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Thad Lewis in line to be Browns 18th starting quarterback in 14 years

Dec 27, 2012 -- 4:42pm

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By Tony Grossi

Extra Points …

The Dirty Dozen and a Half: Brandon Weeden (shoulder) and Colt McCoy (shoulder) didn’t practice again on Thursday, virtually assuring that third-string QB Thad Lewis will get the starting nod Sunday in Pittsburgh.

If so, Lewis would become the 18th different player to start a game at quarterback for the Browns since their expansion rebirth in 1999.

Eighteen quarterbacks in 224 games means the Browns have changed quarterbacks, on average, every 12.4 games since 1999.

And here is that illustrious roll call, chronologically, with the won-loss records of Browns starting quarterbacks:

1. Ty Detmer (0-2), 2. Tim Couch (22-37), 3. Doug Pederson (1-7), 4. Spergon Wynn (0-1), 5. Kelly Holcomb (4-8), 6. Jeff Garcia (3-7), 7. Luke McCown (0-4), 8. Trent Dilfer (4-7), 9. Charlie Frye (6-13), 10. Derek Anderson (16-18), 11. Brady Quinn (3-9), 12. Ken Dorsey (0-3), 13. Bruce Gradkowski (0-1), 14. Jake Delhomme (2-2), 15. Seneca Wallace (1-6), 16. Colt McCoy (6-15), 17. Brandon Weeden (5-10), 18. Thad Lewis.

The Browns’ overall record since 1999 is 73-150 for a win percentage of .327. Only six of the Browns’ QBs have a better win percentage than their team’s. They are:

1. Delhomme (.500), 2. Anderson (.470), 3. Couch (.372), 4. Dilfer (.363), 5. Weeden (.333) and Holcomb (.333).

Where’s Seneca?: Wallace had a few tryouts since the Browns released him at the final roster cut in September, but he was not signed and spent the season out of the NFL.

You would think he would be the first quarterback called to fill in against Pittsburgh, but the Browns never called him. Instead, they signed Josh Johnson, a fifth-year player who also has been out of the NFL this season.

“We considered Seneca,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “We decided to go with Josh.”

Yes, Wallace won only one of seven starts in two seasons for the Browns. But considering his experience and knowledge of the Browns, it’s fair to assume he would give the team a better chance of winning in Pittsburgh than Lewis, who will be making his first appearance in an NFL game.

“I don’t know that,” Shurmur said.

The Josh Johnson factor: I think there is an ulterior motive involved. Johnson is 26 and has some redeeming qualities – a tall frame, decent arm, extremely mobile and athletic. It’s quite possible that the signing of Johnson – over Wallace – was made with a look to the future. It’s also possible that Johnson intrigues CEO Joe Banner, or his future personnel director.

In four years at University of San Diego (of formerly Division I-AA), which was coached at the time by Jim Harbaugh, Johnson was compared to supremely athletic quarterbacks such as Michael Vick, Vince Young and Randall Cunningham. He compiled an amazing 113 touchdowns v. 15 interceptions, and left as the NCAA’s all-time leader in passing efficiency with a surreal mark of 176.7.

Johnson lit up draft boards at the 2008 NFL combine, where he timed a 4.4 in the 40. He was drafted in the fifth round by Tampa Bay, then coached by Jon Gruden.

In three seasons with Tampa Bay, Johnson appeared in 25 games, starting five, had five TDs v. 10 interceptions and a passer rating of 57.7.

Last March, Harbaugh, then the coach of the 49ers, signed Johnson as a free agent. He was cut in training camp.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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