Pat Shurmur announced today that Brandon Weeden was going to sit out the fourth pre-season game this week. It has created debate all over sports talk radio and twitter as people try to figure out what their stance is on the topic. On the one hand, Brandon Weeden and the starting offense might want to have something in their memories that’s a bit more positive than what they did last against the Eagles. On the other hand, there’s always an injury risk to NFL games and that seems to be the reason most commonly given why coaches don’t play their starters at all in the fourth pre-season game. I can honestly see both sides of the equation, but I tend to want to be more critical because it’s just a safe move more than it is a smart one.
A coach would need some serious credibility, and stones quite frankly, to risk getting his QB injured in the fourth pre-season game. As the Browns are preparing for life with a brand new owner and a new front office, Pat Shurmur might not feel like he has the safety or security in his position to take a risk and give his rookie some additional reps. Then again, that same lack of safety and security should give him all the incentive to take some risks to try and have a good enough season to make himself more difficult to remove.
Of course, I’m also projecting a bit here. Maybe Pat Shurmur is just doing exactly what he thinks is best. Maybe he thinks Weeden is as ready as he’s going to be and the marginal effect of playing in a fourth pre-season game isn’t worth the risk to him or any of his fellow starters on the offensive line. If Shurmur wants to save guys like Joe Thomas and Alex Mack, that really negatively affects the risk profile of playing his rookie quarterback. Alex Mack and Joe Thomas, despite their struggles against the Eagles, are exactly the types of players that have no reason to suit up for a fourth pre-season game and risk injury.
In the end though, I’m left a little reluctant to co-sign on this. Not that anyone was asking me to, but this one thought has been so pervasive for me the last year in sports. You can’t become the Pats or Steelers by trying to do exactly what they do. In the end, you end up hiring a member of that tree and importing a knockoff that probably won’t give you a fraction of what it is you hoped to gain.
That’s not to say that playing the fourth pre-season game is some wild innovation that will allow Shurmur and the Browns to close the gap with their competitors in the AFC North by magic. It just seems to be indicative of one of many things that could be changed up in order to differentiate from others. It is another opportunity to try and innovate, do things differently and try to gain a competitive advantage. Like so many other things it feels like the Browns just played it safe in trying to be unimpeachable.
We’ll find out this off-season just how unimpeachable they can make themselves.