edwards, who was a three-time All-Diva selection.
- BEN ROETHLISBERGER (2004): Born in Ohio. Played college ball in Ohio. He hung around in Ohio until the Steelers called his name with the 11th pick in the first round. With the sixth pick, the Browns went with the best available motorcyclist, Kellen Winslow II.
- DREW BREES (2001): Not to nit-pick or anything, but this makes four future Hall of Fame quarterbacks the Browns passed on. Brees went to New Orleans with the first pick in the second round. With the third pick in the first round, the Browns coyly selected Gerard Warren, who, Pittsburgh police said, “was the nicest guy they ever arrested,” according to Browns Dean of Men Carmen Policy.
- TONY ROMO (2004): Romo wasn’t even drafted. So he could have been signed by anyone. The Cowboys signed him. The Browns went 4-12 that year.
- RUSSELL WILSON (2012): The Seahawks took him in the third round with the 75th overall pick. That was two rounds after the Browns hitched their wagon to Trent Richardson and Brandon Weeden.
- CARSON WENTZ (2016): Let’s just move on.
- DAK PRESCOTT (2016): Picked by Dallas in the fourth round, three rounds after the Browns took Corey Coleman, one round after they took Cody Kessler and 21 picks after they took Ricardo Louis.
- KIRK COUSINS (2012): He went in the fourth round to Washington, two picks after the Browns took Travis Benjamin.
- DONOVAN McNABB (1999): The expansion, overmatched Browns took Tim Couch No.1. The Eagles took McNabb No. 2. Couch went to the trainer’s room after every game. McNabb went to one Super Bowl and six Pro Bowls.
- DEREK CARR (2014): In the worst first-round performance in Browns, and perhaps NFL Draft history, they took Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel. Carr, the fourth pick in the second round, was voted to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three years.
- DeSHAUN WATSON (2017): Houston drafted him with the 12th overall pick, which they got from the Browns, who didn’t want it. Let’s just move on.
- NICK FOLES (2012): The reigning Super Bowl MVP was selected in the third round, one pick after the Browns took John Hughes, in the same draft the Browns went wide left on Weeden and Richardson.
- JIMMY GAROPPOLO (2014): Didn’t draft him. Failed to trade for him.
- COLIN KAEPERNICK (2011): A second-round pick the Browns passed on, presumably because they were smack in the middle of the Colt McCoy Era.
So to summarize: The first step in finding a quarterback is knowing how not to find one.