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Notre Dame Quarterbacks

W. Ross Clites
Your City Sports-Cleveland

Cleveland--It is has been three whole years; isn’t it time for the Browns to use a first-round draft pick on a Notre Dame quarterback, already? On Sunday, president Mike Holmgren sent a message to the league that the only way there will be a quarterback controversy between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn is if Anderson signs in Denver.

In the span of four days, Cleveland has shipped away both its starting quarterbacks from last season. To extinguish the despair, they signed a 35-year old who threw just as many interceptions (18) than Anderson and Quinn combined. Just the answer the fans were looking for.

In reality, the movement means the Browns are shifting gears in this coming April’s NFL Draft. They have 13 picks, nearly two in every round. Mr. Draft Expert, Mel Kiper, has them currently spending their number seven overall pick on shutdown corner Joe Haden out of Florida. This seventh pick is likely to shift to the other side of the ball, and even more likely to not be the Browns pick at all. If Cleveland wants to put mold its identity around an incoming quarterback, a la the New York Jets and Mark Sanchez, they will have to move even higher.

The wild card is the Buffalo Bills. Entering the offseason, Buffalo and Washington seemed to be the only two teams in the top ten picks that were hungry for a new signal caller. Now that Holmgren has thrown a monkey wrench into everyone’s plans and predictions, the Bills might be proactive to get their man. They have even less ability than Delhomme and Wallace to fall back on. Buffalo’s ownership will not be eager to pay second-round talent the guaranteed money of a first-round pick. The desperate nature of the Bills makes it scary that the Browns could end up with that seventh overall pick and no franchise quarterbacks left to draft.

The 2010 crop of quarterbacks is deep. The problem lies in that very few are seen as locks. Drafting a work-in-progress clipboard holder is an acceptable heir-apparent procedure for perennial winners. In Cleveland, it is just another wasted pick. It is painful enough to pay someone to not play. It is even harder to stomach when that player finally does get his chance and never pans out.

Clausen and Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford are the clear-cut best quarterbacks in the 2010 NFL Draft. Analysts have Bradford rated as the best quarterback available, either to the Rams number one overall or fourth to Washington. Gritty players like Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour and Jevon Snead of Ole Miss are seen as too much of a project to even been seen on Day 1. Under the new format, the whole ordeal will now be strung along three days. Only 32 picks will take place on Thursday, April, 22. The great unknown is Tim Tebow. He has been projected to go as high as 22nd to New England and as late as the third round. The discussion is moot for this article because he has to prove he can be an NFL quarterback before he gets thrown in my top QB prospect debate.

What this all means is that there are only two sure things--quarterbacks that can make an immediate impact. The first three picks should be defensive players. DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Gerald McCoy, and S Eric Berry each used the recent NFL Combine to cement themselves as the best football players in the class of ’10. The Rams, Lions, and Bucs each need help on defense and are not likely to entertain any draft shuffling. That leaves the Redskins sitting there at four. Every year management seemingly tells Jason Campbell that he is their starting QB and then silently works behind the scenes to trade him. He is an underappreciated quarterback that has had to combat his own fans as often as opponent’s blitzes. Funny. That sounds an awful lot like Derek Anderson. Soon, they may share even more in common--the lack of a job.

If Washington follows the projections, the Bradford era will begin this fall. That means only one of the premier quarterbacks will be left on the board. That is Cleveland’s cue to make a Draft Day move. The Browns have to trade down to pick number five or else Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace will be battling for the “franchise” Cleveland quarterback title. Otherwise, the fear is that Buffalo will leap frog the Browns (from their current ninth pick down to five or six) and take Clausen. That would leave Holmgren holding the bag on a failed experiment.

To make it all happen successfully, Holmgren needs memorize the phone number for the Kansas City front office. The Chiefs hold that fifth pick--the hot commodity for QB seekers. The swap would only cost the Browns a third-round pick, in which they have two. And Kansas City, who is slated to take OT Russell Okung will still be able to take him with the seventh pick.

If they pull it off, Browns Backers would be celebrating a great victory by landing Clausen. People partied in the streets in April of 2007 and look where those draftees are now. What would prevent history from repeating?

The struggles of Brady Quinn should raise an eyebrow of NFL scouts bolstering Jimmy Clausen’s stock. Both went to Notre Dame during the Down Years. True, it was a pro-style offense under a proven NFL coordinator. It is the reason both were highly touted and why the Browns were elated to steal him in the late first-round two three years ago. This is what Browns fans should be leery of--Clausen could be this year’s version of Quinn.

If Jimmy Clausen ultimately does land in Cleveland, the bar has been set pretty high. The all-time record for wins by a former Golden Domer-turned Cleveland Brown is three. Even with Clausen, the way the Browns are headed, that might take several seasons to match.

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