July 24, 2014

Brandon Weeden and Browns fans left looking for answers

Brandon Weeden doesn’t know.

The six-foot-four-inch, rocket-armed rookie leads the NFL in batted passes by a wide margin, having added four more to his first-year resúmé in his most recent loss. Said to have been mature beyond his class, having leadership qualities unparalleled, Weeden is nearing 30 years of age. But what he has in measurables and intangibles, he lacks in instinct and whatever quality it is that allows one to learn, manicure and progress over time — let’s call it adaptability. When asked what Weeden plans on doing to rectify this glaring, season-long issue, he offered the most telling of quotes.

“I don’t really know,” Weeden said. “It’s been one of our better plays. I don’t have an answer for you.”

The plays being referenced are the short, middle-of-the-field passes which are hallmark of the West Coast Offense. Weeden’s downfall, however, comes when several of these “plays” are check-downs following the quarterback’s progressions, mis-reads and receiver watching. Defensive linemen, stoutly blocked by the Browns’ stellar offensive line, simply have to sit back, watch the rookie’s eyes and time his release — the result: batted ball after batted ball, killing drives, crushing morale and wasting crucial downs.

Potentially the most damning of the entire debacle, Weeden knows why these passes are being swatted out of the air like mid-summer mosquitoes.

“If the defensive linemen aren’t getting to me, they just kind of stand there, watch my eyes and stick their arms up,” said Weeden. “I’m trying to throw over guys three yards down the field [on shallow crossing routes] and that can be challenging.”

Understanding the problem is half of the battle; making the changes necessary over the course of the four-plus months of practice is the larger half. Weeden, however, has decided to be the problem rather than the solution.

This is not to say that the fault exists solely on the shoulder pads of the red-headed wonder. Weeden’s head coach is an alleged offensive mastermind; a former quarterback coach in his own right, Pat Shurmur’s know-how earned him the subsequent positions of offensive coordinator and, alas, head coach. Shurmur’s right hand man, Brad Childress was also a quarterbacks coach in addition to his multiple roles as an offensive coordinator. Mark Whipple, Mike Holmgren’s hand-picked molder of the pass-throwing clay, has multiple line items on his resúmé that say that he too was a quarterbacks coach prior to landing in Cleveland.

This is not to say that this troika of terror has not attempted to correct their quarterback’s mistakes — this is, after all, a correctable offense. Even the John Madden football series allows one to obtain medals and extra accolades, along with added experience with game play, in a pocket presence mini-camp; the user forced to move the quarterback around the pocket prior to lofting passes toward the desired target. The allegedly cerebral Weeden merely has to step a few inches up into the pocket (or left, or right) to create new passing lanes, allowing the ball to fly unabated toward his receiver of choice. Instead, Weeden acts as if he is still on the mound, donning a High Desert Mavericks uniform, throwing pitches from a statuesque set.

Shurmur reiterates that the reason Weeden’s passes are batted due to the playbook and the location of the receivers with regard to the quarterback and the defensive linemen. He too knows the issues, issues that have been prevalent all season but were previously chalked up to a rookie quarterback having to deal with a professional pass-rush. But on Week 15 when the game is supposed to start slowing down in the minds of the men who are tasked with executing plays, things appear to still be flying through Weeden’s head at ludicrous speed — he admitted to not even seeing the defender who intercepted his pass early in the third quarter, subsequently setting up a lead-snatching drive for the Redskins.

The result? More of the same. No snaps from the shotgun, allowing more space and alternative passing lanes; no bootlegs that allow the admittedly immobile Weeden to throw the ball in space. An inexplicable avoidance of in-game (or in-season change), four more pass attempts falling to the earth behind the line of scrimmage, and another losing effort in an otherwise winnable contest.

Weeden would call the Browns’ 38-21 home loss “frustrating.”

It’s easy to attribute the same adjective to many layers of what transpired. And not just in that game — this has been a season-long drip that continues to only serve to further submerge the Orange and Brown dinghy known as Shurmur’s playbook.  Getcha life jackets ready.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeremy-Humbert/100001904340553 Jeremy Humbert

    You know guys, I have been all for letting Weeden learn on the job, and take his lumps, but at this point, its like none of the coaches give a damn about the QB play. They continue to feed “their” plays to them ;like they are gospel, and then blame them when it doesn’t work out.. The only reason we won’t have McCoy in for any of these last few games is because he seems to be tired of being force fed their (the O coaches) BS. I bet that is why he hasn’t thrown a pass in either of the games he saw time… Being in the lead was an easy cover for not letting one of your young men throw any sort of pass… we all know he knows the plays…

  • http://www.waitingfornextyear.com Craig Lyndall

    No known facts. I’ve wavered on a lot of this stuff for a long time, but I keep coming back to trying to talk myself into Joe Banner compromising and that sounds like the least realistic thing in my head every time I get there. I think Joe Banner won’t make the same mistakes that Holmgren did by not pulling the trigger on Mangini. He’s going to be intent on his structure, his style and ultimately his people, I think. There’s a weird outside chance that could include Heckert, but I just can’t get comfortable with that. The only rumor and innuendo we ever hear is about potential replacements. That could be job hunters feeding the rumor mill, but I just am not hearing enough counter-rumor to justify assuming anyone who is here right now will remain here going forward.

    These are not my preferences necessarily, but I’m just trying to predict based on what I am seeing hearing and also what I’m not seeing or hearing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Butcher98 Jay Butcher

    I hate the comparison of other rookie qb’s to Weeden. Just look at all the adapting that goes on. Shanahan to RG3 then to Cousins. Ariens with Luck. Pete Carroll to Wilson. I just don’t see the same things happening with the Browns. Its so ego driven IMO, do it my way or go home.I liked the Weeden pick he was an improvement over Colt, but he isn’t getting any better. For people saying Colt is better I say this, Gordon wouldn’t have those long td’s and Benjamin wouldn’t have had his yesterday. Weeden’s arm is that much better. Saying that I’m glad I got a Richardson jersey and not a Weeden.

