With an 11-game banishment for Deshaun Watson on deck, the Cleveland Browns have an interesting situation on their hands. While the team employs two back-up quarterbacks with Jacoby Brissett and Josh Rosen, the absence of a true starting quarterback could strike a fatal blow to the team’s playoff hopes.
With Watson’s suspension upped to 11 games on Thursday, Cleveland could look elsewhere for help. Former Browns general manager and current NFL talking head Michael Lombardi believes Cleveland needs to make one move in particular.
With the San Francisco 49ers putting all of the team’s stock into second-year quarterback Trey Lance, Jimmy Garoppolo’s career in the Bay Area is suddenly over. After more than four seasons with San Francisco, Garoppolo remains a member of the roster by process only.
Meanwhile, the quarterback finds himself currently tasked with orchestrating his own departure from the team. However, with Cleveland’s need for a starting presence in the wake of Watson’s absence, Garoppolo to the Browns makes too much sense for both organizations ignore.
Speaking with TMZ Sports, Lombardi lays the footprint for his former team to follow.
“The offense being run in Cleveland is the same terminology as the offense in San Francisco,” Lombardi said. “Garoppolo could walk into Cleveland tomorrow, and within about a week he would be able to execute their offense.”
Lombardi also highlighted how Garoppolo could provide a better security blanket than Brissett should Watson struggle upon returning.
“This notion that Deshaun is just going to come back in [Week 13] and all of the sudden magically score, throw four touchdown passes and dominate the NFL, that’s unrealistic. That’s not even remotely accurate,” said Lombardi.
How Did We Wind Up Here With Garoppolo, Watson
After the NFL and NFLPA struck a settlement to push Watson’s suspension to 11 games from six, speculation on Cleveland’s steps moving forward ran amuck. While the team could potentially survive 11 games with Jacoby Brissett under center, it’s an unpopular strategy.
The AFC North could be out of hand by the time Watson returns to the field. With the reigning AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals and hungry Baltimore Ravens chasing glory, the Browns could fall back to the bottom of the division barrel.
But with a team built for success, quarterback play becomes so important. However, before finding a resolution in the Watson case, Cleveland deemed the bridge burnt with Baker Mayfield and shipped him to Carolina.
Meanwhile, Garoppolo’s simply a victim of circumstance. Unpredictability with injuries plagued the quarterback’s longevity with San Francisco. But as a capable starter with two Super Bowl rings backing up Tom Brady, there should be a market for Garoppolo as soon as a realistic opening appears.
With Brissett and Rosen competing for the job Watson leaves behind for 11 weeks, maybe the 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo can facilitate a deal to send the quarterback back into a starting job.
In the meantime, Cleveland operates without a starting quarterback, and Garoppolo remains shunned by the 49ers.