One of the things we talked about most last year at this time was the maturity of Colt McCoy. He got the team together for “Camp Colt” down in Texas. He spent a weekend throwing with Brett Favre to try and improve his game. He had the support of his teammates in camp and did all the big interviews with the national writers that came through town. That was last year. This year, Brandon Weeden has filled that role.
Even as Pat Shurmur hasn’t named a starter, there’s no questioning it. Weeden, not McCoy, was the first to head out to the crowd to sign autographs after practice. McCoy went out later to big applause, but only after Weeden had finished. While McCoy was making fans smile, Weeden was smiling into a host of cameras and microphones. And as Colt McCoy headed in for the day, Weeden wolfed down an Uncrustables before sitting down with ESPN’s John Clayton for a one-on-one interview.
Weeden, like McCoy a year ago, is saying all the right things. He admires the greed of Brett Favre. He admires the ability of Peyton Manning. The hybrid of the two? “That’d be one heckuva quarterback,” he says with a pleasant southern accent and what could be an award-winning smile. If the Indians need a spot starter, Weeden said, “I’d need about six months,” before chuckling as he walked away. This early in camp, that’s what fans have to go on, and it was only a year ago with Colt McCoy that they also learned that it isn’t nearly enough.
In fairness to Weeden, people are talking about more than his attitude and media savvy. No, I’m not talking about his advanced age for a rookie. They’re talking about his rocket arm. But don’t forget a year ago. In a Yahoo! article by Les Carpenter everyone was talking about Colt McCoy’s overwhelming accuracy, including his first preseason game where he completed 13 of 13 passes.
None of this is to rain on your parade if you’re excited for the Weeden era of Cleveland Browns football. It’s merely to point out that you need to remember how difficult it is for anyone to transition from the potential of draft day to the actuality of playing quality football in the NFL. Weeden is mature. He has life-experience as a professional athlete. He has a rocket arm. He wouldn’t be the first to tout all those things and still not become a legit NFL starter.
Kyle Boller retired this weekend, in case you hadn’t heard. That gave me pause. He was thought to have a “good head” and a “live arm” after excelling in a “pro style offense.” In his first three seasons with Baltimore, in games he started, Boller went 18-16 completing 55.6% of his passes for 5618 yards, 31 TDs and 32 INTs. He was drafted 19th in the 2003 draft by Phil Savage and the Baltimore Ravens. He was the third quarterback after Carson Palmer and Byron Leftwich. Brandon Weeden was selected 22nd this year just like a QB was selected 22nd in 2003. That quarterback was Rex Grossman.
These are all anecdotal points in some ways, but they could very well be instructive, and that’s the point. Brandon Weeden might be Kyle Boller or Rex Grossman. That might even be an improvement over what we’ve seen from the Browns over the last five-plus seasons. It isn’t wrong to hope that Brandon Weeden is the next great NFL quarterback and that he just happens to be with the Cleveland Browns. Key word is hope. Expecting him to be the next great quarterback is another thing altogether.
Expectations are something Browns fans know all too well. Don’t let them get away from you because of some interviews or some rocket-arm highlights on the second day of training camp. No matter how much we might wish, this thing can only be so scripted.
Many people used the stories and words around Colt McCoy to try to predict a happy ending to the story a year ago. That was just part of the reason it was so traumatic when “A New Hope” ran straight into “The Empire Strikes Back” in the 2011 NFL season for Browns fans. Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson could be “The Return of the Jedi,” but no amount of training camp words will make it so. In fact, we’ve learned that these words aren’t very good predictors at all.