A Factory of Sadness
Starting quarterback of an NFL team is arguably the best job in pro sports -- unless you play for the Cleveland Browns. Then it's a curse. Since rejoining the NFL as an expansion team in 1999, there have been 29 different starting QBs under center -- and No. 30 is right around the corner when Baker Mayfield predictably starts in Week 4 against the Raiders. That's not a typo. Even crazier? Ironman left tackle Joe Thomas, whose next stop is Canton, blocked for 20 of them.
Cleveland, simply put, is where QBs go to die. In the past 20 seasons, the Browns have ruined three Heisman winners, a Super Bowl winner, numerous Pro Bowlers, and have spent five first-round picks on QBs, two of them at No. 1. None of it has worked. Alas, there is certainly hope on the shores of Lake Erie again after Mayfield replaced an injured Tyrod Taylor on Thursday night and delivered Cleveland its first NFL win in 635 days. Is he finally the guy to lead the Dawg Pound out of QB misery? Or just another name to add to the saddest jersey in pro sports? Here's a look back at the NFL's cruelest fraternity.Credit: Twitter/USATSI
Somebody had to start that first game for the expansion Browns in 1999 and it just so happened to be Detmer. The Steelers won in a nailbiter on Monday Night Football, 43-0. Before landing in Cleveland, Detmer threw for a gazillion yards and won the Heisman at BYU, then had cushy backup gigs in Green Bay and San Francisco. He even went 7-4 as a starter for the Eagles during their run to the playoffs in 1996.
But, man, that 1999 season was ugly. Detmer went 0-2 during his two starts and completed just six passes for 52 yards in the opener. He then wound up in Detroit the following season where he started for the Lions against the Browns in Week 2 and threw seven interceptions in a 24-14 Browns win. Seven picks! No one can ever say Ty Detmer never won a game for Cleveland.Credit: Getty Images
Browns fans wanted the next Bernie Kosar. Instead they got Couch, a football stud from a basketball school who later married a Playboy Playmate from Akron named Heather Kozar. Taken first overall in the 1999 NFL Draft, Couch took a beating in Cleveland, both on the field and off it. He was sacked 166 times in 59 career starts while winning just 22 games and tossing 67 picks to 64 TDs over five seasons. Even worse: He broke his leg in the final game of the 2002 season, never getting the chance to start the Browns' lone playoff game since 1999 the following week. Ouch.Credit: Getty Images
Doug Pederson backed up Brett Favre for seven seasons with the Packers and got a Super Bowl ring to show for it. Sandwiched between were one-year gigs in Philly, then Cleveland. The current Eagles coach joined the Browns in 2000 after another ex-Favre backup, Ty Detmer, tore his Achilles in the preseason. He was forced into starting duty in Week 8 after Tim Couch broke his thumb ... in practice. Yep, only the Browns.
The Browns managed to score just six points total in Pederson's first three starts. He went 1-7 as a starter while throwing eight picks and just two TDs while getting sacked 17 times. He happily returned to Green Bay the following year where he retired after four more NFL seasons.Credit: Getty Images
The Browns took Spergon Wynn out of tiny Southwest Texas State with the 183rd pick in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. He was the sixth QB taken before the Patriots took some guy named Tom Brady at No. 199. Wynn's one start in Cleveland in Week 14 of his rookie year is arguably the pinnacle of bad Browns quarterbacking. It was so retched, we couldn't even find any photos of it. He had just 17 passing yards and the Browns managed only two first downs, one via penalty, in a 48-0 thrashing from the Jaguars. Wynn fared better in the CFL, where he landed after going winless in two starts for the Vikings in 2001.Credit: Getty Images
As the saying goes, the backup QB is always the most popular guy in town. And Holcomb, Peyton Manning's former backup in Indy, became the people's choice in Cleveland as Browns fans got fed up with Tim Couch and all the losing. Holcomb was only 4-8 as a starter in his four seasons as a Brown, but he forever endeared himself to The Dawg Pound by throwing for 429 yards and three TDs in a gritty wild-card loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh after the 2002 season. The Browns haven't been back to the playoffs since. Holcomb went 4-4 as the starter for the Bills in 2005, and 0-3 for the Vikings in 2007 before calling it a career.Credit: Getty Images
Jeff Garcia made two Pro Bowls with the 49ers in five seasons and won a playoff game before landing in Cleveland in 2004. His Browns stint got off to a great start, too. He actually led Cleveland to a season-opening win, something that has never happened since. He threw for a TD and ran for another in a 20-3 win over Art Modell's hated Ravens.
