Proof . . . pudding . . . meet Brandon Weeden
Well, it’s about time someone stepped up and became an advocate for Brandon Weeden.
And it turns out to be none other than the man himself, Browns Chief Executive Office and major domo Joe Banner.
Ever since the end of the season, we’ve heard that the Browns would not commit to the beleaguered quarterback in any way, shape or form regarding the 2013 campaign. It was almost as though he was a pariah due to his disappointing 2012 performance.
According to reports, Banner has now indicated Weeden is the man he expects to open the new season under center with the club. “The biggest thing for Brandon is going from year one to year two,” he said, citing the arrival of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner as the key.
Not certain that’s a ringing endorsement, but it sure takes some of the edge off the notion the second-year quarterback should be looking over his shoulder during training camp.
When Jimmy Haslam III told reporters at the Super Bowl that the club would have open competition at the position this season, the speculation began. Weeden’s star, in free fall to begin with, dropped even further.
Even Rob Chudzinski, his new coach, declined to endorse Weeden, perhaps because he knew very little about him when taking the job.
Just the other day, though, Weeden spoke out with significant confidence when asked about the uncertainty of starting for a second consecutive season. “I completely expect to be the starter this season,” he told the Plain Dealer.
“That’s the mind-set going in. I’m confident in my ability to be the guy, to lead this football team. I expect completely to be better this year than I was last year.”
It was almost as though he figured he had nothing to lose by firing broadsides at the lack of confidence displayed by his owner, CEO and coach. Brave talk for someone who was fired upon from all sides of the media aisle throughout the 2012 campaign.
Here was a rookie quarterback, saddled all last season with an offense that was totally foreign to him, wondering just what he had to do to win the confidence of the new front office.
The worst possible scenario for his initial National Football League season became a reality for Weeden, who tried gamely to make work what turned out to be an almost impossible switch for him in offensive philosophy and execution.
Unfortunately, he was selected in the same draft as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson and inevitable comparisons were made. Then along came Browns coach Pat Shurmur, the mad scientist who descended into his laboratory and tried to make Weeden something he wasn’t: a west coast quarterback.
Instead, he created a Frankenstein monster of sorts, moving a quarterback who had operated out of a spread formation throughout his entire football career and placed him under center for a majority of the season.
It was bad enough that the media and fans would compare him to Luck, The Third and Wilson, all of whom turned in spectacular campaigns. Now, he had to do it with one hand tied behind his back.
Optimistically, it can be pointed out that despite playing for a coach who did mostly nothing to cater to his talents, Weeden still threw only 17 interceptions in more than 500 throws.
It’s not as though he was consistently bad for 16 games. He had some ups (five games of 250 or more yards passing) and downs (four interceptions in his NFL debut against Philadelphia).
Yes, the Browns won only five games and, fair or not, quarterbacks receive a majority of the credit and/or blame for winning and losing games. Truth is the finger of blame was pointed at the wrong man. It should have been aimed directly at Shurmur.
At least three games could have been won last season with a more aggressive approach by the Browns’ head coach. It ultimately cost him his job.
Just as well because the Browns now have a coach in Chudzinski who, at least on the surface, appears to be progressive, innovative and willing to trying anything in an effort to win football games.
And with the veteran Turner, one of the best quarterback teachers in the league, on board to provide the necessary guidance, it finally looks as though the Browns and Weeden are finally pointed in the right direction.
The Browns have not had a head coach like this since . . . hmmm. let’s see now, since Sam Rutigliano, whose riverboat gambler style captivated Browns fans for nearly seven seasons a generation and a half ago.
Sam was relentlessly unafraid to take chances. Red Right 88, anyone? It remains Rutigliano’s cross to bear. That ill-fated Brian Sipe pass in the Jan. 4, 1981 playoff game at frozen-solid Cleveland Stadium cost the Browns a chance to play for the AFC Championship.
Red Right 88, along with The Drive and The Fumble, became iconic for the wrong reasons in Browns lore.
And now along comes Chudzinski with the opportunity to lift the Browns from the depths of the AFC North basement, which has become a dunghill for them in 10 of the 14 seasons since the rebirth in 1999.
Only two winning seasons (2002 and 2007) in 14 seasons. Just one double-digit winning season (10 victories in 2007) and they failed to make the playoffs with that one. An overall record covered with shame and disgrace.
Now, Banner and his henchmen must make a definitive decision by the time training camp starts. Weeden need not be anointed as the starter right off the bat, but it would be surprising if he doesn’t take a majority of the snaps and is not under center in the season opener.
All he has to do is go out and back up the brave talk he’s currently laying down. It’s much easier to display this kind of confidence in the offseason than it is when helmets and shoulder pads are strapped on.