I feel Matt Rhule’s pain going through a quarterback competition—especially when they are two high-profile guys who were high draft picks. Both players have done some really good things and both have struggled.
Rhule is in a situation where he has to get this right for many reasons. One reason is to give the team the best chance to win and the second reason is that he’s under pressure in terms of producing wins on the field. Quarterback competitions are the most important thing to everyone externally, and you have to let the competition actually take place. It’s not going to be something that’s decided overnight or even in the first week, unless one guy definitively outplays the other player. It gets old coming to the podium to give an update.
I went through a few of these, and one was very clear.
In New York, I had a situation where Chad Pennington was coming off an injury. The injury was so severe that doctors didn’t know if he would fully recover. We drafted Kellen Clemons in the second round because we both weren’t sure about the injury and really liked Clemons. Being new to the organization, I wanted to give everyone an opportunity to compete. It became very clear early on that Pennington’s injury was going to be fine and that he was much further ahead than Clemons.
The decision became an easy one to make, and it was a much quicker decision than what I had to make in Cleveland.
The Browns drafted Brady Quinn in 2007 when they traded back into the first round to acquire the Notre Dame product. Being a kid from Ohio, the fanbase was excited and thought maybe this was the next Bernie Kosar. He ended up holding out long into training camp, and Derek Anderson and Charlie Frye competed for the starting job. After winning the starting job, Anderson caught lightning in a bottle and won 10 games—earning him a significant contract extension. The next season wasn’t close to as good, as Anderson got benched for Quinn after eight games. Unfortunately, neither quarterback played well and both got injured in the second half of the season.
When I got to Cleveland in 2009, it was important to me to setup a competition that was as fair and transparent as possible. Unlike what happened in New York, neither player distinguished themselves. It wasn’t clear-cut at all until the third preseason game. Quinn played really well, going 11-15 for 128 yards and a touchdown and made a bunch of good decisions.
The decision became easier.
I would much rather have a clear-cut, out-in-front winner and I’m sure that’s what Rhule is thinking in Carolina. Hopefully through these preseason games, one of these guys between Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold is going to pop to a point where it’s obvious that they should be the starter.