But things went completely off the rails after that. In Week 2 against the Cowboys, Garcia finished with a QB rating of 0.0 after completing 8-of-27 passes for 71 yards and tossing three picks. He finished 3-7 as a starter in his one and only season in Cleveland.Credit: Getty Images
The first of the quarterbacking McCown brothers on this list threw for 12,444 yards and 87 touchdowns in four seasons at Louisiana Tech. His reward? Getting shipped off to the shores of frigid Lake Erie after the Browns took him in the fourth round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He started the final four games of his rookie season, all losses, which included a 37-7 thumping from the Bills in which he completed just 8-of-20 passes for 60 yards and served up two interceptions. Thankfully for McCown, he eventually made it back to Louisiana where he backed up Drew Brees from 2013-2015.Credit: Getty Images/USATSI
Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl for Art Modell's Ravens the season after the Browns made their triumphant return to Cleveland. That bad karma all but ensured he was going to get smoked in Cleveland after Browns GM Phil Savage traded a fourth-round pick to the Seahawks to land Dilfer in March 2005. Even worse, Savage gave Dilfer a three-year extension.
The then-33-year-old journeyman started 11 games, threw 11 TDs to 12 picks, was sacked 23 times and wound up losing the starting job to rookie Charlie Frye by Week 12. The Browns traded Dilfer away after the 2005 season to the 49ers for Ken Dorsey and a draft pick.Credit: Getty Images
Charlie Frye was the local Ohio boy who'd been a darkhorse Heisman candidate in his final season at Akron in 2004. In four years as a Zip, Frye broke 54 school records. He was also named the MVP of the 2005 Senior Bowl before the Browns plucked him in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft.
He looked like Cleveland's QB of the future, too, after getting his first win in his fourth start of his rookie season in Week 15. Then the Steelers came to town on Christmas Eve the following week and blasted Frye and the Browns, 41-zip. After going 4-9 in 13 starts in 2006, the Browns moved on to their next QB of the future in the draft: Brady Quinn, another Ohio native. Frye still won the starting job heading into the season, but after completing just 4-of-10 passes for 34 yards in the first half of the season opener, another slaughter by the Steelers, the Browns shipped him off to Seattle for a draft pick.Credit: Twitter/Getty Images
Derek Anderson was a sixth-round draft pick of the Ravens in 2005 who wound up in Cleveland after being waived in Baltimore. But he'll always have this over first-rounder Brady Quinn: He piloted the Oregon State Beavers to a win over Quinn's Fighting Irish in the 2004 Insight Bowl. Cleveland should still consider building a downtown monument for Anderson after he made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2007 in what is, without question, the best season by a Browns starter since '99.
After taking over for Charlie Frye in the opener, Anderson threw for five TDs and 328 yards to beat Carson Palmer's Bengals, 51-48, in his first NFL start. He proceeded to lead the Browns to 10 wins in 15 starts, delaying Quinn's NFL debut, while tossing 29 TDs. But in the Week 16 rematch against the Bengals, with a playoff spot on the line, Anderson threw four crushing picks, including two on consecutive snaps. He started 16 games over the next two seasons, winning only six, before winding up in Arizona, then Carolina, where he served as Cam Newton's backup for seven seasons. He's currently a free agent.Credit: Getty Images
If ever there was a son of Ohio to wake up the echoes of former Browns glory, it was Brady Quinn. After rewriting the record books at Notre Dame, Quinn fell to the Browns at No. 22 in the 2007 NFL Draft. But there was no happy ending in Cleveland. He threw 12 TDs and 17 picks while going 3-9 in 12 starts during his three seasons in Cleveland. He threw four of those TDs in one game and the Browns still managed to lose.Credit: Getty Images
Sun, fun and BCS title runs. That's all Ken Dorsey knew at Miami. But the former Hurricanes star didn't have the Bernie Kosar experience in Cleveland after getting dealt from the 49ers in the Trent Dilfer swap. Dorsey tossed seven interceptions in three starts at the end of the 2008 season and never played another NFL down after that.Credit: Getty Images
Bruce Gradkowski had his moments as a starting QB in Tampa and Oakland, but his one start for the Browns in the 2008 season finale was Spergon Wynn-esque. He had only 18 yards passing in a 31-0 Steelers blowout.Credit: USATSI
Jake Delhomme came this close to winning a Super Bowl with the Panthers in 2004. By the time he arrived in Cleveland, however, in 2010, at age 35, he was all but washed up. He was a turnover machine in four starts, going 2-2, while throwing seven interceptions and giving up three fumbles.Credit: Getty Images
Seneca Wallace led Iowa State to its biggest win over Nebraska since 1899. That's worth all the corn in Iowa. But his two seasons in Cleveland were marked by injuries and Browns losses. Big shocker there. He went 1-6 as a starter but threw more TDs (6) than INTs (4).Credit: Getty Images
There'll never be a better name for a Texas QB than Colt McCoy. Just not gonna happen. The wily gunslinger followed Vince Young in Austin and won 45 games in four seasons, at the time an NCAA record. He led Texas to the BCS title game after the 2009 season and was the Heisman runner-up in 2008 to Sam Bradford and a finalist again in 2009.
