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Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Pettine's intriguing thinking on NFL QBs

By Pat McManamon

Quarterback talk continues to dominate the discussion about the Cleveland Browns as the NFL draft approaches -- and coach Mike Pettine gave some clear feelings about his thinking toward the position after the team’s first voluntary minicamp workout.

With Brian Hoyer cleared for individual work and looking good in the drills he participated in, and Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen trying out during the three days, the Browns concede they will have to take a quarterback at some point in the draft.

Whether it’s fourth or 26th in the first round or in the second round or later is the decision the team has to make.

Johnny Manziel
Even if the Browns use a high pick on a quarterback like Johnny Manziel, there is no guarantee that player will start as a rookie.
But Pettine does not like the idea of playing the rookie simply because he was a high pick.

"It’s something you hope to avoid," Pettine said after he got a first look at his team on the field. "Because I think you can set that player back and set your team back."

The team’s coach almost made it sound like he does not expect a rookie (like Johnny Manziel) to be able to win the starting job.

"I think it’s extremely difficult to come in right out of essentially a rookie camp, some OTAs, a mandatory camp and do a training camp and all of a sudden be ready to be a starter in the NFL," Pettine said. "That’s a rare guy that can handle that, and he has to have a great supporting cast in order to do it."

The Browns' supporting cast is improved, but to call it "great" would be a stretch.

The coach added that the NFL is a "win now" business and "history has shown, I think, it’s very difficult to do with a rookie quarterback." Keep in mind Pettine was with the Jets when Mark Sanchez took them to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie, but he was also with Baltimore when Kyle Boller and Joe Flacco started as rookies.

"Certainly it’s an ideal situation that you can get that quarterback later in the draft, and that way you’re drafting a position player at four," Pettine said.

The day before minicamp started, Pettine spent time discussing quarterback philosophy on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, and admitted that the position has to be given more weight because of its importance. Which leads to the discussion about whether the 15th-rated player should be taken at No. 4 because he’s a quarterback.

"That’s a difficult thing," Pettine said. "But at the quarterback position that’s something you have to discuss."

He pointed out two tiers of top quarterbacks in the league: The Bradys and Mannings who win as long as they have reasonable talent around them. Pettine said five or six NFL starters fit that description. He said the next tier of 10 or 15 "will be as good as their supporting cast is," which he described as San Francisco (with Kapernick) and Seattle (with Russell Wilson).

The meaning for the Browns?

"We want to be as good as possible without reaching for a quarterback," Pettine said. "You still want to throw resources at that position, but I don’t think you can go ahead and reach and take your 20th rated player at the fourth pick just because he is a quarterback and you have to have that guy.

"If you build the best possible team around him, that minimizes the importance of the quarterback."

It’s all interesting and revealing.

But the Browns will give their biggest indicator of how much they like one particular quarterback on draft night. If they take a quarterback fourth overall with Pettine having these strong feelings, it will show that they really, really like him.