In case you’re unfamiliar with the Cleveland Browns’ infamous quarterback jersey, it all started with an ad agency named Brokaw Inc., who kept adding nameplates to Tim Couch’s No. 1 once the Browns came back to the NFL in 1999 and took him with the first overall pick.
Many years of futility later, Brokaw broke off the tradition once another No. 1 draftee, Baker Mayfield, appeared to be Cleveland’s long-awaited franchise savior. Alas, it was not to be. The Browns booted Baker to the curb in favor of someone who NFL commissioner Roger Goodell once referred to as “predatory” and fully guaranteed him the biggest contract in NFL history at the time. Of course, that was Deshaun Watson.
Thankfully for all the good people who live in Cleveland and all the model citizens on this 2023-24 Browns team, Watson is no longer in the lineup. In fact, fate spun one of the tallest tales fathomable, as ex-Ravens Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco has suddenly become Cleveland’s answer at QB.
Flacco locked the Browns into the AFC’s fifth seed with his excellent play of late, so he’s getting Week 18 off. Kevin Stefanski opted to start his fifth different QB of the season on Sunday, because Jeff Driskel is allegedly a better option than PJ Walker. That or Stefanski is trying to bolster his Coach of the Year campaign. Just don’t tell anyone. SHH!
Whatever the case may be, some brave member of the Dawg Pound has kept the Browns QB jersey tradition alive and well!
You might be wondering, “Where’s Deshaun Watson?” when it comes to this updated jersey. As you can see, there’s a flag covering where his name would’ve been. What is that flag, you ask? I had to look it up. It’s none other than the Abuse Survivor Unity Flag. Can’t imagine why that’s there. Interesting.
I’m happy for Browns fans, players, and solid-citizen members of the organization — owner Jimmy Haslam is emphatically not one of those people — that they can enjoy the playoffs with this Flacco Cinderella run instead of feeling sheepish and having to sheer for Watson. Not that I’m, like, gloating about Watson’s season-ending shoulder injury or anything. Would be kinda f*cked up if I did. I just don’t think he deserves a place in the NFL to begin with after what he (allegedly) did. No impermanent suspension is long enough.
Snapping back to reality to close this out: The Browns had better capitalize on their lightning in a bottle. They had better hope Flacco goes nuclear in the playoffs. Watson is due to be a salary cap hit of almost $64 million for each of the next three seasons. He’s registered an 81.7 passer rating so far in 12 starts for Cleveland.
The Browns’ defense is so good that even if Watson can’t elevate to “mediocre NFL starter” in the coming years it might not matter, depending on who they can keep/fit in under the salary cap and how well they draft. This current Flacco-led team is a lot of fun to see. The second Watson returns, not so much.