But just like RG3 and Johnny Manziel, two other Texas legends, McCoy struggled to shoot straight in Cleveland on bad teams. He was forced into action as a rookie after Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace both injured their ankles in the same game. He went 6-15 as a starter over two seasons, and his stint in Cleveland is most remembered for getting completely labeled by the Steelers' James Harrison on Thursday Night Football. The vicious helmet-to-helmet hit forced the NFL to change its rules for handling concussions in games.Credit: Getty Images
If you're a backup QB in Cleveland, you can pretty much pencil yourself in as the starter for the season finale. You can also expect to get clobbered by the Steelers. Lewis, however, played pretty solid in his one Browns start in the 2012 finale, going 24-for-34 for 204 yards with a TD and a pick. Don't leave out the three sacks.
After leaving Cleveland, the journeyman QB out of the football powerhouse that is Duke had moderate success as a spot starter in Buffalo, beating the Dolphins twice.Credit: Getty Images
There's a case to be made that Brandon Weeden was the best of the three QBs the Browns have taken at No. 22 since 1999. He only won five times in 20 starts, but he did have four 300-yard games.
There's also a more compelling case, however, that you should never, ever spend a first-round pick on a 29-year-old rookie QB. That's true even if that guy threw for 9,260 yards in four years at Oklahoma State and nearly took the Pokes all the way to the national title game in 2011.Credit: Getty Images
Just like RG3 after him, Jason Campbell was a former first-round pick of the Redskins who wound up in Cleveland after his star completely crashed. Campbell led Auburn to an undefeated season in 2004, prompting the Redskins to trade up to take him with the 25th pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. In 2008, after he'd led the Redskins to a 6-2 start, there was even heady talk that Washington had finally found its franchise QB. The Redskins went on to finish 8-8.
Five years later, Campbell found himself in Cleveland after stops in Oakland and Chicago. He threw more TDs (6) than picks (4) in his one season as a Brown, but he also won only one game in eight starts as the Browns stumbled to a 4-12 finish.Credit: Getty Images
Oh, what could have been. Brian Hoyer apprenticed under the NFL's greatest Jedi, Tom Brady, for three seasons in New England, then spent a season in Arizona before arriving back in his hometown of Cleveland as a returning hero entrusted with bringing back the glory days of The Dawg Pound. OK, that might be embellishing, but Hoyer, unlike a lot of QBs on this list, wanted to be in Cleveland. He wanted to be that guy who turned around the Browns. And he sorta did in 2013 before tearing his ACL after leading the Browns to two straight wins.
Then the Browns went full "Draft Day" in the offseason, spurning Hoyer to trade up four spots in the draft and nab Johnny Football at No. 22 before Jerry Jones could get him. Hoyer went 7-6 in 2014 before leaving to join Bill O'Brien in Houston. He remains the only QB on this list with a winning record as a starter. Cleveland should throw him an annual parade.Credit: Getty Images/USATSI
Johnny Football was so money at Texas A&M, knocking off No. 1 Bama and becoming the first redshirt freshman to win the Heisman. But his short tour in Cleveland was one long TMZ story. The only thing he wrecked in two disastrous seasons was his reputation as a viable NFL starter.
He remains the only first-round QB bust to be photographed drinking champagne while riding an inflatable swan before even getting to his first mini-camp. We'll also always have Billy Manziel, the blond-wig wearing, blackjack-playing alias of Manziel when he flew to Vegas during the final week of the season while Browns coaches fruitlessly tried to get him to pick up his phone.Credit: USATSI
Shaw is the less-heralded rookie QB from the SEC who was offered up as the sacrificial lamb in the Browns' 2014 season finale. Shaw was all heart, playing through a bruised kidney and a dislocated finger while going 14-for-28 for 177 yards and a pick in the Ravens' 20-10 win.Credit: USATSI
So much for Josh McCown's veteran leadership rubbing off on Johnny Football. The NFL's ultimate journeyman QB and the second McCown brother to make this list brought nothing to but class to Cleveland, but he sure didn't bring wins. He won once in 11 starts over two seasons.
That's not for lack of trying. He set a Browns record with 457 yards in that lone win, knocking off the hated Ravens, 33-30, and became the first Browns QB with three straight 300-yard games. He also battled an array of injuries while fighting to stay on the field. His reward? Winding up with the Jets.Credit: USATSI
Davis, a journeyman who has played for four NFL teams, was 0-2 in his only two Browns starts in 2015, which included a 37-3 drubbing by the Bengals in Week 12. He was on his best behavior the whole time, too.
