April 19, 2014

Brandon Weeden, Rookies maul McCoy’s sputtering squad

Through the wind and the rain and all the tumultuous headlines and sound bytes that could burden a franchise in dire need of a win, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden led his previously winless team to a 27-10 victory in front of a packed house on a chilly and rainy October afternoon, answering the season-long, progress-based question: If the 2012 Cleveland Browns played the 2011 Cleveland Browns, which team would come out on top?

Though opposing quarterback Colt McCoy and bruising defensive lineman Phil Taylor did as much as they could in attempt to give their team a chance to pull out a win, it was Weeden, flanked by rookie teammates Trent Richardson and wide receiver Josh Gordon who proved to be all too much for their otherwise up-and-down opponents.

“It feels good,” said Weeden following his first win as a professional quarterback. “We’ve been so close so many times and to actually get over the hump and close a game out, play the way we did in the second half, it feels good. If feels really good.”

Weeden, despite starting out by completing one of his first five pass attempts, finished the afternoon by throwing for 297 yards (18-for-29 passing) with two touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of 119.4. Leading the league in interceptions coming into the contest, the red-headed rookie managed to keep the damage to a minimum, settling for multiple passes which should have been picked off but fell to the ground thanks to mental mistakes by the opposition. Gordon, the supplemental second-round draft pick out of Baylor, continued to provide a spark in his debut season, hauling in four passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. The arial attack was undoubtedly balanced by Richardson who carried the ball 18 times for 102 yards, finding the end zone once. He added 26 more yards through the air with four receptions.

The key play came on a third-and-one play following a touchdown by McCoy, connecting with tight end Evan Moore on a five-yard pass to the back corner of the end zone – a drive puzzled together by several short passes and fortuitous penalties on the defense — which closed their lead to 10-7. With momentum potentially shifting, Weeden administered a text book fake handoff to Richardson before rolling to his right to find Gordon two steps ahead of free safety Mike Adams. Gordon hauled in the deep ball, netting his team 66 yards and six points. From this point on, Weeden and his team would methodically pull away while the Billy Winn and John Hughes-led defense would hold McCoy and his band of misfits — would-be leaders in running back Peyton Hillis and tight end Ben Watson were both inactive due to injury — to three additional points thanks to a Phil Dawson 56-yard field goal.

“You have to give these guys credit,” McCoy said of the opposing defense. “The secondary played well, forcing me to check down to my third or fourth options and handing us a lot of unfortunate third-and-longs. Our injuries may have hurt us, but we can’t make excuses — we gave it our all, but those guys played a hell of a game.”

For the victors, rookie lineman Billy Winn recorded four tackles and had a key stop in the backfield which resulted in a second-half fumble. Defensive lineman Frostee Rucker recorded one sack and had two passes deflected at the line of scrimmage, one resulting in an interception by rookie linebacker Craig Robertson. Though Weeden had his hands full with defensive tackle Phil Taylor (four tackles, one sack) and veteran linebacker Chris Gocong (seven tackles, one sack), it would end up being the solid blocking of rookie offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz — nullifying the impact of defensive end Jabaal Sheard — and the rest of the offensive line that would give their quarterback enough time in the pocket to get his play-makers involved.

“We knew going into this game that we were going to finish and we were going to play the full sixty minutes,” said Winn of his team’s first victory. “Give it everything we got and leave it on the field.  I think we were able to get that done.”

Weeden’s unit, to this point, has been in the spotlight due to their winless record and impending sale with highway rest stop mogul Jimmy Haslam III offering $1 billion to purchase the franchise. Meanwhile, McCoy’s team continues to deal with injuries and public relation nightmares due to off-field player issues as well as Randy Lerner, the team’s owner, being largely unavailable in these times of struggle. With his team’s defense and special teams keeping him in most games, McCoy has regressed mightily from his rookie campaign, providing an offense which has sputtered at best, one which continues to be in dire need of play-makers at each and every skill position.

Weeden was the last rookie quarterback to notch a win after having started all six of his team’s contests. Turning 29 years of age on this very day, the 6-foot-3-inch QB continues to mature with each passing week. Certainly, its a lot more enjoyable to mature in victory than it is with defeat.

“It’s a lot more fun coming out of that locker room with everybody excited,” said Weeden. “Going to work tomorrow is going to be a lot more fun than it has been in the last five weeks and that’s why we play the game. We want to have fun, win games and we finally got that notch on our belt.”

Editor’s note: If anyone can actually simulate the 2011 Browns taking on the 2012 versionMadden 13? — I’d love to know the actual result. Clarity-based update added to lede at 6:00pm.

(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Awwww jeez… if a man can’t even come across as a bully on the internet, then where can he? I need to practice my cyber-bullying.

  • Harv 21

    I’m a McCoy fan and think he was doomed to fail last year – but the difference is still obvious to me. Watching yesterday I remembered McCoy last year escaping pressure and heaving one of his few downfield completions for 30+ yards just before he was crunched, and I loved it because it was freaking heroic, like a drowning puppy dragging itself up the sewer pipe.

