Browns' QB carousel could turn again with Thompson-Robinson in concussion protocol

Cleveland Browns quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is seen after being injured during the second half of an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Browns are again in quarterback limbo. The only difference this time is they have a more suitable — if not sustainable — backup plan.

Paging Joe Flacco.

With rookie starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson in concussion protocol after taking a brutal hit in Sunday’s loss at Denver, the Browns may make yet another switch and put their season — and playoff hopes — in Flacco’s capable hands.

Cleveland signed the 2013 Super Bowl MVP last week as protection in case Thompson-Robinson either flopped or got hurt.

And, wouldn’t you know it?

In a season full of bumps and bruises for the Browns (7-4), Thompson-Robinson was knocked out of his third career start when Broncos linebacker Baron Browning levelled him with a high hit in third quarter of Cleveland’s 29-12 loss Sunday.

Coach Kevin Stefanski offered no clues Monday about his QB plans heading into this week’s game against the Los Angeles Rams, but it appears his best option is to see what the 38-year-old Flacco has left.

At this point, the Browns have nothing to lose.

“We’ll see where it goes, where this week goes based on, obviously, Dorian’s health,” Stefanski said on a Zoom call from Los Angeles, where Cleveland will spend the week practicing and healing up after a mile-high mauling.

The Browns have been rotating quarterbacks all season, first when Deshaun Watson sprained his shoulder, when he came back and then again when their franchise QB (at least he’s being paid like one) suffered a season-ending fracture and had surgery.

Watson made six starts, Thompson-Robinson three and P.J. Walker two. Flacco would make it four different starters in 12 games, which seems almost preposterous for a team currently holding an AFC wild-card spot.

But the Browns are in the hunt and Flacco at least gives them some hope.

It’s not that Thompson-Robinson was awful against the Broncos, he actually got better as the game went on and seemed to be gaining confidence. But Flacco has big-game experience, championship pedigree and a powerful right arm that can help Cleveland’s offense stretch the field with chunk passing plays.

Of course, Flacco hasn’t played since the end of last season with the New York Jets, and it’s possible he doesn’t have it anymore.

The Browns didn’t elevate him from the practice squad Sunday, and he was on the sideline in Denver wearing street clothes.

That could soon change.

“Of course there’s a comfort at having a guy like Joe Flacco,” running back Jerome Ford said. “With everything that he’s accomplished, be in the same meeting room as you and on the same team as you, and we’re just pretty much looking forward to what he can do to help the team and how we can help him and build a relationship.”


The Browns’ bread and butter has been their running game. However, for some strange reason, Stefanski opted to throw 42 passes against the Broncos, who entered with the NFL’s worst rushing defense (160 yards per game).

Granted, some of that was because Cleveland was trailing, but when the Browns ran the ball — 24 carries for 107 yards — they had success. Stefanski made a mistake in not staying on the ground more.

Ford rushed for 65 yards, but on just nine carries.


Conversely, the Browns’ top-ranked defense struggled to stop the Broncos’ rushing attack (169 yards) or come up with a key turnover.

Of course it didn’t help Cleveland was missing starting linebacker and signal caller Anthony Walker Jr. (hamstring) and top cornerback Denzel Ward (shoulder), and All-Pro end Myles Garrett (shoulder) played most of the second half with one healthy arm, but the Browns couldn’t stop Denver when the game was still within reach.


Linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and rookie wide receiver Cedric Tillman.

Owusu-Koramoah was the lone bright spot for Cleveland’s defense, getting 12 tackles, a sack and forcing a fumble. He’s having his best season as coordinator Jim Schwartz has found a way to best use his skill set.

Tillman had something of a breakout with a season-high four catches for 55 yards. He came in with three for 10. A third-round pick from Tennessee, Tillman was slowed by injuries early this season and was buried on the depth chart before Donovan Peoples-Jones was traded.


Stefanski’s decision to call a trick play shortly after Walker entered backfired badly. Stefanski was hoping to catch the Broncos sleeping, but the timing was odd and Pierre Strong Jr.’s fumble on a reverse set up Denver’s TD to go up 24-12.


The Browns caught a huge break that Garrett didn’t suffer any structural damage to his left shoulder, the same one he hurt in a single-car accident last year. Stefanski said Garrett is “sore” and indicated he might be able to play this week. … X-rays were negative on WR Amari Cooper’s ribs after he took a hard shot in the fourth quarter. … DT Jordan Elliott (ankle) is day to day, but Stefanski said the team “feel good about where he is.”


3 — Fumbles lost by the Browns on Sunday, including one on a fourth-down sneak when tight end Harrison Bryant lined up under center and bobbled the snap.


A matchup with the resurgent Rams (5-6) that didn’t look too daunting before the newest injuries and LA blasting Arizona 37-14.


AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL