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Mailbag: Thoughts On Shanahan In Cleveland; Schaub A Good Fit In Cincy?

We go over some of the burning questions in the minds of Bengaldom, including the coaching changes in Cleveland and the possibility of Matt Schaub being a good fit in Cincinnati.

Bob Levey

Earlier this week, news broke that the Cleveland Browns rounded out the rest of their revamped coaching staff with the hire of former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan. The move brings both excitement and apprehension to Browns fans, as Shanahan has had his ups and downs in the NFL. In his six previous seasons in the NFL as a coordinator, roughy half of them have been truly productive offensive units with the prime example being his work with rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III.

One year later, it all fell apart and both Kyle and Mike Shanahan were out of jobs. The excitement that comes with Shanahan's arrival in Cleveland stems from the team likely investing a high draft pick on a quarterback and allowing a relationship to potentially develop like the one between RGIII and Shanahan in 2012. The fear that Browns fans have to have lies in the slew of quarterbacks that have failed there and the fact that Shanahan is coming off of a disaster of a season last year.

Of course, here at Cincy Jungle, we look at things through orange and black lenses and I was recently asked by a Twitter follower about my feelings on Shanahan landing in Cleveland:

My answer to this question is "not yet". Much like their situation with the quarterback position that they have to address this offseason, the Shanahan hire could be a "boom or bust" situation. It will all depend on which quarterback that they choose and if Shanahan can concoct a game plan that works well for said quarterback, much like he did with Griffin in 2012.

One interesting caveat will be in what they do with Brian Hoyer this year. He went 3-0 as a starter with Cleveland last season, including a win over the AFC North champion Bengals, and appears to be in the mold of former Shanahan draft pick, Kirk Cousins. With recent reports indicating that the Browns not likely to pursue a trade for Cousins, the Browns might hang on to Hoyer and groom a rookie behind him. Or, they may just let the rookie sink or swim in Shanahan's system. It worked in Washington--for one year at least.

+ Recently, in my inner circles, I've been having a lot of chatter about the quarterback position with the Bengals. Obviously, Cincinnati's 30 regular season wins in the Andy Dalton era are a stark contrast to the 1990s, early 2000s and late 2000s with this franchise, but the 0-3 record and Dalton's inability to win a big game in primetime moments has some of Bengaldom to explore the possibility of a veteran option that would take a backseat to Dalton but perhaps push him a little more than he has been in his first three seasons.

One name I hear a lot is Matt Schaub. Now, keeping in mind that Schaub is still under contract with the Houston Texans and isn't a free agent yet, Schaub would be an interesting option for the Bengals if let go. Most fans will remember the disastrous 2013 season, but that shouldn't be lumped all on the quarterback. All-Pro running back Arian Foster, safety Danieal Manning, linebacker Brian Cushing and tight end Owen Daniels all missed significant time because of injury.

At a minimum, Schaub would be an upgrade over Josh Johnson and Bruce Gradkowski, who was Dalton's backup in 2011-2012. I decided to take a look at both quarterbacks' first three full (healthy, in the case of Schaub) as a starter:

Player Yards Touchdowns Interceptions Regular Season Record Postseason Record
Andy Dalton 11,363 80 49 30-18 0-3
Matt Schaub 13,148 75 39 27-21 1-1

Now, I understand that these stats are skewed because of the gaps of seasons where Schaub didn't complete years because of injury. That caveat allowed Schaub to have parts of seasons to hon his skills and improve as a quarterback. Dalton hasn't had that luxury (not the injuries, of course), as he was thrown to the wolves as a rookie and has manned the position since.

What's interesting to note here is that both squads are quite similar. Solid defenses, great No.1 receiver with emerging other targets, a couple of solid tight ends and have become perennial playoff teams. It has been the quarterback play of each team that has come under major question. Schaub's critics have mostly pointed at his injury history until his and the team's drop off in 2013. Dalton's say he just can't carry a team on his own and win a big game.

I don't know that Schaub is or isn't the answer as a starting quarterback for the Bengals going forward (same with the recently-unemployed Matt Cassel), but he could be a good backup option to push Dalton to be a better quarterback. This is all hearsay until Schaub's fate with the Texans is decided and if what he asks for monetarily fits with Cincinnati's plans. The team's brain trust also needs to figure out if last year was truly an aberration because of injuries around him, or if it is signaling Schaub's decline in his eleventh season.

A rookie in the upper to mid rounds of the draft could end up being a better option than Schaub, but we all know that rookies are a bigger crapshoot than a tested veteran. Whether it's Schaub, a rookie or another free agent, the Bengals quarterback position needs to be addressed this offseason--even if it's just to upgrade the backups behind Dalton.