The 49ers’ acquisition of Jimmy Garoppolo on Monday was akin to a bizarre weather pattern sweeping across the NFL—a sharp change in climate that affects multiple teams in different, but significant ways. While it’s sunny and moderately warm in San Francisco, the league’s other winless team, the Cleveland Browns, may just now begin to feel a shift into bitter cold and darkness.
Moving a 25-year-old potential franchise quarterback at the trade deadline elicits a reaction from almost everywhere. In Washington, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins has to be seeing his free agent market narrow. In New York, Arizona, Jacksonville and Buffalo, teams who may have been looking at this year’s draft class for a franchise quarterback now are left to wonder why a club that could hold pick No. 1 cut to the front of the line but didn’t bat an eye at the supposed Big 3 rookies to be.
But consider the starkly different worlds 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are waking up to Tuesday morning than Browns head coach Hue Jackson and his executive team of Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta and Andrew Berry.
Regardless of how the team’s internal quarterback scouting reports have arranged themselves over the past two seasons, here are the optics from the outside looking in: The Browns traded away a chance to select 2017 MVP candidate Carson Wentz in ’16 and, in the same draft, selected USC quarterback Cody Kessler 42 picks ahead of Dallas Cowboys starter Dak Prescott.
In the 2017 draft, the team traded back 13 spots with Houston, allowing the Texans to select rookie of the year front runner Deshaun Watson. The Browns picked Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers and, eventually, chose DeShone Kizer in the second round. Kizer has already been benched multiple times by the Browns this season.
Now this: Perhaps Garoppolo’s price tag was different in March. As our Albert Breer wrote in his trade analysis Monday night, New England legitimately wanted to hold on to their backup but Garoppolo wanted a chance to start. But if there was a nanosecond of possibility that Garoppolo was available for a second-round pick and the Browns balked, it could end up being a breaking point for even the team’s most weatherproof fans.
NFL Network’s Mike Silver, who is up-front about his relationship with Jackson, posted a string of tweets Monday night hinting at Jackson’s desire for Garoppolo and an apparent disagreement with the front office.
Should this narrative reinforce itself, it’s not just another bad season in Cleveland. This could start to challenge what the Browns have been meticulously building over the past two seasons. Any protection created by their new front office thanks to a stockpile of picks and creative roster moves is starting to erode if it hasn’t already.
Cleveland’s options are now quite simple: Overpay for Kirk Cousins, arguably the best QB on the open market, and hope that he’s still a top 10 quarterback away from Jay Gruden. Or…take a rookie in the top three of the 2018 draft, hope and pray.
In San Francisco…
John Lynch, an executive many questioned could handle the job coming straight from television, wakes up as the envy of at least a few general managers. His team has a momentary identity at the quarterback position and also will hold a position of power in the 2018 draft while other clubs jockey for position to select a potential franchise quarterback.
And head coach Kyle Shanahan, who, in February at the Super Bowl admitted that he had Garoppolo as his No. 2 quarterback behind Derek Carr in the 2014 class (then the offensive coordinator of the Browns, the team took Johnny Manziel instead), has the chance to mold a young player with an already solid foundation and notable work ethic.
Getting a jump start on auditioning Garoppolo is good for free agency, good for receiver chemistry and good for the team’s younger players to get half a season in with their projected 2018 starter before the close of the 2017 season. It’s also good for Shanahan, who showed on Monday that he’s just as large a part of this collaborative process as Lynch.
So many times, a new head coach and general manager come in together and fire off platitudes about the strength of their relationship. Shanahan and Lynch, who are tied together on unorthodoxly long six-year deals, seemed to show in a practical way Monday that they’re in lockstep.