Browns Likely To Bench Weeden For Campbell
By Steven King
It’s not official yet and probably won’t be so until practice resumes on Wednesday, but at least it certainly appears Browns backup QB Jason Campbell will get the start in place of Brandon Weeden for Sunday’s game against the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
All along, coach Rob Chudzinski has done his best to hold the line on benching Weeden despite his struggles. Following last week’s 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions in which Weeden’s feeble flip toward the sideline was intercepted – which sealed Cleveland’s fate – Chudzinski said he was sticking with the latter of the team’s two first-round choices in the 2012 NFL Draft as his starter.
But there was no such declaration at Chudzinski’s noon press conference on Monday. Chudzinski said the status of Weeden – along with that of all Browns players – would be evaluated during coaching meetings that afternoon. In fact, the decision might have already been made and Chudzinski was simply waiting until he told the players first when they met during the afternoon.
If Weeden somehow manages to keep his job one more week, he will at least be on an awfully short leash against the Chiefs. It may be better for all parties the game is on the road, in order for Weeden to avoid Weeden getting booed at home.
If the switch is not made now, it will be made soon. It’s inevitable.
The reality is that neither Chudzinski – nor anyone in Cleveland, on the team or otherwise – can continue to sensibly defend Weeden after the way he performed in Sunday’s 31-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. He completed just 17-of-42 passes for only 149 yards with an interception. His passing rating was a miserable 48.6.
For the season, Weeden has completed just 52.8 percent of his passes (103-for-195) for five touchdowns and six interceptions and 0-4 as a starter. Brian Hoyer, who started two games when Weeden was out with a sprained thumb, went 3-0 during his three-start run. Hoyer has since sustained a season-ending knee injury, forcing Weeden back into the lineup the last two weeks.
But against the Packers, Weeden’s offensive teammates – after saying during the week that they were behind him – seemed totally disengaged. The worse he played – and he was woefully bad, especially at the beginning of the game when he was missing wide-open receivers by yards, not feet – the more Weeden’s teammates distanced themselves from him both on the field and on the sideline.
A former tight end for the Miami Hurricanes, Chudzinski correctly read that negative body language and realized that if he doesn’t make the change – or at least give it serious and thorough consideration -- he might lose the locker room.
However, keep in mind that the Browns would be going to Campbell only because they’re desperate. With a two-game losing streak and a 3-4 record that has put them two games behind the AFC North-leading Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) near the halfway point of the season, a promising start has come to a screeching halt and the year is slipping away. Chudzinski would be hoping that the switch would shake things up enough so that the offense improves to the point where the team can at least remain competitive.
But don’t count on it. Campbell is no world-beater.
In addition, Campbell – signed as a free agent from the Chicago Bears in the offseason – is hardly a favorite with Chudzinski and his offensive staff. The ninth-year pro, who has 71 career starts to his credit, angered them when he begged out of the preseason finale at Chicago because of a sick stomach. Hoyer stepped in and played well in that game and used that performance against the Bears to leapfrog Campbell on the depth chart.
Campbell came in at the end of that game against the Ravens and looked disinterested himself, completing just one of his four attempts for six yards. He even had his own underhanded toss, which made the decision easy to go with Hoyer. If he gets the call this week, Campbell would be the 20th different starting quarterback the Browns have had since they returned to the NFL in 1999 as an expansion team.
Until that merry-go-round stops and they find their quarterback, the Browns will struggle at that position, on offense and as a team overall. With nine games left in the year, that is hardly good news for a fanbase that is starved for good quarterback play and a winner.
The bottom line, especially for those who don’t like them, is that Browns CEO Joe Banner and GM Mike Lombardi were indeed right when – upon arriving as a tandem in the off-season and taking over as the team’s decision-makers – they made no bones about the fact they didn’t believe in Weeden.
But Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who are also in their first year with the Browns, convinced Banner and Lombardi to allow the club to go forward with Weeden. They believed they could make him play well enough to get through the season and then the Browns could draft their franchise quarterback in 2014. It’s not going to happen, though. Weeden is not the answer by any stretch of the imagination – even for the remainder of the year.
With that said, there is still another much more immediate problem. Once Weeden, who already lacks confidence, is benched – that never officially occurred when Hoyer took over since Weeden was injured – he is done forever in Cleveland.
So what happens if Campbell falls flat on his face and is actually worse than Weeden, which could happen? Where do the Browns go from there?
It is not a good situation.