Joe Banner knows something about quarterbacks.
He was the team president in Philadelphia when the Eagles drafted Donovan McNabb, and he was the team president there when they signed free-agent Michael Vick. Then, of course, he moved on to Cleveland where he was the CEO … though not for long … and the Browns were where they are today.
Looking for the next Bernie Kosar.
Well, they have their chance. Again.
The Browns not only have two first-round picks in Thursday’s NFL draft; they have the first and 12th choices, meaning … meaning they have their pick of any quarterback out there. One problem: None of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft is a finished product. Worse, the most NFL-ready of them all — UNC’s Mitch Trubisky — started just 13 games.
So what next? Well, reports have surfaced that Cleveland may be conflicted with the first overall choice — with a split decision over Trubisky and pass rusher Myles Garrett. But there is no decision, Banner said, because there is only one choice with the first selection.
And it’s not the quarterback.
“You cannot force a pick,” Banner said on this week’s Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “You cannot take a first-round pick because you’re trying to build a team and force it. Now, you don’t have to pick … in my opinion … your highest-graded guy if the guy a little bit below is a quarterback, and you think is good enough to win with.
“But they’ve got to be very, very careful here. Last year they bypassed a quarterback (Carson Wentz, acquired by Philadelphia with a choice Cleveland traded away) who looks like he’s going to be excellent. They cannot do a flip of that now just because they get too anxious.”
What I hear, and I still have some connections there, is that they’re pretty firmly committed to Garrett.
Of course, the Browns could always take a quarterback with the 12th choice, which some people think happens. Or they could package that pick in a trade to move up in the draft, choosing someone like Trubisky, who grew up in Ohio and, reportedly, is a favorite of team owner Jimmy Haslam.
In fact, reports have Haslam favoring Trubisky with the first draft pick and coach Hue Jackson pushing Garrett, but Banner — who spent a year in Cleveland — isn’t convinced there’s a debate.
“I’m a little suspect that that’s really the case,” he said. “What I hear, and I still have some connections there, is that they’re pretty firmly committed to Garrett.
“I think the owner and everybody there is anxious to find a quarterback they feel good about. I do think he had some involvement in the Manziel pick; I don’t know the degree. I think he learned a lesson from that.
“When I was with him, I could say good things and bad things, but I did not see somebody that was running in with general managers and personnel department and coach and just outright overruling them. I mean, he has an opinion, he’ll ask questions and you can kind of tell what he wants.
“People who work with teams want to keep their jobs, and they’re influenced by that sometimes more than owners realize.I would expect that the coach and (general manager) Sashi Brown and those guys would determine the pick. And I personally would be shocked if it’s not Garrett.”
Of course, the Browns’ draft history with quarterbacks since returning to the NFL in 1999 is not exactly glittering. Littered with picks like Tim Couch, Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy, Johnny Manziel and Brandon Weeden — most of whom are out of football — it begs the question: Should they be wary of making another first-round mistake at that position?
“They can’t be,” Banner said. “They’ve got to walk into that room, they’ve got to compartmentalize the moment and they cannot be influenced by that. They just have to have the purity of the grade, the degree of confidence and enthusiasm and then trust themselves to make the pick.
“The last thing they can do … and maybe this is what happened last year … is be afraid of making the wrong pick on a quarterback. They can’t do that. They’ll be stuck getting better and hoping to get to 7-9 forever if they get stuck by that. So, possibly the case, but a huge mistake if they let that happen.”