Matt Hasselbeck thinks he knows how John Dorsey will attack Cleveland Browns’ QB problem
When Matt Hasselbeck arrived to the Green Bay Packers, he was a sixth-round pick in 1998 and just the latest in a long line of quarterbacks the team brought in. Yes, this was the team that had Brett Favre, who would go on to set the NFL record for most consecutive games played. But the Packers always wanted to be more loaded at that position than any other team.
“We had Brett Favre,” Hasselbeck said by phone Friday. “We had Doug Pederson. We had David Klingler, whom they signed as a free agent and gave a signing bonus. They had me. They had Kyle Wachholtz, who they tried to make a tight end. They had Ronnie McAda, who they drafted the year before and was serving a military commitment with Army. They had Chris McCoy, who they had from Navy; they were going to see if they could turn him into an Eric Metcalf type of player.
″[The Packers] were just investing in the quarterback position, and they [did it] every year after me. Drafting quarterbacks like Aaron Brooks, whoever it was. That was just the Ron Wolf way. And I think that’s sort of the John Dorsey way.”
Wolf was the Packers general manager from 1991 to 2001, and he brought in Dorsey with him that first year, as he was eventually elevated to college scouting director in his final two years of his first stint in Green Bay in 1997 and 1998. Dorsey would leave along with head coach Mike Holmgren in early 1999 to go to the Seattle Seahawks, and they brought Hasselbeck there where he’d eventually start 131 games over a decade in Seattle.
The ESPN analyst now believes he can draw a straight line between the philosophies of Wolf, Holmgren and Dorsey — who was introduced Friday as the Cleveland Browns’ new general manager — when it comes to finding solutions at the quarterback position. It’s probably the hardest position in football to address. So what did they do? They tried to find as many as they could.
“Dorsey comes from that Ron Wolf school of, ‘let’s kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer’ at the quarterback position,” Hasselbeck said.
And that’s what he believes Dorsey will do in his quest to solve unquestionably what has been the Browns’ biggest need since the franchise rebooted in 1999. The problem there, if anything, has gotten worse in recent seasons.
Dorsey preached patience on Friday about how best to attack addressing the QB issues.
“Let’s sit down as a group [after the season],” Dorsey said. “This is a quarterback-driven league. We all know that and we all know to succeed ... you need one of those guys. So I think it’s an evaluation period that’s going to take a little bit to put a plan together.
“The draft is four and a half months away. Free agency is three months away. We have ample time to make a plan here.”
But Browns owner Jimmy Haslam made no bones about it: Solving that spot is Dorsey’s biggest chore.
“Let me say it this way: The Cleveland Browns are not going to be successful until we get a quarterback,” Haslam said. “We obviously have DeShone [Kizer] and two other quarterbacks [Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan, whom Dorsey drafted in Kansas City] on the roster. We’re going to look at free agency and the draft.
“We have a substantial amount of capital. We’re going to do whatever it takes to find the quarterback we need to be successful. That will be John’s No. 1 priority: We’re going to do whatever it takes to get a QB.”
Dorsey paired up as GM with head coach Andy Reid with the Chiefs to address what had been a sore spot at the position there. One of their first moves was to trade for Alex Smith in 2013, and in 2014 (Aaron Murray), 2016 (Hogan) and 2017 (Patrick Mahomes) the team drafted quarterbacks. That’s very much in line with the Seahawks-Packers modus operandi of stockpiling at the position.
Hasselbeck believes in that approach wholeheartedly.
“We would draft a quarterback every year,” he said. “They wouldn’t always make our team. They’d maybe spend time on our practice squad. But they were going to draft one every year, whether it was Mike, Ron and John in Green Bay or Mike and John in Seattle. We’d draft one and sign one. Some of it was collecting training camp arms. But some of it was more than that.
“I was the fourth-string quarterback in Green Bay. People would say, ‘why do you have four quarterbacks?’ So I would go to quarterback meetings and then in practice I would play scout-team tight end and block Reggie White and Santana Dotson. They kept me around for a year. They invested in me.”
That’s why even if the Browns and Dorsey see value in developing Kizer, it’s the approach he would recommend and expect with the Browns.
“That has been my point on [the Browns] passing on Carson Wentz and Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson,′ Hasselbeck said. “I was fine with [them drafting] any of those guys. But I don’t think they were even planning on taking DeShone Kizer except for after Day 1 they took so much heat publicly. They took [some] really good players [in Round 1]. But knowing the history and knowing what you don’t have at quarterback, I think they took some heat and they were like, ‘Uh, yeah ... let’s take Kizer.’”
Hasselbeck believes Kizer was rushed into the lineup as the Browns’ Week 1 starter this year and was hurt by it. That never would have happened in Green Bay or Seattle back in the day.
“Kizer has got talent, but he’s such a project,” Hasselbeck said. “He’s a guy that — like for me and others — sitting on the bench a few years would have been super helpful. Throwing him out there on the worst team in the NFL right away … not helpful.”
Hasselbeck said there’s “a lot to be excited about” with the Browns and that all the picks the Browns used at other positions — and all the picks they have upcoming — will put Dorsey in a position to succeed.
“I was critical of the Browns in the last two drafts because they’re stockpiling everything to win way out in the future,” Hasselbeck said. “So they’re like, ‘We’re going to get everything right and then we’re going to get a quarterback.’
“Well, my point back then — and it kind of came true — is just that you’re going to be stockpiling picks for somebody else. You’re not going to be around to see it. So they’ve set it up nicely for the next guy.”
The next guy is Dorsey, with whom Hasselbeck has remained close over the years. If he knows anything about the man who helped draft him it’s that if anything he’s going to overload at a position at which the Browns have been painfully inadequate for many years.
“Some teams use two active quarterbacks on their roster, like my last year [with the Indianapolis Colts] where I had separated ribs and I had to play,” he said. “There was no one else to play quarterback. We thought we were getting [Andrew] Luck back one week. He’d get his blood work back and it was like, ‘Nope, his kidney is still lacerated. Uh, you, the 40-year old with the separated ribs, we need you to play.’
“I just can’t see [Dorsey] putting that team in that position. I think he’ll flood it with as many arms as he can find, as many quarterbacks as he can get, to fix it.”