Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Scraping the bottom of the barrel

Wonder what Jason Campbell is thinking right about now. Can’t be good.

Anointed the new Browns starting quarterback Wednesday, he had to wonder why now? What took you so long? Is that what they think of me?

When Rob Chudzinski had to make a change at quarterback after Brandon Weeden went down with a thumb injury late in the game two loss in Baltimore and missed a couple of games, he chose Brian Hoyer, the No. 3 guy, to replace him.

Not saying that was a mistake. Turns out Hoyer was not just better than Weeden. He was much, much better.

Now consider what must have been going through Campbell’s head at the time. “He picks a journeyman who has started only one NFL game over me? What’s with that? I’ve got several years as a starter in this league and he picks someone else?”

Despite what Chudzinski says about Sunday’s game in Kansas City and how he’s giving the Browns the best chance to win with Campbell, there is no question what the pecking order is at the position. All things being equal and everyone healthy, it’s Hoyer, Weeden and Campbell.

Chudzinski, in large part due to the ineptitude of Weeden, is making a move that can’t be labeled as anything but desperate. He’s not going to say that, of course. And he never will. But that’s exactly what it is.

Parse the words he uttered when he announced the change. “I believe it’s in the best interest of the team ultimately (to make the switch) and gives us the best chance to win,” he said. “I’m excited to see what Jason will do with this opportunity.”

In other words, he doesn’t want the locker room falling apart because that is a distinct possibility if he continues to play a quarterback whose confidence is shot. And of course he’s excited. Watching anyone but Weeden at the position would excite anyone.

The season, with Hoyer out for the year and Weeden playing like a rookie with a deer-in-the-headlights look, is getting away from the head coach. And he’ll do anything to make certain the locker room does not wind up in a fractured state.

In spite of what they say publicly, there is no way the rest of the players on offense still have any confidence in Weeden. He seems to be playing worse not just by the game, not just by the half and not just by the quarter, but by the play.

Something had to be done. The big question is why did it take so long? This is a decision that should have been reached Monday. Maybe even after the embarrassing loss last Sunday in Green Bay.

Not saying that Campbell is the be-all and end-all to the Browns’ problems. Probably not. But he is definitely an improvement over Weeden.

He’ll go out there Sunday against the best defense in the National Football League and make mistakes. Count on it. Get ready for them. But he won’t make the same kinds of mistakes we’ve seen from Weeden. He’ll play a much more representative game than Weeden would have.

He can’t be expected to come right in and be successful with an offense that barely has a running game and an offensive line that can be sieve-like in pass protection and cannot be counted on to play solid football for an entire game.

But when Campbell makes the kinds of plays that make you scratch your head and wonder why he made them, consider this: If you don’t like what he’s doing, remember who is backing him up.

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