    Weeden is still very raw but doesn’t need to be Heroic Puppy to throw the ball 40 yards downfield on a line and loosen up the defense. I still think an effective QB’s most important asset is his brain, but Colt doesn’t (yet) have the experience and smarts necessary to overcome his lack of physical raw material to run a pass-happy offense. When I saw him in camp he was actually zipping some medium-range throws, and guessing that with a good team one day he can be effective in a crafty veteran way, once he has timing down with trusted receivers and can outthink the defenders’ size and speed.

  • Jaker

    Can I be the hot chick?

  • Garry_Owen

    I’ve got you down as “emo/stoner.” Sorry. How do you look in a cheerleader outfit?

  • mgbode

    Math Pentathlon meeting is on Tuesday. Guys. Guys? Hey, where did everybody go?

  • mgbode

    VP & Harv hit on it well. I’ll just add in that you can give a Brady Quinn a better running game (Charles) and receivers (Bowe/Moeki), but you will still likely be left with under 5YPA (4.78 last weekend in his first start this year).

  • Harv 21

    He’s fallen in and can’t get up! Clapping his hands, clicking his heels, nothin’s working. Ok, your turn to fetch him, I got the last one.

  • Harv 21

    Whoa, hold on. I’m here with the courtesy jaws o’life to extricate y’all from the dark alley of awkward comments you just wandered down. Disqus lets me do this once as a courtesy, but next time you’ll need the service package. The easiest thing is to watch where you’re going.
    [Pfft. Newbs.]

  • http://twitter.com/Dennymayo Denny

    These comments remind me of a story of a boy and his bear.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Thanks, Pat. I concur wholeheartedly.

  • Steve

    Comparing the 2012 Browns to the 2011 Browns is not appropriate either though. You have to adjust for how much better the rest of the league is too. Sure, the 2012 Browns may be better than the 2011 Browns, but it looks like the rest of the league improved by even more. So we’re even further behind in terms of contending.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    It’s undoubtedly easier to tear something down than to build it up. Especially when reading and thinking are involved, nuance be damned.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Such value added.

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Needz mor picturez

  • Pork

    Some teams progressed some regressed. To say every other team except the Browns is better than last year is nonsensical

  • Tuckybuck

    I don’t get it..

  • mgbode

    you think 2011 AFC < 2012 AFC?
    by what measure do you think this is true?

  • Garry_Owen

    Hey, I had to ask. Due diligence, and all.

  • mgbode

    Bryce Harper wants you to know that’s a clown comment braw

  • mgbode

    McKayla is not impressed

  • Tuckybuck

    I don’t get it..

  • Jack

    To be fair, this isn’t your sharpest piece. The article doesn’t make much sense, and it certainly isn’t a satire (unless you somehow knew it would elicit the reactions it did and intended to satirize your readers…then it’s quite the achievement). Seems pretty clear this missed the mark. People have come to expect a pretty high standard on the site, and disproportionate reactions aside, might make sense to just toss out a ‘Yeah, not my best, fellas’ rather than a misplaced (imo) “Too early in the week for satire, gents?” Obviously you don’t owe anyone an explanation, but probably no need to fan the flames and place yourself in opposition to your readership.

    Generally like the work here, but feel like the filler pieces have really fallen off some. That’s my more reasoned, still critical, non-vitriolic take (again, not that anyone cares/owes me a thing).

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ Scott @ WFNY

    Never claimed that this was my “sharpest piece,” but by no means did I expect — or do I feel that I deserve — people who are typically not active members of the WFNY community to anonymously creep out of the darkness merely to add absolutely nothing. I’m not above criticism, but I like to think that WFNY as an outlet is above the nonsense.

  • Jack

    Agree. And sorry y’all have to deal with that when you put yourselves out there. Gonna happen with more frequency as you continue to grow your readership, I’d imagine. But at least you have one more thing in common with the athletes you write about–connecting with fans is always gonna let the bad in with the good, deserved/proportionate/measured or not.

  • cg

    I did not enjoy any of this at all.

  • REEPJP

    If we’re looking for things to complain about, what ever happened to Rocktober!?!? You guys do a fine job here by me!

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    Monday afternoons at WFNY

  • Garry_Owen

    I’m Estevez. I’m Estevez!

  • Garry_Owen

    What about we regulars who creep out of the darkness?

  • zonk

    By the measure that everyone is a year older and wiser.

  • mgbode

    tell that to the Ravens D

  • Steve

    I didn’t say that though. I didn’t say every other team improved, I said the league improved as a whole.

    To both you and mgbode, the talent level across sports generally goes up each year. Yes, some years might be some exceptions, but there are almost always more guys who are talented enough to join the league who become eligible than there are guys who want to leave the game. This is increasing the talent level of the entire league. The #1 overall pick this year is a perfect example. Andrew Luck joins the league, Manning moves to Denver, Tebow moves to New York, other moves are made to find roster spots for displaced guys and the eventual victim is some third string QB that we’ve probably never heard of.

    You can’t just say the Browns added talent so they’ll be better. While that is true, everyone else added talent too, and you have to take into account the new environment the Browns will be dealing with.

  • mgbode

    yes, and every year players also get older, injured, etc.
    the AFC is decidedly weaker this year than last. if Denver holds on tonight, there will be only 2 teams with winning records. and one of those teams lost 3 of it’s best defensive starters and has barely won in all but one of their victories (Baltimore) and the other just got their butts handed to them on national TV.
    the AFC is full of teams getting old (NE, Pitt, Baltimore, Denver) and teams too young at QB (Miami, Indy, Cleveland, Tenn, Jax, Cinci) and teams that were never really good enough (SD, NYJ) and teams that have been just plain bad (Oakland, KC, Buffalo, Jax, and yes, Cleveland). and then Houston (definitely good despite GB game)

  • Believelander

    Scott, you should probably actually report the real final score in the opening paragraph. The 27-10 was in the fantasy game, the real one was 34-24.

  • Believelander

    “The O-line was completely in shambles”

    We have 1 different starter compared to last year. While it’s important, and our line has had a season to grow as a unit, this narrative has been overused to death and is highly inaccurate. Our line play was far from great, but McCoy was sacked on 6.9% of his dropbacks. NFL average for top 32 qualifying starters was 6.5%, and if you include the dregs backup play it’s probably higher overall. Quite a few playoff QBs were sacked as often or more often than McCoy, including Alex Smith, Ben Roethlisberger, and Aaron Rodgers all going down much more often. Roethlisberger was sacked on over 7.9% of dropbacks and Alex Smith on just a whisker under 10% of dropbacks.

    I’m not trying to pick on your post – but Colt McCoy is not franchise QB material. He doesn’t have the attributes, and it’s not fair because he’s a helluva guy and plays his butt off. I will agree with you that the ‘brain trust’ of Shurmur and Holmgren thrust him into a position to fail – they shoved his round peg into their fat square hole of a system that doesn’t play to McCoy’s strengths AT ALL, and forced him to learn that new system on the go while throwing 35+ times a game. All recipes for failure. Sadly at the end of the day, McCoy has proven he doesn’t have the arm strength to throw quick accurate 20+ yard passes, OR lethal short and intermediate accuracy to make up for that lack of arm strength. The greats have both, but you can get by without the former if you have the latter (though you can’t get by on the former without the latter, Derek Anderson I’m Looking At You).

    I really wanted Colt McCoy to succeed and become our starter – I think almost all Cleveland fans wanted nothing more than for us to pluck a plucky Pro Bowler out of the middle of the third round, but it’s just not to be. Maybe Weeden will be a great starter, maybe he will be worse than McCoy, but there’s enough talent there to warrant an evaluation. The good news is, if he goes down, I’d say our backup is about as solid as any team in the league. Cowboys and Titans may have better backups, but I’m hard pressed to think of any others.

  • Believelander

    Your mom’s blog sucks.

  • Believelander

    I laughed and smiled at this piece. It was fun. The only point of confusion was that Scott errantly stated before diving into the fiction that the Browns beat the Bengals 27-10, when they actually beat them 34-24.

  • Steve

    Number of winning records through just 6 games is, decidedly, not a good measure of how much the league (entire, not just AFC) has improved/declined since last year.

    Yes, right now the AFC looks wide open, and only Houston has been very impressive. But that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been more talented infused into the league. It may just be more spread out than in years past. We’ll see as how the season shapes out.

    And we need to get back to my original point. The basis for each and every Browns team needs to be the environment they have to deal with. Not last year’s team, because they never play last year’s team, and the two deal with a completely different set of circumstances (note: Frowns’ chart of QBs the Browns have played, while rudimentary, is a good example of this).

    It’s nice if the Browns draft good players and generally have more talent than the previously did, but they need to start gaining ground on the rest of the league. We’re still waiting on that.

  • mgbode

    yes, the Browns environment they have to deal with is the AFC first and foremost. the AFC looks weaker (or wide-open), therein the Browns environment is weaker.

    i think we are definitely gaining ground. take a look at point differential. take a look at how our offense is going since week1. there are lots of positive trends/signs especially given that the AFC as a whole has taken a step back.

    but continue to say the AFC is more wide open, yet the Browns environment tougher. continue to say that wins are not a good measure through 6 games, yet the Browns measure of wins through 6 games is the only measure that counts.

  • 5280×2

    I somehow agree with you. I am a fan of Weeden. I also liked what McCoy was trying to do. Your wording is very fair, that’s why I said ‘somehow’, I think… Go Browns! (Sorry man, it’s 4:34 a.m. here, looking forward to Browns victory over the Colts and couldn’t sleep!)