By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
Quarterback talk: In his job as a CBS-TV college football analyst, former Browns quarterback Gary Danielson attends mostly Southeastern Conference games during a typical season. And since it was not exactly a banner year in the SEC for quarterbacks – remember those two dreadful Alabama-LSU games? – Danielson doesn’t have a strong conviction on the quarterback Class of 2012 in the draft.
Yet once a quarterback, always a quarterback.
“The way the league is structured now you cannot win without a franchise quarterback,” Danielson said, echoing the sentiments of just about everybody. “That thing gets stretched a little bit. What is a franchise quarterback? I don’t think you try to make one up. But if you believe in a guy, it doesn’t matter what you pay to get him. I don’t believe you can draft him too quickly or pay him too much.”
Which brings up Ryan Tannehill: The Texas A&M product is the best quarterback available to the Browns in the draft. If the Browns pass up Tannehill at No. 4, they will commit to Colt McCoy for another season. McCoy either will make them look good in 2012 or the Browns will be quarterback-shopping again in 2013.
And on and on it goes.
Tannehill is no finished product, of course, having started more games at wide receiver (30) at Texas A&M than at quarterback (19). But Danielson says flatly, “I think Tannehill is superior to the kid Cincinnati took last year, (Andy) Dalton.”
Dalton, a second-round pick in 2011, started all 16 games as a rookie, led the Bengals to a 9-7 record and a wild-card playoff berth. He made the Pro Bowl as an alternate.
“If you’d asked me prior to the draft, which college quarterback in the past 10 years most reminds me of Bernie Kosar, it’s Tannehill,” Danielson said. “It’s his toughness, he’s a little unorthodox, and he’s as competitive as I’ve ever seen.”
This is high praise from the man who personally tutored Kosar in 1985 and taught him the nuances of the NFL game. Danielson pushed Kosar to the hilt in that 1985 season, giving way to him during the season only because of a torn right rotator cuff.
My lasting image is of the two competing in fierce ping pong contests in the players’ lounge at the Dodgertown complex after hours as the Browns prepared in Vero Beach, Fla., for a playoff game against the Miami Dolphins. Epic matches between the two of them, kill shots impaling each other’s chest. Both refusing to lose.
“Tannehill, you have to commit to him,” Danielson said. “He doesn’t look like a natural, like he was born to be John Elway. I don’t care how pretty you throw it. At that position, if you’re not tough and competitive you have no chance. Now, you have to have other skills, and he does. But he’s definitely 10 for 10 in toughness and competitiveness.”
Danielson had no great physical skills as a pro quarterback, but he had the qualities he speaks of. I covered a game in which he overcame five interceptions and put the Lions in position to defeat Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC playoff game. A missed field goal enabled the 49ers to win by a point.
“As quarterback, there are so many things that you control. You’re making so many mistakes – throw it earlier, or later, read this and that. You have to be tough enough to play that position,” Danielson said. “It’s an awesome responsibility. It’s a 10-month job and it requires special toughness. (Tannehill) definitely has that.
“Now, I don’t classify him as a pretty thrower. Usually a guy taken in the first or second round, you have no doubts when he releases the ball. Tannehill is still in training to be a quarterback. If the Browns were drafting, say, 11th, and he was there, everybody would be happy (to take him). But if you like the guy, you take him (at No. 4). You don’t try to jockey around and take him.”
You may detect that Danielson is not the biggest fan of Colt McCoy. He doesn’t think they win big with McCoy at the throttle.
“The Browns are in a terrible, terrible position,” Danielson said. “You passed on (receiver) Julio Jones last year. You’ve got to have a No. 1 receiver. Just have to. And No. 2, you didn’t get RG3 (Robert Griffin III). If by some chance Tannehill turns out to be a franchise quarterback and you didn’t take him, you’re all fired.”
Final word on T-Rich: Danielson has seen enough of Alabama running back Trent Richardson to say, “I think he’s going to be a star in the league. But stars in the league at running back just aren’t as valuable anymore as wide receivers, defensive ends, left tackles, even defensive tackles. I think he’s better than (2011 New Orleans Saints No. 1 pick) Mark Ingram.
"He’s a really good receiver and a good blocker. He’s a competitive guy. He’s also not selfish guy. He’s used to rotating under (coach) Nick (Saban). He’s a pretty good team guy.”
Ingram was picked 28th in the first round last year. He rushed for 474 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie season with New Orleans.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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