Not even a full 72 hours after the Cleveland Browns’ biggest win of the 2023 season, expectations that were on the rise have crashed right onto Brownie the Elf’s face at midfield of their home stadium.
Deshaun Watson, who has battled injuries throughout this season, has been ruled out for the rest of the year with a fracture in his throwing shoulder. If only the Browns had a quarterback like Josh Dobbs to take over and potentially guide the team to the playoffs . . .
Unfortunately, for the Browns, they have twice decided to remove Dobbs from their roster in the last two years. In 2022, he was Jacoby Brissett’s backup while Watson was serving his NFL-issued suspension for serial sexual misconduct. Once Watson was eligible to play, the Browns cut Dobbs.
In March, they re-signed Dobbs to a one-year, $2 million contract. He had two respectable starts for the Tennessee Titans at the end of the 2022 season. With Kyler Murray unavailable until mid-season, the Arizona Cardinals took a swing and acquired Dobbs from the Browns for a 2024 fifth-round draft pick.
Dobbs has taken a star turn in his seventh NFL season. He is currently starting for the Minnesota Vikings — his fifth different team since November 2022. They have won both games in which he has been on the roster, and the Browns have to hope that either rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson or P.J. Walker can lead the team with the best defense in the NFL to the playoffs. They are going with Thompson-Robinson on Sunday.
There is no way for NFL teams to plan for their starting quarterback to miss most of a season. The goal that teams usually have for a backup quarterback is for him to steady the offense for a few weeks while the starter heals. In 2019, Patrick Mahomes missed two games for the Kansas City Chiefs with a dislocated patella. Matt Moore stepped in and the Chiefs went 1-1 on their way to the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship in 50 years.
Watson has been dealing with injuries throughout this season, and even when he has been healthy, Dobbs has largely outplayed him. Dobbs has a better Total QBR, thrown only one more interception than Watson despite playing in four more games than him, and is a serious rushing threat with 62 rush attempts — nearly 40 more than Watson.
The Browns’ Week 10 victory against the Baltimore Ravens was probably Watson’s best game since signing that five-year fully guaranteed contract. He passed for 213 yards, a touchdown and his 16-yard scramble in the fourth quarter was the biggest play during their game-winning drive.
Dobbs has only been on the Vikings’ roster since Oct. 31. In Week 10, he passed for more yards and did not turn the ball over, while Watson opened the game with a pick six, had a better completion percentage and averaged more yards per pass attempt.
With eight weeks remaining in the regular season, both the Vikings and the Browns are currently in the playoffs. However, Minnesota has a firm hold on its wild-card spot, while Cleveland will have to fight off teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Buffalo Bills.
Turning down that fifth-round pick from the Cardinals in exchange for Dobbs would have been hard for Cleveland. That is valuable draft capital for a player the Browns weren’t even expecting to take the field season. However, a mere hours before the trade, head coach Kevin Stefanski had announced that Dobbs had won the backup job over Walker and Thompson-Robinson.
Dobbs had clearly impressed the coaching staff the past two seasons. This season, with limited time learning two new offenses, he has been able to play decent football. If the Browns still had Dobbs, their outlook for the rest of the season would be much better than it is right now.
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