"I've seen him on tape because we had a common opponent in Miami," McCown told Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer on Thursday. "He made some high-level throws and did some things that would get you excited about his ability to maybe carry a franchise. That's definitely on the tape."
Digging deeper into his study of the Patriots backup, McCown pointed to one current star quarterback as a potential trait-comparison for Jimmy G.
"I saw some things in Derek Carr early on in the 2014 draft that reminded me of Aaron Rodgers and I thought 'this guy is going to be pretty good,'" McCown said. "I see the same things when I watch Jimmy: quick release, strong arm, athletic. I'm not saying he's Aaron Rodgers, but he's got some traits in the same mold, and he's got tremendous upside."
Another factor is the incubation period Garoppolo has spent under the watch of Tom Brady over the past three seasons.
"He's gained a wealth of experience from playing with a guy like Tom Brady, so I do think there's a lot of potential there and a chance to be a very special player," McCown said. "I certainly see why people would give him an opportunity to come in and be a franchise guy. You can certainly see that and he's making these throws at a high level against NFL talent, so that would get me excited about him for sure."
McCown knows firsthand about Cleveland's swing-and-miss history on rookie quarterbacks, a dynamic that makes Garoppolo a safer investment than reaching for a college prospect with zero NFL film.
"I haven't studied him enough to go, 'Yeah, I'd give up the No. 1 for him.' But when you're trying to find that guy, once you land on that guy, then you go get him," McCown said. "Philadelphia did that last year with Carson Wentz. L.A. did that with Jared Goff. If you're convinced about a guy, you go get him and you do what's necessary to get him."
Said McCown: "If you view him as that guy, people pick quarterbacks at No. 1 and No. 12 (Browns' 2017 picks) all the time. Then yes, absolutely. In my opinion, you'd be able to come to a more reliable conclusion on him than a college player because you'd have more tape on him and you can better project his skill set and he's still young."
"When you turn on the tape, one has an elite skill set and one doesn't," McCown said. "I like Matt and he's a pro quarterback, but Jimmy has a chance to be elite."
A franchise quarterback would change the Browns -- or any other passer-free roster -- for years to come.