Is There More To The Browns’ Signing Of Josh Rosen Than Meets The Eye?

The Browns did Josh Rosen no favors in assigning him No. 19, the number that Bernie Kosar made famous in Cleveland. (Cleveland Browns)

The Browns did Josh Rosen no favors in assigning him No. 19, the number that Bernie Kosar made famous in Cleveland. (Cleveland Browns)

Is there more to the Browns’ signing of Josh Rosen than meets the eye?

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 Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland.

Takeaways from topics seen and heard on my Summer Sabbatical …

1. The addition of Josh Rosen to the quarterback room has been greeted largely with yawns, but a few things about the last-minute pickup should be noted.

First, Rosen has been available since the NFL business season opened in March, yet the Browns waited until the day before quarterbacks reported to training camp to sign him.


Perhaps they reached the conclusion that Deshaun Watson’s NFL suspension will be longer than they originally anticipated and wanted a better option at QB3 than Josh Dobbs. Remember, QB3 becomes QB2 behind replacement starter Jacoby Brissett during the length of Watson’s suspension.

Also, Rosen was rated highly by Browns GM Andrew Berry prior to the 2018 draft.

When John Dorsey took over as Browns GM in December of 2017, one of the first things he did was convene a meeting of his inherited personnel staff.

Dorsey knew he was going to select a quarterback in the draft four months later and he wanted to gauge early in-house opinions on the upcoming quarterback class, which consisted of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Rosen and Lamar Jackson.

Dorsey asked his staff members to rank the quarterbacks. Berry, who first joined the organization in 2016 under executive vice president Sashi Brown, was kept on by Dorsey as vice president of player personnel. I was told after the fact that Berry’s rankings had Rosen No. 1 at that QB meeting. He may have changed his rankings by the time of the draft.

Dorsey made Mayfield the No. 1 pick of that draft. He leaned heavily on former Green Bay Packers associate Scot McCloughan, whom Dorsey put on the Browns payroll as a draft consultant. McCloughan was Mayfield’s biggest champion – long before Dorsey took the Browns’ job.

Two NFL sources prior to the draft told me that the quarterback most in line with Dorsey’s physical tenets for the position was Allen. Alas, Dorsey was swayed by McCloughan in choosing the diminutive Mayfield.

Darnold went No. 3 to the Jets, Allen No. 7 to the Bills, Rosen No. 10 to the Cardinals and Jackson No. 32 to the Ravens (after they picked tight end Hayden Hurst at No. 25).

Rosen started 13 games as a rookie and went 3-10 with the Cardinals. After the Cardinals replaced coach Steve Wilks with Kliff Kingsbury, they drafted Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in 2019 and traded Rosen to the Dolphins for second- and fifth-round picks. That stint also lasted just one season for Rosen.

Rosen bounced to the Buccaneers, 49ers and Falcons before Berry signed him last week after a tryout with A.J. McCarron – Hue Jackson’s former flame. 

No doubt Berry reviewed his own, glowing pre-draft notes of Rosen. Personnel execs generally stick to their original convictions on a player and give him every opportunity to prove them right.

Based on images posted on their official Website, the Browns assigned Rosen jersey No. 19. That is unfortunate. The number made famous in Cleveland by Bernie Kosar has been given out to five other players since Kosar’s reign ended in 1993. But Rosen is the first quarterback to wear it.

2. The long-anticipated trade of Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers does not totally end his relationship with the Browns. 

In fact, the one-time franchise QB hopeful figures to impact the Browns’ 2022 season at least through December.

If all goes well, Mayfield will play his first game for a team other than the Browns against the Browns in the season opener in Charlotte, NC, on Sept. 11. That likelihood should keep Mayfield in the Browns’ heads through training camp and preseason.

The Browns are 1-21-1 in season openers in their post-1999 expansion era. Losing to Mayfield in Week 1 would be such a buzzkill to another season of high expectations. Even if the Browns duplicate their first two seasons under Kevin Stefanski and win their next three games, losing to Mayfield would not be good for Stefanski.

If Mayfield stays healthy and keeps the starting job, he will play against all the Browns’ division rivals in 2022 because the AFC North plays all NFC South teams in the NFL schedule rotation this year.

The Panthers play the Bengals in Cincinnati on Nov. 6, the Ravens in Baltimore on Nov. 20, and the Steelers in Charlotte on Dec. 18.

Considering the AFC North division race figures to come down to another blanket finish, Mayfield could help his former team by winning any of those games – or harm it by losing them.

In four seasons as Browns quarterback, Mayfield was 6-1 v. the Bengals, 3-5 v. the Ravens and 3-5 v. the Steelers (counting postseason). In 61 career starts for the Browns, Mayfield was 12-11 against division rivals and 18-20 against all other teams.

3. The trade of Case Keenum to Buffalo in March went largely unnoticed, partly because it fell between the huge transaction for Watson and the signing of Brissett. Keenum’s not Ring of Honor material, of course, but he managed to carve his own niche in Browns history.

Keenum was denied the opportunity to create a larger legacy with the Browns when Stefanski mysteriously declined to play him with the team’s playoff hopes crumbling as Mayfield’s game plummeted.

As it was, Keenum made two starts and won them both. He is the only Browns quarterback of 32 to start a game since 1999 and not lose a game, and is one of two to depart the Browns with a winning record. The other was Brian Hoyer (9-6).

4. For the past few years I have advocated the Browns ditch their plain, pumpkin-head helmet for a plain white helmet. Few Browns fans realize the Browns wore unmarked white helmets from their inception in 1946 through 1951.

Some consider messing with the orange helmet a sacrilegious act. Not so. Putting a logo on the helmet would desecrate the franchise’s tradition. But returning to a plain white helmet would make a lot of sense.

I have contended the orange helmet is ugly and over-rated as a piece of Browns tradition, and it disturbs the entire ensemble of the Browns uniform. It’s impossible to match anything to that color. Nothing rhymes with orange and nothing matches with orange.

A white hat – with a slim orange/brown stripe over the crown – would blend more easily with the team’s classic white-on-white and brown-on-white uniforms, and also with the under-rated white-on-brown ensemble. (Can we retire the orange pants, please?) It also would adhere to Browns tradition, as it was Paul Brown’s original helmet color choice.

Now that the NFL has rescinded a previous lame-brained rule and allowed an alternate helmet for 2022, several teams have announced their choices. The Bengals – Paul Brown’s second team – unveiled a fabulous white helmet with black bengal stripes to match a white-on-white uniform with similar black bengal stripes.

The Browns have yet to disclose their plans for an alternative uniform and helmet for the 2022 season. The Bengals beat them to the punch. But it shouldn’t stop the Browns from fashioning their own white helmet for 2022.

It should be the first step in some day retiring the orange helmet.