That's more than can be said for Manziel, whose benching due to misconduct opened the door for Davis in Week 11. He nearly led the Browns to a late win over the hated Ravens after relieving McCown and throwing a late TD pass that looked like the clincher. Of course, the Ravens blocked the extra point and returned it for a TD on the very last play.Credit: USATSI
Robert Griffin III
RG3 won the Heisman Trophy at Baylor, basically the equivalent of winning a Tony for Best Actor for performing in an off-Broadway play. Then he set the NFL on fire and had all of Redskins Nation hailing him during a dazzling rookie season. You know the rest of the story, though.
Damaged goods by the time he arrived in Cleveland in 2016, Griffin was hoping that QB whisperer Hue Jackson could revive his NFL career. Instead, he blew out his shoulder in the opener and watched the Browns start the season 0-12. His one gift to Cleveland in his final four starts? One measly win for Christmas that delayed the saddest parade in pro sports for one year at least. After a year away from the NFL, he signed a one-year deal with the Ravens this offseason to back up Joe Flacco.Credit: USATSI
Cody Kessler was basically an NFL QB in Los Angeles before the Rams showed up. Such is the life of the starting QB for the USC Trojans. He traded hobnobbing with celebrities, California's beaches and the perk of leading the Trojan Band for the charms of Cleveland, where he bore the brunt of the Browns' 1-15 debacle in 2016, going 0-8 in his starts.
His biggest contribution to the Browns' 0-16 debacle last season was stepping in for a benched DeShone Kizer in the third quarter of a Week 7 game against the Titans and completing 10 of 19 passes for 121 yards and an interception. The Browns, of course, lost in overtime by a field goal.Credit: Getty Images
Ben Roethlisberger. Aaron Rodgers. Andy Dalton. Derek Carr. Jimmy Garoppolo. Jared Goff. Carson Wentz. Deshaun Watson. The list of QBs that "could've been Browns" is long and distinguished. It's basically a recurring annual nightmare for any Browns fan. Instead of taking Watson at No. 12 in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Browns dealt the pick to the Texans, then waited until the second round to take the big-armed Kizer. Like Quinn before him, he was yet another Ohio product who shined in college at Notre Dame.
While Watson made a case for Rookie of the Year honors before getting hurt last season, Kizer threw an NFL-worst 22 interceptions while going 0-15 as a starter. Talk about brutal. Whatever excitement Kizer generated in the preseason while winning the starting job quickly faded as the losses piled up. New GM John Dorsey wasn't interested in any redemptive arc for the kid from Toledo, either. He shipped Kizer to the Packers for safety Damarious Randall and swap of Day 3 picks in March.Credit: USATSI
Kevin Hogan was a three-year starter at Stanford, where he led the Cardinal to two Rose Bowls, including a huge rout of Iowa in his final college game. He's second to only Andrew Luck in the Stanford record books for completion percentage, passing yards, and passing touchdowns, and owns the school record with 15 rushing touchdowns. But after getting drafted by the Chiefs in the fifth round (162 overall) of the 2016 draft, he failed to win the No. 3 QB job in camp and wound up signing with the Browns as a practice squad player.
Hogan showed some promise in 2016, replacing an injured Cody Kessler in the second quarter of a Week 7 game against the Bengals and going 12-of-24 for 100 yards with two picks while also rushing seven times for 104 yards and a touchdown. He played in relief of Kizer in three games last season before getting his one and only NFL start in Week 6 against the Texans. Things didn't go great. Hogan completed 20 of 37 passes for 140 yards, one touchdown, and three picks in a 33-17 Texans win. New Browns GM John Dorsey shipped Hogan to the Redskins on April 6 in a swap of sixth-round picks, ensuring the Browns would have an entirely new group of QBs in 2018.Credit: USATSI
Is it TUH-rod or TIE-rod? We may never get a definitive answer, but this much seems certain: Tyrod Taylor is no longer Cleveland's starting QB after Baker Mayfield replaced him on Thursday night to deliver the Browns their first win 635 days, unlocking all the free beer in Cleveland as a reward. Taylor arrived in Cleveland from Buffalo, where he was an impressive 22-20 as a starter in spite of the organizational dysfunction surrounding him. He led the Bills to their first playoff berth in 18 seasons in 2018 despite Sean McDermott benching him for Nathan Peterman after a 5-4 start. Peterman, of course, tossed five picks in one half of a complete debacle, though the Bills opted to keep him and part ways with Taylor after the season. As to whether Taylor will start any more games in Cleveland, it's always a good bet, given how often Browns QBs have gotten hurt in the last 20 years.Credit: USATSI
It's not official yet, but how can Hue Jackson not start Baker Mayfield in Week 4 after he delivered win-starved Cleveland a victory in his first NFL game action? The Heisman winner at Oklahoma has looked every bit the part of a No. 1 pick so far, and Browns fans are ready for Mayfield to be franchise QB they've craved for so long. Will this story have a happy ending? Or will No. 31 on this list come sooner than later?Credit: USATSI