Weeden Is Out Of Touch Again
By Steven King
The Cleveland Browns’ Brandon Weeden knows all about the high and lows — literally and figuratively — that a quarterback can experience in a season.
On a throw that might have been as much – or, in the long term, maybe even more – responsible for sending him to the bench as was the sprained right thumb he would suffer later in the game, Weeden didn’t put the proper loft on the ball as he tried to hit wide-open RB Chris Ogbannaya streaking down the Cleveland sideline in an eventual 14-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2.
It is said that the throw, which was delivered like a fast ball at the armpits instead of an alley-oop over the shoulder, was the final piece of evidence to convince the Browns’ deep thinkers that things weren’t going to work with Weeden.
Not this season. Not next season. Not any season.
Third-stringer Brian Hoyer came on and directed the Browns to two straight wins, turning the team around after an 0-2 start. Then he suffered a season-ending knee-injury 10 days ago against the Buffalo Bills, which put Weeden back in the saddle after he came on and directed the club to a 37-24 victory.
The Browns had won the battle but, with Hoyer out until 2014, they had lost the war. They were stuck. They had no other choice but to go with him for the rest of the season, or at least as long as he stays healthy. After all, who were they going to use, Jason Campbell?
But any belief that Weeden might have transformed himself — changed his ways and became a quarterback who can make all the right throws at all the right times — in his time away, faded with the major faux pas he committed to put the final nail into the Browns’ coffin in their 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium.
With his team trailing just 24-17 after giving up 17 answered points in the second half, Weeden had needed just four plays to move the Browns from their 16 to a first down at the Detroit 44 with 4:44 left. He threw to WR Josh Gordon for 15 yards, to TE Jordan Cameron for seven and back to Gordon again for 18.
The offense was rolling. The crowd was roaring,
Weeden was bringing the Browns back.
Then on the next play, as Weeden scrambled left to get away from pressure, he flipped the ball toward the Detroit sideline to avoid getting sacked. Ogbonnaya was in the area. This was a time when, in being out of the pocket, he could have — and should have — used his rifle arm to fling the ball into the stands so he could come back and fight on another play.
“Throw the ball to the blond in the first row,” as former Browns coaches used to tell QB Brian Sipe.
But instead, Weeden made the soft-toss pass he should have made to Ogbonnaya a month ago. It was intercepted by LB DeAndre Levy, who jumped high to grab the ball at the Cleveland 49.
Possession over. Game over. Three-game winning streak over. Browns lose.
“I couldn’t really turn to actually throw it,” Weeden said afterward. “I just tried to flip it as far as I could over Ogbonnaya’s head.”
But wrong touch. Wrong situation. Wrong everything else.
And it all adds up to the wrong result on the scoreboard.
Weeden is 0-3 as a starter this year. The Browns are 3-0 in games in which Hoyer started.
It is further truth that Weeden is not the man for the job.
Maybe Hoyer is. But we won’t know for sure until at least next season when he returns.
Throughout the week leading up to the game, Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski did everything he could to pump up Weeden in his sessions with the media. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner did the same on Thursday in his time with the media.
They did everything they could to do to build his confidence, but it still wasn’t enough.
The Browns are 3-3 and in a second-place tie with the Ravens in the AFC North, just a game behind the frontrunning Cincinnati Bengals (4-2). With 10 games left to play, the Browns remain in the thick of the race.
But that’s just a cruel tease. With the player manning the most important position in team sports unable to deliver the goods by delivering the ball in the proper manner, the Browns and their fans can only stand idly by as they watch a chance at the playoffs slip away from them.