The Cleveland Browns might have another quarterback problem.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who started the past two games, left Week 12 with a concussion and didn’t return. Backup P.J. Walker played in Thompson-Robinson’s place but managed just 56 passing yards on 6-of-13 attempts and took four sacks in the 29-12 loss to the Denver Broncos.
If Thompson-Robinson doesn’t pass the NFL’s concussion protocol, the Browns will be forced to either go with Walker again or start veteran Joe Flacco, who the team signed to the practice squad this past week. Flacco was not activated for Week 13.
The best possible outcome is a healthy DTR for Week 13 against the Los Angeles Rams. Although the fifth-round rookie hasn’t been spectacular, he’s proven to be a competent replacement after Deshaun Watson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury.
But if Thompson-Robinson can’t suit up, the Browns will have to turn to either Walker or Flacco.
Here are the pros and cons for each quarterback ahead of Week 13.
Pro for Flacco: Experienced starter
With 15 years and more than 5,500 career passing attempts under his belt, Flacco would be the most-experienced starting quarterback in Browns history. That is a big boon for a team in the playoff hunt.
While Flacco hasn’t been nearly as good since he left the Baltimore Ravens in 2019, his command of a huddle, poise in the pocket and understanding of how to run an offense cannot be discounted.
Con for Flacco: Quarterbacking style
Flacco has been mainly a pocket passer his entire career. He hasn’t attempted more than 25 rushes in a season since 2014 and has rushed just 42 times combined since 2018.
That’s unideal situation for a Browns offense that’s featured mobile quarterbacks over the past two years. Kevin Stefanski could augment the scheme if Flacco is under center, but a pocket passer isn’t necessarily the best option – especially an older one. Flacco will be 39 years old by the time the playoffs role around and would be tied with Brian Hoyer for the second-oldest quarterback in the league if he started for the Browns at any point this season.
Pro for Walker: Familiarity with the offense
Walker started two games for the Browns this season already and has a solid understanding of how to run the offense. He even helped lead Cleveland to wins over the San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens when he player for the injured Watson.
It wouldn’t be hard for Walker to seamlessly take over once more if Thompson-Robinson was unable to play.
Con for Walker: Unproductive when playing
There is a very low ceiling on Walker’s ability to lead the offense – even as a spot-starter. Although he finished three winning games for Cleveland, his numbers haven’t been good.
Walker threw two interceptions against the 49ers in Week 6, tossed another pick against the Colts in Week 7 and two more in the Week 8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He’s was woefully inefficient and took four sacks when he entered Week 13. There is cause for concern for a team looking at a postseason run.
Verdict: Go with Flacco
The Browns have seen what Walker can do, and it hasn’t been pretty. While riskier, the better decision would be to go with the experienced veteran in Flacco and see what he can do with the weapons on offense.
It’s not like Flacco hasn’t played recently either: He started the first four games of the 2022 season for the New York Jets and averaged 210.2 passing yards per game with five passing touchdowns and three interceptions. Flacco would be a more adept game manager with higher upset if DTR can’t play.