Hooley: How the Browns, Bengals are different

Andy Dalton's end zone interception means nothing, but would if he were a Browns QB

There's often a reverse correlation in the NFL between how interesting a team is and how good a team is. 

That's why there's plenty to talk about with the Cleveland Browns and not much drama with the Cincinnati Bengals, both of whom have started their exhibition seasons successfully.

If the Bengals were as desperate and unsettled at quarterback as the Browns, fans in Cincinnati would be obsessing about whether Jeff Driskel could be the franchise quarterback they've long coveted.

Driskel was fantastic in the Bengals exhibition win over Tampa on Friday. He completed his first seven passes to seven different receivers and led two touchdown drives, one of which he ended with a nifty 18-yard run.

If Driskel did that 250 miles north of Paul Brown Stadium, on the shores of Lake Erie, he'd be the fan favorite to start for the Browns and end their long, nightmarish search for a savior under center.

But the Bengals approach this preseason with very few spots up for grabs, least of all quarterback, so Driskel can sink back into anonymity this week behind Andy Dalton and A.J. McCarron.

The pecking order in Cleveland is much more uncertain. Brock Osweiler started the Browns win over the Saints last Thursday and didn't look great, but didn't look terrible either, particularly for a guy who'd taken very few snaps with the first-team offense up to that point.

Osweiler had pedestrian numbers, but he also had 300-pound revolving door Cam Erving playing left tackle in relief of all-pro Joe Thomas. Osweiler was a dragged foot by Kenny Britt away from one touchdown pass and a fingertip or two away from another to Seth DeValve. So, near misses defined his performance, which is why he's still the No. 1 quarterback on the Browns' depth chart.

That doesn't mean Osweiler is guaranteed to start the season-opener, even though Hue Jackson is sticking with him to start Exhibition Game No. 2 on Monday against the New York Giants.

Rookie DeShone Kizer lifted the Browns to their win over the Saints with two long touchdown passes in the second-half against New Orleans' second- and third-teamers.

So he got the job done in Driskel time, but since this is Cleveland and not Cincinnati, Kizer's accomplishments got magnified to the point where Browns fans are awash in optimism about his future.

Kizer clearly has all the tools...size, arm strength, mobility...but if you think you can survive on 54-yard touchdown bombs on fourth-and-two plays in the NFL, you are delusional.

That was the down-and-distance on Kizer's game-winning throw against the Saints. What the Browns have to determine now is whether they're better off seeing what Kizer or what Osweiler can do against the Giants starters.

Ideally, the quarterback they choose will show himself ready to start the season.

Worst case? Whoever they start looks bad and they come out of the Giants game having to start the other by default in the third preseason game.

That would provide a nice bit of drama, but, as mentioned before, drama is not what you want at this time of year.

The Browns would be much better off if they weren't jockeying reps between Osweiler and Kizer over the next week, trying to figure out who to start.

In other words, the Browns wish they were the Bengals, where Andy Dalton is a clear No. 1 despite his end zone interception at the end of his only possession on Friday night, where A.J. McCarron is such a good backup other teams are rumored to want to trade for him, and where Jeff Driskel is a clear No. 3, despite a performance that would have him the toast of the town in Cleveland.


Bruce Hooley

Bruce Hooley

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