Drew Stanton’s resume fit with the Browns’ needs as they searched for a veteran backup quarterback.
He’s been in the league since 2007. He’s 11-6 as a starter. He’s been around a series of No. 1 overall draft choices.
His winning personality ensured he’d fit in his new surroundings.
“If you don’t get along with Drew, then something’s wrong with you,” rookie Baker Mayfield said last week during minicamp. “He’s a great guy. He keeps it light and fun. But also he’s so knowledgeable.”
Stanton, 34, is the forgotten man in a quarterback room receiving loads of attention. Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy and was the No. 1 pick in the draft, while Tyrod Taylor has cemented himself as the starter and team leader.
Stanton is content staying in the background and offering advice. He signed a two-year, $6.5 million contract in March as a free agent and knew the role he would inherit. He said he had other options but picked the Browns, who wanted him as insurance if Taylor got hurt and as a mentor to whichever rookie they drafted.
“I did have choices, and I felt that this was the best choice,” Stanton said. “I am getting to the point in my career where I am looking for good situations. I have been fortunate to be around some really good organizations, and I felt like this was a great fit from top to bottom.”
The 0-16 record in 2017 didn’t scare him off. And that’s saying something, because he went through the only other 0-16 season in NFL history with the Detroit Lions in 2008. In his second season after being a second-round pick out of Michigan State — he missed his rookie year after knee surgery — he played in three games with no starts.
The next spring the Lions drafted quarterback Matthew Stafford with the No. 1 pick. Stanton (6-foot-3, 226 pounds) realized quickly his NFL future was as a backup.
“I had to find a way to adapt and make myself useful and I was fortunate to be around some great coaches that believed in me and instilled confidence in me to go out there and play at a high level,” he said.
Stanton spent the last four years with the Cardinals and made eight starts in 2014, going 5-3. Despite underwhelming career statistics — 52.4 completion percentage, 20 touchdowns, 24 interceptions, 66.3 rating — he’s 11-6 as a starter with a winning record in every season he’s started a game since 2010.
“First and foremost, I have been fortunate enough to survive in this league for a long time because I won football games,” he said. “That is what I kind of hung my hat on as a backup. If you do not win games in this league, they are going to find ways to get rid of you.”
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Cleveland’s quarterback group is one of the best he’s been around, citing the talent and chemistry. He doesn’t overlook Stanton.
“Drew Stanton does not get talked about a lot, but he is a guy with a lot of experience,” Haley said. “He still has got some in the tank. He can throw the football. He is extremely smart.”
If Stanton never plays in a regular-season game, he can still have a significant impact, particularly on Mayfield. Stanton has played with No. 1 picks Stafford, Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer and knows one of his chief duties is to mentor Mayfield. He’ll help Mayfield by watching film of himself and opponents and teaching him how to prepare properly during a season.
“As I get to know Baker more, I’ll try to pick and choose where I can help him out, and sometimes, it’s just letting him learn,” Stanton said. “That’s really the best way to do it at this position, go out there and trial by fire.”
Mayfield has been all ears.
“I’m hoping my relationship with him continues to grow because he’s a guy, every once in awhile, even if I’m not asking a question, he’ll slide little tips and advice, certain things he’s looking at, why it helps him, why he’s doing it and maybe how he learns something a certain way,” he said. “So he helps me out a lot.”
Taylor can also benefit from Stanton’s experience and intelligence. They first met before Taylor’s senior year in high school when Stanton was at Michigan State and a counselor at the Nike Elite 11 camp. They kept in touch and are glad to be reunited.
“He brings a lot of knowledge to the game. He has been around the game at this level for a long time now,” Taylor said. “It is good to have a friend here, as well, but also someone that I can bounce ideas off of, critique my game and just talk football with.”
Quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese said Stanton offers “comedic input” and gets all the quarterbacks on the same page. He’s blended in well in his new environment.
“I try to be unselfish, and I try to open up a line of communication not only in the quarterback room, but also in the offensive room in general,” Stanton said. “I’m trying to be an extra set of eyes and ears for whoever the starter is. Tyrod and I have been building a relationship over this period of time where I want to be seeing things the way he is so I can go tell the wide receivers, tell the offensive line, tell the different guys, ‘OK, this is what we’re looking for on this specific route or versus this coverage.’”