Three weeks into the P.J. Walker era, and with no end in sight for the ongoing shoulder issues for Deshaun Watson, head coach Kevin Stefanski is just now starting to piece together who will line up behind center when the Browns host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Will it be Watson - who has only thrown five passes in a game since September 24 against the Tennessee Titans?
Will it be Walker - who had the Browns in a position to win against the Seahawks right up until he didn’t?
Will it be rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson - who had the type of day that far too many Cleveland quarterbacks experienced before him?
Or will it be someone else - perhaps a reunion with Jacoby Brissett before the close of the NFL’s trade deadline on Tuesday afternoon?
Pretty much everything is on the table at the moment, as Stefanski explained on Monday when asked about the situation. He could only say that Watson is “continuing to come along” and that a decision about staying with Walker or giving DTO another shot would come “later in the week.”
There is no good answer for the quarterback question right now, which puts the Browns in a tough position as they try to stay in the AFC playoff race.
Watson is hurt and is going to be hurt until he’s not. It’s reached the point where getting upset about it or consulting social media “experts” about the state of his throwing shoulder is pointless. It was clear he wasn’t ready a week ago against the Indianapolis Colts, and from his comments last week, it doesn’t sound like much has changed for Watson.
Thompson-Robinson looked like a fifth-round rookie making his first start against one of the league’s better defenses when he faced the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4. Maybe a month of reflection has improved his readiness, but with a winnable game on tap against the 1-7 Cardinals, running the risk of a repeat performance does not sound like a lot of fun.
But at least the situation won’t be made worse by potentially losing to quarterback Joshua Dobbs, as Arizona coach Jonathan Gannon announced late today that it will either be Kyler Murray or Clayton Tune against the Browns.
Cardinals coach Jonathan Gannon said if Kyler Murray doesn’t start Sunday in Cleveland, then it’ll be Clayton Tune.— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) October 30, 2023
Joshua Dobbs will not start against the Browns.
That leaves Walker, who once again flashed his moxie on Sunday in helping to rally the Browns back from a 14-0 deficit to the point where they had the lead just before the two-minute warning. Of course, Walker then proceeded to fire the ball off the helmet of Seattle safety Jamal Adams, as opposed to throwing it into the welcoming hands of one of his wide-open receivers, the Seahawks intercepted and, well, there’s no need to go into the rest.
As hard as he tries, sticking with Walker is going to be a hard choice. He has played in the past three games and is completing just 49.5 percent of his passes, has thrown five interceptions and fumbled the ball three times (although one was overturned on a penalty), and has only led five drives that resulted in a touchdown.
Frankly, it is pretty amazing how close the Browns were to having a three-game winning streak given how much the offense has struggled during those games.
As for any potential trades, it takes two teams to make a deal. There has been plenty of speculation that a team might be able to pry quarterback Kirk Cousins away from the Minnesota Vikings, but that ended yesterday with Cousins injuring his Achilles tendon.
General manager Andrew Berry could turn his eyes toward everyone’s favorite former backup quarterback in Dobbs now that he has lost the starting job in Arizona, or to Brissett, who has been riding the bench in Washington all season. The Commanders could be open to the idea of sending Brissett back to Cleveland, but they also reportedly want Brissett to continue to mentor starter Sam Howell, and even at 3-5 could still make a playoff push given that the NFC is so weak.
Which brings us back to where we started. Watson is hurt. DTR is probably still not ready. Walker tries but is limited and continues to make mistakes.
Put it together and it is just another day in the life of the Cleveland Browns.
What do you think the Browns should do at quarterback on Sunday against the Cardinals?