Another Week, Another Forgettable Performance By Weeden
By Steven King
Joe Montana has been quoted as saying that, in his opinion, fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer Otto Graham was the best quarterback of all-time.
With all of his Super Bowl hardware, Montana should know a thing or two about winning. To his way of thinking, the No. 1 job of any quarterback is not to throw for five touchdowns or 400 yards or a 130.8 passer rating; it is simply to make sure his team wins.
Graham was the ultimate winner – as Montana points out – because he guided the Cleveland Browns to 10 straight league championship games, including seven victories, in his decade-long stay (1946-55) with the team.
That’s a key thing to consider when looking at today’s Browns. After Sunday’s 31-13 drubbing by the Green Bay Packers, QB Brandon Weeden is 0-4 this season as a starter. His Browns have lost two in a row with him as the starter. He was also the starter when the club lost its opening two games. The Browns are 3-4 overall heading into next Sunday’s road contest against the Kansas City Chiefs – the lone remaining unbeaten team in the league.
Against the Packers, Cleveland had all kinds of dropped passes. In addition, there were false starts, missed blocks, an inability to run the ball well consistently and some questionable play calls.
Really, it’s been that way in all four of Weeden’s starts.
But while all of that makes for a big roadblock to winning, it’s still the quarterback’s job to somehow find a way to fight through it and guide the club to victory. Weeden, though, has been unable to do that in any game this year.
Yet backup Brian Hoyer, who filled in for Weeden when he suffered a sprained thumb, was able to do that – to record wins – in the three games he started this season before being knocked out for the rest of the year with a knee injury.
The Browns didn’t suddenly become the 1964 NFL champion Browns when Hoyer was in there. The team still suffered from the same mistakes that Weeden dealt with against Green Bay. But Hoyer was still able to somehow find a way to fight through it and guide the club to victory. He solved the problems – or at least made them a little better – and got the job done.
That’s the biggest difference between the two quarterbacks. It’s also the biggest difference between all winning and losing quarterbacks in the NFL.
For whatever reason, the Cleveland offense runs like an eight-cylinder engine firing on only about four cylinders when Weeden is under center. The engine may run well for a moment or two, but it sputters badly the rest of the time.
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. It is also an offensive league. When the quarterback sputters, it causes the offense to sputter. And when the offense sputters, the team loses.
Against the Packers, Weeden came out more tentative and unsure of himself than any Browns quarterback in recent memory – maybe any Cleveland quarterback ever. He was short-arming passes, throwing the ball over receivers’ heads and throwing into coverage.
It was embarrassing. Without the ability to complete passes, the pass offense was horrible. Imagine that.
As a result, QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers roared to a 14-0 first-half lead and never really looked back. When the outcome of the game was still in question, Cleveland managed only two field goals. It was only in mop-up time – after the Packers had taken their foot off the gas pedal – that the Browns finally scored a touchdown.
Weeden never made a big throw all afternoon. In fact, he’s failed to make a big throw in any of his losses this year. So Sunday’s defeat – and all four of his defeats this season, really – are on him.
That’s all you need to know about any of those games.
Just ask Montana, he’ll tell you. And if Graham was still alive, he’d tell you the same as well.