At the risk of painting with a broad brush, everyone wants to be the quarterback. Standing under center places you at the heart of the offense. Barring gimmick plays, you’re touching the ball every snap. There’s a reason why QBs typically win MVP awards, after all.

Well, maybe that stereotype should come with an addition. It’s cool to be quarterback, unless you’re playing for the Cleveland Browns.

As you might have heard, the organization’s current signal-caller, Deshaun Watson, will miss the rest of the year because of a fracture in his throwing shoulder. While it’s easy to write that off as simple bad luck—any pro athlete, especially one playing a violent sport, can get hurt at any point—Browns fans have seen this before. Try as they might, the Browns can’t solve the quarterback problem.

Just how elaborate has this web become? Let’s break it down.

Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns warms up before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on November 12, 2023, in Baltimore, Maryland. Watson’s shoulder injury adds to the Browns’ struggles to find a reliable quarterback.
Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Deshaun Watson Is Done for the Season

On paper, the Browns’ trade for Watson was supposed to take the franchise to the next level. Thus far, though, things haven’t gone according to plan.

In 2022, he missed 11 games because of a suspension. When he returned to the field, he threw for 1,102 yards and seven touchdowns in six contests. That’s not exactly a team-altering performance.

And while 2023 represented a new opportunity—in theory, growing pains were a thing of the past—things still didn’t click. A shoulder injury limited Watson to six appearances, and while the Browns went 5-1 in those contests, he threw for only 1,115 yards and seven touchdowns.

Any way you slice it, that’s not a performance worth of a massive, fully guaranteed contract.

And Watson won’t have the chance to improve on those numbers this year as he’ll be going under the knife for season-ending shoulder surgery.

Watson had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) Monday on two injuries suffered on different plays in the first half of Sunday’s 33-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens. Imaging on his left ankle revealed a high-ankle sprain. Additionally, postgame, Deshaun notified the medical staff of new discomfort in his right shoulder that he felt after a hit in the first half. An MRI of his right shoulder revealed a displaced fracture to the glenoid, the Browns said.

“Despite performing at a high level and finishing the game, after consultation with Browns’ Head Physician, James Voos, MD, and industry-leading shoulder specialist, Neal ElAttrache, MD, it has been determined that this injury will require immediate surgical repair to avoid further structural damage,” the team said in a statement. “Deshaun will be placed on season-ending injured reserve and a full recovery is expected for the start of the 2024 season.”

Another Case of the Browns’ QB Curse?

Again, injuries don’t have to be part of a larger narrative. Sometimes a player can simply have the misfortune of getting hurt. In Watson’s case, though, this will feel like déjà vu all over again for Browns fans.

Since Cleveland was reborn in 1999, the franchise has simply been unable to find a consistent quarterback. Tim Couch was supposed to be the main man, but he didn’t live up to the hype. The first overall draft pick in 1999 struggled with injuries and, despite some memorable moments, threw more interceptions (67) than touchdowns (64) across five seasons. He started all 16 games in a campaign only once, which didn’t help matters.

While the quarterback carousel had started spinning during Couch’s time on the team—his injuries required replacements, after all—things would only ramp up. Illustrious names like Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, Seneca Wallace and Bruce Gradkowski all took turns under center. During that era, the Browns were perpetual cellar-dwellers.

Eventually, Johnny Manziel arrived. The Texas A&M product was supposed to bring some serious star power, not to mention talent, to Cleveland. But this is the Browns we’re talking about.

“Johnny Football” would start eight games across two seasons before being shipped out of town. The Browns would trot out several more signal-callers, including Robert Griffin III, DeShone Kizer and Tyrod Taylor before Baker Mayfield got the starting nod.

Mayfield, another first-round pick, was (stop me if you’ve heard this before) supposed to be the quarterback who finally got Cleveland over the hump. And while he did a pretty decent job of that, starting 59 games across four seasons and even leading the Browns to a playoff victory, things eventually fell apart.

A trade sent Mayfield south ahead of the 2022 season, and another deal brought Watson to Cleveland. Jacoby Brissett spent most of the year under center as Watson served his suspension.

And that takes us through to 2023, where Watson, P.J. Walker and Dorian Thompson-Robinson have all seen time under center. It’s also possible that we’ll see another signal-caller this year, depending on how the Browns fare down the stretch. Wanting to solve a problem in house is all well and good until playoff position starts to come under threat. When your team has appeared in the postseason only twice since 1999, there’s no room to play fast and loose with a potential berth.

Think a curse is at play? Prefer to take a more logical perspective and want to chalk things up to a combination of bad luck and poor decision-making?

Both are fair, but, at the end of the day, Browns fans have seen this all before.