Meet your new quarterback
There is absolutely no doubt who will line up under center for the Browns in the 2012 season.
When the Browns made Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden their second pick of the first round in Thursday’s National Football League college draft, it signaled the end of the Colt McCoy era in Cleveland.
Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert Jr. basically told McCoy through their actions that he better start practicing holding a clipboard this season. Of course, that’s if he’s still with the club.
By selecting Weeden with the 22nd pick of the draft, Holmgren made known what most of us knew despite his protestations. The club president made it known in the weeks and months leading up to the draft that McCoy was his man.
He didn’t say so in so many words, but few took him seriously following McCoy’s brutal second season. And now it has become obvious with Weeden now on board.
This one had Holmgren’s fingerprints all over it. When it comes to quarterbacks, everyone in the ivory tower in Berea bows to the team president. Why? Because he knows quarterbacks. He’s the quarterbacks guru, right?
He’s the guy who built his reputation on recognizing and then developing quality quarterbacks. He’s also the guy who has whiffed three times with the Browns – Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and McCoy.
And now with the selection of Weeden, who will turn 29 in mid-October, it appears as though he has lost his fastball.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Heckert was overruled on his selection. We’ll never know, of course, because the general manager will put up a brave front and take responsibility.
But with the likes of highly rated offensive linemen Riley Reiff and David DeCastro surprisingly still on the board, the Browns stunningly went with Weeden, who almost certainly would have been there for the taking at the top of round two Friday night.
The Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steelers got it right with the next two picks, the Lions picking up Reiff and the Steelers selecting DeCastro. The Browns desperately need an offensive right tackle and two stared them right in the kisser.
Quite simply, Holmgren & Co. panicked. What they were thinking is hard to comprehend. The only team that might have taken Weeden before the Browns’ next pick at 37 was San Francisco. But the 49ers already have Alex Smith, who took them to the NFC title game last season.
No on else needed a quarterback. Not Detroit, Pittsburgh, Houston, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Baltimore, Denver, the New York Giants, Indianapolis, Washington or Tampa Bay.
As the draft unfolded, I kept wondering why top offensive linemen were falling. Certainly Trent Richardson (great trade up to get him, by the way – not good, great) would benefit from a rebuilt right side of the offensive line and two of the top guys were available.
Full disclosure: When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Weeden’s name, I slammed my pen down on my legal pad and uttered a string of loud profanities to no one in particular.
As one who firmly believes and preaches that games are won and lost in the trenches, I thought to myself as Goodell strode toward the microphone, how perfect is this going to be. Richardson and either Reiff or DeCastro in the first round.
It’s about damn time the Browns’ luck changes. It’s about time something good comes out of this exercise.
And then I heard Weeden’s name.
It’s not that I think Weeden is a bad quarterback. He sure racked up some special numbers at Oklahoma State. Can’t argue with those. And he beat some pretty good teams and quarterbacks along the way.
His arm unquestionably is stronger that McCoy’s. He’ll be able to make throws that McCoy can only dream of making.
My quarrel is he was taken too soon. Some other player at #22 would have been more impactful than Weeden, whose rookie season will be more of a learning experience than anything else.
Draft a Reiff or DeCastro, plug him in at right tackle and you have bookend tackles for at least the next five years. Both men come from good programs and will be starters in their rookie season, one of them with the Steelers. That hurts.
Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert should send Holmgren and Heckert a thank you card for not selecting DeCastro, whose mean streak style of play will fit in nicely in Pittsburgh.
The quality depth of the offensive line in the draft is not nearly deep as other positions. When you can get a good one, leap. The Browns didn’t.
Still on the board for the second round are Cordy Glenn from Georgia, Stanford’s Jonathan Martin, Mike Adams of Ohio State and Booby Massie of Mississippi. But none of them are in the class of Reiff and DeCastro.
The whole idea of building through the draft is to select the best player at his position throughout the three-day process. The Browns failed to do that with Weeden, who is arguably the fourth-best quarterback in this lottery.
Obviously Holmgren saw something in Weeden that allowed him to fall in love to the point where he twisted Heckert’s arm, much like he did a couple of years ago with McCoy on the third round of the 2010 draft.
Maybe it was Weeden’s strong arm. Then again, he’s also been known to play the game very well from the neck up. Whatever it was, Holmgren is gambling big time that Weeden is the Browns’ franchise quarterback.
He’ll no doubt blanch at that suggestion, but he has no one to blame but himself for anyone reaching that conclusion.
He must figure that if anyone can handle that pressure, it has to be Weeden, whose advance age and maturity is being counted on to produce positive results for a team in desperate need of them.
Holmgren gambled when he retained Eric Mangini as his head coach for one fateful season. Then he gambled and hired a relatively unknown Pat Shurmur, whose rookie coaching season turned out to be a disaster.
And now, he’s gambling one more time. This time, he had better be right.