BEREA — Bruce Gradkowski, come on down. You might be the next contestant on the “Quarterback is Right.’’
Gradkowski, who was out of the NFL until joining the Browns on Dec. 2, will start for the team Sunday in Pittsburgh if current QB Ken Dorsey is unable to play.
Dorsey suffered a mild concussion and injured his ribs Sunday in Cleveland’s 14-0 loss to Cincinnati, putting his status for the season finale in doubt.
“We’re down to the third quarterback, we might be down to the fourth,’’ coach Romeo Crennel said Monday. “We’ll have to see how (Dorsey) progresses during the course of the week to see if he’ll be available or not. If he’s not, Gradkowski will have to play, like he finished the game (Sunday).’’
Even if Dorsey is available, there is ample evidence that the Browns should avoid giving him a fourth straight start. The former Miami (Fla.) star has an 0-3 record, has not led the team on a touchdown-scoring drive, and has the worst passer rating in the NFL among players with at least 35 attempts.
Taking his 26.5 rating one step further, it ranks 94th out of 102 players to take a snap at QB league-wide (including various punters, running backs, etc.) — and is well below the default figure of 39.6 that is earned for an incomplete pass.
If Dorsey cannot play, he will be placed on injured reserve and rookie Richard Bartel will be promoted from the practice squad to serve as Gradkowski’s backup. Jack of all trades Joshua Cribbs also figures to see more action under center against the Steelers.
“The problem with those guys is they’re new to the offense and trying to learn, so we might have to depend on Josh a little bit more,’’ Crennel said. “We tried to manage him during the course of the game and we’re going to have to do a better job of managing him because he plays a lot of special teams.
“When you play him on offense as well, you can wear him down.’’
Despite being named the first alternate to the Pro Bowl at both special teams spots, Cribbs’ production has fallen greatly this season in all areas except rushing.
One year after breaking the Browns’ record for all-purpose yards and making a spirited run at the NFL’s all-time mark with 2,312 yards, Cribbs sits just 21st in the category with 1,453 yards.
Yet, on a Cleveland team that is last in the league in both passer rating (57.4) and completion percentage (.494), many fans have wondered if he could fare any worse. After all, true quarterbacks Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn and Dorsey have only led the team to four wins in 15 games.
Beyond Dorsey, the Browns’ other concern coming out of the Bengals’ game is running back Jason Wright (ankle). He underwent an MRI Monday to determine the severity of the injury, but results won’t be made public until Wednesday.
Also ailing are tight end Darnell Dinkins (ribs), guard Eric Steinbach (back), defensive lineman Louis Leonard (bruised wrist) and fullback Lawrence Vickers (back spasms). Cleveland has eight players on season-ending IR, along with Joe Jurevicius on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
On the line
The Browns will finish last in the AFC North Division with a loss at Pittsburgh, coupled with a Cincinnati win over Kansas City. Cleveland also would post its third 4-12 finish in five years with a defeat. It is already assured of an eighth double-digit loss season in its last 11 campaigns.
Quote of the day
“Nobody is going to give us any kind of chance this week and I can understand that.’’ — Crennel about playing Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Contact Brian Dulik at (330) 721-4059