By Nate Ulrich Akron Beacon Journal
BEREA, Ohio — The Browns not only secured a new third-string quarterback when they signed veteran Rex Grossman on Tuesday, but they also found a mentor for rookie Johnny Manziel and veteran Brian Hoyer.
“If anybody has any questions or I feel the need to maybe help out, then I will,” Grossman said. “I haven’t shied back from that in the past, and I’m here to just help.”
The Browns shook up their depth behind Manziel and Hoyer, both of whom are competing for the starting quarterback job, by signing Grossman and waiving veteran Tyler Thigpen. Grossman didn’t practice Tuesday, though he was on the field watching the action. The terms of his contract were not immediately disclosed.
Grossman, 33, gives the franchise a veteran backup who’s fluent in the system employed by new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Grossman spent the past five seasons with Shanahan — one with the Houston Texans and the last four with the Washington Redskins.
Manziel could use a mentor because he’s new to the NFL. Although Hoyer has been in the league for five seasons, he’s new to Shanahan’s offense and could benefit from Grossman’s guidance as well.
“I think he’ll help the whole room, not just Johnny,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said of Grossman. “He knows the system as well as he does, and he’ll be able to give them a quarterback’s perspective instead of just the coaches’ perspective.”
Quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains agreed.
“He’s spent all that time in Houston and Washington with Kyle,” Loggains said. “He knows the offense inside and out, and that’s one of the advantages he’s going to bring to the meeting room.”
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Grossman has appeared in 54 games and owns a career record of 25-22 as a starter. But Grossman, who has 11 NFL seasons on his resume, hasn’t appeared in a regular-season game since 2011.
Still, Grossman thinks he has something left in the tank.
“I feel like the longer I’m in it, the smarter I am about not only the defenses and the offense that I’m running, but just myself in general, knowing my limitations and what I’m good at and how to play toward my strengths,” said Grossman, who spent this offseason training near his home in South Florida.
“I feel like my reads come a little bit faster that way. I turn things down a little bit that I would’ve normally just gone for. So I’m looking forward to seeing where I’m at, and I’m excited just to be playing football.”
Drafted 22nd overall by the Chicago Bears in 2003, Grossman has completed 863 of 1,562 career passes for 10,232 yards and 56 touchdowns with 60 interceptions. Before joining the Texans and Redskins, he spent six seasons (2003-08) with the Bears and led them to Super Bowl XLI during his first full season as a starter.
The Browns signed Thigpen, who struggled throughout training camp, on May 1. In the Browns’ 13-12 loss to the Detroit Lions in the preseason opener Saturday night, Thigpen, 30, completed 3 of 12 passes for 38 yards with an interception. He finished with a passer rating of 5.6.
“We wanted to give Tyler an opportunity,” Pettine said. “We did and we felt it was time to go ahead and take a look at Rex.”
Grossman said he had been in contact with Shanahan a couple of times during the offseason to gauge the Browns’ quarterback situation. The Miami Dolphins reportedly worked out Grossman, John Skelton and Brady Quinn on Monday before signing Quinn.
“I had a workout with the Dolphins,” Grossman said, “and I pretty much signed with the Browns during that workout.”
The Browns have four quarterbacks and might keep three on their 53-man roster, though Pettine said that has yet to be determined. Hoyer is listed first on the depth chart, followed by Manziel, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft. Grossman and undrafted rookie Connor Shaw round out the position.
Asked if the signing of Grossman makes Hoyer expendable, Pettine said, “No, absolutely not.”
The acquisition, though, shouldn’t be overlooked because backup quarterbacks often find themselves starting in Cleveland. No Browns quarterback has started all 16 regular-season games since Tim Couch in 2001, and the team has started three quarterbacks in two of the past four seasons.
“I just want to help this team win, no matter if it’s going out there playing or helping or just being somebody they can rely on that can go in the game and play,” Grossman said. “Whatever my job is, I just want to contribute to the Browns winning games.”