Weeden, Browns Offense Getting Second Chance To Make A First Impression
By Steven King
For the second year in a row, QB Brandon Weeden had a happy and memorable NFL Draft.
In 2012, the Cleveland Browns used their second first-round pick, No. 22 overall, to take the Oklahoma State product. Last weekend, they didn’t use a single pick to address the position so many thought was a problem spot.
Weeden knew from the outset of last season that he was going to start – teams don’t pick quarterbacks that high in the draft so they can stand on the sideline wearing a ball cap and holding a clipboard. Now he knows just as convincingly that he’s going to have a chance this season to prove he can be their starter for the long term.
No one – not Geno Smith, Matt Barkley, E.J. Manuel nor anyone else – was drafted by the Browns as the new “franchise quarterback.” With the guarantee there will be no hotshot young quarterback looking over his shoulder, the path has been cleared for Weeden to really grab hold of the position.
Cleveland even went so far earlier this offseason to trade Colt McCoy – a third-round pick himself in 2010 and the starter for most of that season and virtually all of 2011 – to the San Francisco 49ers. There were still some fans who maintained that McCoy should have been the starter ahead of Weeden last year. Getting him out of town silenced that talk – which was and wasn’t a distraction – once and for all.
Weeden’s only “competition” this season will come from Jason Campbell, who is not any competition at all. The veteran journeyman was signed in the offseason to be this season’s version of McCoy, a backup who will play only if Weeden gets hurt.
There was a lot of speculation in the offseason that Weeden’s days in Cleveland were numbered, if not totally over. For starters, there was no wow factor with how Weeden played individually, or how the team played with him in the game, last season. He turned in a mediocre performance -- 14 touchdown passes with 17 interceptions -- for a team that was less than mediocre, finishing 5-11.
In addition, after having played pro baseball for a while before resuming his football career, Weeden was an “old” young player. He will turn 30 on Oct. 14. Time is against him, so he needs to be further along than other quarterbacks with his experience.
Then there was the fact – the biggest fact, actually – that all the people who made the decision to draft Weeden are no longer with the Browns. The members of the regime in place now didn’t bring him to Cleveland, so they have nothing invested in him. They could get rid of him with a clear conscience. After all, he wouldn’t have been “their” mistake.
Despite all that going against him, Weeden is still standing tall in the pocket headed into 2013.
By virtue of the fact the Browns didn’t draft a quarterback this year, we now know that new coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Norv Turner believe in Weeden – or at least believe enough in him to give him a real chance to show them what he can do. They went to bat for him to CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi, who don’t think much of Weeden and otherwise undoubtedly would have sent him packing without blinking an eye.
But these men all want to win. Moreover, they have to win to keep their jobs. So if Weeden proves to them that he can be the catalyst in getting a bunch of those much-needed wins to keep everybody employed, they’ll all hitch their professional reputations to him in a New York minute.
This is Weeden’s chance; this is his time. If he can’t make it in 2013 with so much in his favor –including a vertical passing offense that fits like a glove his ability to throw downfield – and with two excellent coaches who know quarterbacks, then he’s never going to make it in the NFL.
Since the Browns did not draft any offensive players until getting a project of a lineman in the seventh round, the way has been cleared for all the young players on that side of the ball to stake their claim to also be entrenched as starters and part of the foundation going forward in this era. So maybe those players were cheering right along with Weeden as the draft unfolded. If not, then they should have been.