It's never a bad time to remember the missteps of Cleveland's football past, so let's kick off our day by returning to the year 1999. The Cleveland Browns held the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, a position they'd become accustomed to in the new century. They also needed a quarterback. Tim Couch and Donovan McNabb were considered the two best signal-callers in the draft, and on April 17, 1999, the Browns chose Couch. And they chose wrong.
Couch was seen as a good prospect and worthy of a top selection after several successful seasons at Kentucky culminated in a 4,275-yard junior season, when he threw for 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. McNabb, meanwhile, didn't have eye-popping stats in his final year at Syracuse. He threw for 2,134 yards with 22 touchdowns and only five picks while adding 438 yards and eight TDs on the ground. But he, unlike, Couch, was a four-year starter for the Orange and put up consistent stats throughout his collegiate career.
Cleveland decided Couch was their man, thanks to his being a more prototypical pocket passer with seemingly higher upside after throwing for over 4,000 yards in only his second full year as a starter. He lasted all of five years in the league. As Cleveland's starter he went 22-37, threw for more interceptions (67) than touchdowns (64) and played one full season. It's not entirely Couch's fault, of course. He was sacked a league-leading 56 times his rookie year, and as we saw a few years later with David Carr, a brutal rookie season when it comes to protection can hamstring a young quarterback for his career.
McNabb went second to the Philadelphia Eagles and enjoyed a prolific 12-year career in the NFL. He went to six Pro Bowls and made a Super Bowl appearance. With the assistance of Andy Reid and a good supporting cast, McNabb helped lead one of the league's best offenses in the early-to-mid 2000s. He may not have been good enough to revive the Browns' franchise on his own (to date, no one has) but McNabb may have been the franchise quarterback the Browns have desperately been looking for since then. Though he may not have had similar levels of playoff success.
Since Couch retired in 2003, the Browns have had 25 (!!!) quarterbacks start a game for them. The Eagles enjoyed McNabb's services until he was traded to Washington in 2010. Now, both teams have younger quarterbacks with lots of potential, but those early 2000s could have been much different for Cleveland had it gone with McNabb instead.