Weeden Can Silence Boo Birds By Winning
By Steven King
An open letter to Cleveland Browns QB Brandon Weeden:
Here we are once more, right back where we were when the season began. That is, with you as the starter, and with a great opportunity to really display your talents.
Few thought we’d pass this way again. When you sprained your thumb in the 14-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 15 and had to sit out the next two games, Brian Hoyer came on and played well. He played very well, in fact, leading the Browns to two straight wins that evened their record at 2-2 after the 0-2 start they had under you.
That mini-run made Hoyer a real celebrity here, especially with the fact he is originally from the Cleveland suburb of North Olmsted and starred at St. Ignatius High School before going on to Michigan State. With Hoyer excelling and the team on the rebound, the town was wired when the Buffalo Bills visited for last Thursday night’s nationally-televised game. But then Hoyer was sidelined early with an injury of his own. He tore his ACL and is done for the season.
You came on and helped lead Cleveland to a 37-24 win.
Heading into Sunday’s visit by the Detroit Lions to FirstEnergy Stadium, the Browns are 3-2 and over .500 after five games for the first time since 2001. Something happened, though, on the way to a first-place tie with the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North. Browns fans booed you during the Bills game. At times, such as when you got sacked or threw an incomplete pass, the booing was very loud. You had to have heard it, didn’t you? Of course you did.
You have thrown two touchdown passes with three interceptions for a quarterback rating of 69.2 this year. You have been sacked 16 times for 107 yards in losses. You’ve not thrown a game-winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter in your entire pro career.
Hoyer has thrown five touchdown passes with three interceptions for a rating of 82.6 this season. He has been sacked six times for 48 yards. He threw a game-winning touchdown pass to TE Jordan Cameron as the Browns edged the Minnesota Vikings 31-27 two weeks ago.
The fans have taken to Hoyer because he has played well and the Browns have won. The fans have not taken to you because you’ve played poorly and the team has lost.
It’s no more complicated than that. Really. The name of the game is winning. It’s the job of the quarterback to win games. That’s the ultimate measuring stock.
To get the fans back on your side, that’s what you’ve got to do – win games. To help facilitate that, you have to perform well because you play the most important position in team sports. As the quarterback goes, so goes his team. The two – your play and the final result on the scoreboard – are indelibly linked.
The Browns’ greatest quarterbacks of all-time – Otto Graham, Frank Ryan, Bill Nelsen, Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar – have all been winners. That’s why they’re the greatest. Graham, in fact, directed the Browns to the league championship game in each of the 10 years he played, with seven titles. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Joe Montana, who knows a thing or two of three about winning, has said Graham’s the best quarterback of all-time because no one has won like he did.
If you want to get the fans not just off your back, but on your side, then you have to win games the rest of the season. That’s the simple formula to become loved and admired in Cleveland – or anywhere – really. It’s the formula that has worked every time it’s been tried.
Don’t panic. The fans don’t expect you to win every game the remainder of the year. That would be unrealistic; there are 11 games left.
But they do expect you to win a lot of them and will be greatly disappointed if you don’t.
With this positive start (remember when the Browns were 0-5 at this time last year when you were a rookie?), the Browns have a real shot to make the playoffs for the first time since 2002, and for just the second time in the expansion era that began in 1999.
Really, why not the Browns? They have a great defense and enough weapons on offense. The Bengals are certainly not a juggernaut and the Ravens are a shell of the team that won the Super Bowl last season. The division title is there for the taking; it’s up for grabs.
For the Browns to have a chance, all that needs to happen is for you to do your job – to hold up your end of the bargain.
But it won’t be easy. The next three games – at Green Bay (Oct. 20) and at Kansas City (Oct. 27) following the visit by the Lions – are tough. The game after that – against the Ravens at Cleveland on Nov. 3 – will obviously be tough, too.
So will the next game – the first one coming out of the bye – at Cincinnati on Nov. 17. After losing to the Browns 17-6 on Sept. 29, the Bengals will be ready. They will be loaded for bear.
But while tough, those games are definitely winnable for the Browns.
There are no other viable quarterback candidates for the Browns for the rest of the season. Jason Campbell isn’t going to lead the team to the promised land.
So it is up to you. You are the man. You don’t have to worry about looking over your shoulder for a quick hook if you struggle for a bit. You will be given time to get things straightened out.
All throughout the off-season leading up to that opener against the Miami Dolphins, it was stated that if you’re ever going to make it in the NFL, it will be this year. You have a big arm, and this offense is perfect for a quarterback with a big arm. Thus, the stars are aligned for you to have success. Last year’s inane, pitch-and-catch, West Coast offense – the one that didn’t suit your skill set at all – is just a bad memory.
Nothing has changed. The offense is still here. So are the men who put it together in coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Plus, the team’s best downfield pass catcher and biggest threat overall (wide receiver Josh Gordon) is back playing. You didn’t have him for those first two games because he was suspended by the NFL for taking a banned substance. You were able to connect with him for a 37-yard touchdown pass against the Bills, so you know what he means to this lineup.
Thus, there is no reason – none at all -- for you to fail.
Yes, it’s possible – more likely probable – that even if you play well and get victories, the Browns will still go in another direction and get their franchise quarterback in the 2014 NFL Draft. They seem determined to do that no matter what, even if Hoyer – whom the members of the present regime brought in and really liked – had remained healthy and played all season.
But that’s OK. There are plenty of other teams out there looking for a good quarterback, so while you would be helping the Browns by getting the job done, you would also be helping yourself by building your resume for possible suitors in the offseason.
The fans are starved for a winner like the ones they had for so many years back in the day. They’re counting on you to deliver it and, if you do, they’ll cheer you like you’ve never been cheered before. And if you don’t, they’ll continue to boo you.
Paradise…or perhaps something much less appealing.
Which one will it be?
It’s all up to you. You have the fans’ fate – the team’s fate and your fate – in your hands.
Are you up to the challenge – the biggest challenge of your career?
We’ll wait and see.