The Cleveland Browns will make history for all the wrong reasons when they take the field against the Baltimore Ravens Sunday afternoon at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Now that Robert Griffin III is on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, veteran Josh McCown will lead the Browns offense Sunday. That means the Browns will have started multiple quarterbacks for the 15th consecutive season. No other NFL team has done this, according to ESPN’s Field Yates.
This isn’t something the Browns should be proud of. Rather, it signifies the generally incredible instability the franchise has had at the sport’s most important position during the millennium.
This wretched streak began in 2002, when Kelly Holcomb started two games in relief of Tim Couch. Holcomb split the pair of starts and the Browns ultimately made it to the postseason with a 9-7 record. The Browns haven’t made the playoffs since.
Couch and Holcomb started eight games apiece in 2003 as the Browns dropped to 5-11. The Browns bottomed out in 2004 with the trio of Jeff Garcia (10 starts), Luke McCown (four starts) and Holcomb (two starts).
The Romeo Crennel era began in 2005, with an entirely different group of mediocre quarterbacks. Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer started 11 games and served as a mentor to rookie Charlie Frye before having a falling out with offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon. Frye started the final five games of the season, going 2-3.
Frye’s Browns career was particularly tumultuous. He started 13 games during the 2006 season before Derek Anderson stepped in to start the final three games. The Browns lost all three of Anderson’s starts and went 4-12 for the second time in three seasons. That wouldn’t be the last of Anderson, who was briefly proclaimed as the franchise’s savior.
Frye ultimately won the starting job in 2007, but ceded the job back to Anderson after throwing only 10 passes in a season-opening loss to Pittsburgh. Frye started the game 4 of 10 with an interception, prompting Crennel to make a switch. Anderson never looked back.
Anderson started the following 15 games of the 2007 season, going 10-5 while throwing for 3,787 yards, 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. The Browns went 10-6 and missed the playoffs, but hope was restored temporarily.
That hope evaporated almost as rapidly as it had developed and the 2008 season was arguably the wackiest quarterback situation of this unprecedented era of horrific quarterback play.
Anderson was concussed during a preseason game, but managed to return for the season opener. He was eventually benched by Week 9 after the Browns started the season 3-5. Notre Dame sensation and Ohio product Brady Quinn was tabbed as the starter, but he was eventually lost for the season with a broken finger sustained during his third start against the Ravens.
Anderson returned during that game and made one more start the following week before Cleveland made another change, handing the reins over to Ken Dorsey for three starts before eventually throwing in Bruce Gradkowski for the final game of a miserable 4-12 season that marked the end of the Crennel era.
New coach Eric Mangini didn’t do much to stabilize the position, either. Quinn was given the first crack at the job, starting three games before being benched in favor of Anderson. Quinn returned in Week 8, but was lost for the season with a Lisfranc foot injury in late December.
A new decade meant a new batch of subpar quarterbacks. The 2010 trio included Colt McCoy (eight starts), Jake Delhomme (four starts) and Seneca Wallace (four starts). The only thing overshadowing the group’s combined 18 interceptions was running back Peyton Hillis’ 1,177-yard season that came out of the sky. 2011 was a bit more stable, with McCoy starting 13 games and Wallace starting three.
The 2012 season brought a possible ray of hope in first-round pick and former Oklahoma State gunslinger, Brandon Weeden. But Weeden proved immediately he wasn’t capable of revitalizing the franchise. He went 5-10 during his rookie season and a Week 17 spot start by Thaddeus Lewis preserved the streak.
Weeden started two games before injuring his thumb in 2013, leading to Brian Hoyer’s first opportunity. Hoyer went undefeated in three starts before suffering an injury, which led to Weeden’s return. Weeden and veteran Jason Campbell went a combined 1-12 that season.
Since then, Hoyer (13 starts), former first-round bust Johnny Manziel (eight starts), current starter Josh McCown (eight starts, soon to be nine), Austin Davis (two starts), Connor Shaw (one start) and Griffin have taken the opening snap for the Browns under center.
On Sunday, McCown will re-assume the starting duties with rookie Cody Kessler backing him up. Either way, no end appears to be in sight for the Browns quarterback carousel.