  • mgbode

    you should have gone with a Schwartz and the matching ring.

  • Derek

    How about a veteran wide receiver as well.

  • mgbode

    he definitely has at least gotten himself into some great situations:

    *Peyton’s first QB coach
    *OC of only “new” Browns playoff run (and it’s not the offenses fault that we lost that game – well, except Northcutt)
    *Roethlisburger’s OC when Pitt became a pass-oriented team.
    *Andrew Luck’s OC and acting-HC

  • heyylenny

    Instead of tailoring the system to their players strengths, it seems the Browns often try to have the players fit into “their system.” Weeden came from a spread-em-out, all-shotgun offense and ever since he got here, P.S. & Company keep shoving him under center running dink and dunk routes. Funny how Weeden often looks a bit better when the team is down and they have to take more chances down the field. Maybe teams like Washington and Seattle are having success with their rookie QBs because they run more plays that cater to their QBs strengths. I’m not saying it’s all coaching but I don’t feel Weeden is getting alot of help either.

    Even Weeden said: “I think Kyle Shanahan called a great game and tailored what they do very well to the personnel they have.” The shade.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    Good point. Why don’t you see more QBs wearing visors?

  • Derek

    Fans perception does not seem to affect the Dolans and the Indians. And we all know how they reportedly are still making money even with the lousy attendance.

  • The Other Tim

    Look, I’m just frustrated. It’s more than likely that we’re starting all over again next season. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a first round QB to outperform a third rounder from the same draft.
    I look at the division right now and I can’t help but think that if we were assembled properly, we could make the playoffs next year or the year after that. I see some progress, but I’d really rather see wins.

  • Kenny_Chill

    Yep. It’s dismally bad. One of the worst in the league. We have two great linemen and a bunch of guys who should be on a practice squad somewhere.

  • SDA

    The only problem is Colt cant throw a deep ball. I love the kid but every defense in the NFL stacks the line against him with tight coverage on the receivers. His heart is amazing but his arm just isn’t there.

  • ravin

    hahah or if Weeden would stop throwing interceptions, and the offense would stop going 3 and out. If you’re saying our D is not the only bright spot on this team, then you haven’t watched very many games.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    Forget the ring! The ring is bubkis! I found it in a cracker jack box!

  • saggy

    Weeden can’t throw a deep ball either – at least not accurately. and you saw the Redskins stack the line against him, too.

  • saggy

    can’t agree at all. atrocious is when you lead the lead in sacks allowed. we have 2 pro-bowlers on our line. it’s one of the best in the AFC.

  • saggy

    just have to say, with everything that’s been said – the Browns need to give Weeden another shot next year. It’s too soon to dump him in the trash. he has talent. They need to see if they can cultivate it.

  • mgbode

    dismally bad? we have incredible pass blocking. count the seconds that Weeden has to throw the ball.
    run blocking, it’s bottom third, but it was built for pass blocking and pass blocking is what it is very good at. top10 without a doubt.
    you want dismally bad, catch a Bears game.

  • mgbode

    hey, that’s not funny. nothings funny. :)

  • mgbode

    the defense is ahead of the offense, no doubt. in many games this year that has been evident.
    but, yesterday, it was torched in the second half. i am not willing to just say that it was the offenses fault that they couldn’t stop the Redskins from moving the ball at will against them.

  • mgbode

    I see your schwartz is as big as mine, but do you know how to handle it?

  • SDA

    Totally disagree saggy, look at the passes to Gordon and Benjamin. Weeden’s arm and accuracy are fine. The thing I question is his head. I think Colt can see the game in his head but his arm just isn’t up to par. The only thing I wonder is if audibles have been taken away from Weeden? I mean,if the plays come in late and he gets to the line and its the wrong play does he have the option to audible out? If not it takes a lot away from his development.

  • Ubaldo4Prez

    Does every loss have to be put on the coach? Just a week ago the majority of fans were saying we should retain him. Are teams not allowed to lose? We’re not the Los Angeles here. Baltimore has been looking bad lately, should Harbaugh be fired?

    I don’t know if you’re watching the same Browns but going from week 1 last year to now is light years of improvement. Look at the development of

    Gordon, Little, and Cameron, the improvement of these undrafted LBs, Hardesty is finding new life, I could go on. These young players are playing hard for the coach. He definitely has control over his team, there isn’t any internal problems surfacing unlike some of these other teams.

    There hasn’t been as many bad game management issues. He’s clearly getting better at in-game calls. Questioning playcalls is fair, but overall the offensive calls have been okay, We didn’t have to ask “Why aren’t you running Trent on the goalline?!”. There were mistakes on many passing plays but I’d put all of those Weeden. Shurmurs face said it all.

    If you still want a new coach, tell me who is realistically going to come here? And what are the chances that the entire offensive and defensive formula are kept? I’d say slim. Somebody will come in and want their guys on the staff. Next thing you know we’re back in the 3-4 Defense and running a new offense. If we hire a new coach it sets this franchise back another year. We’re building the team the same way as the Houston Texans did. They stuck with their coach and continued to let their young team grow together with their coach – even through some awful seasons. Now look at them, they will probably be a top 5 team for the next 5-7 years.

    Continuity is a good thing.

  • mgbode

    the Texans are a good example of sticking with a plan and executing it.
    the 49ers are a good example of just needing the right coach/system to make the next step.

    if Haslam/Banner think the guys we have are the right guys, then they should keep them. if not, then they should replace them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    I was thinking the same thing, and Arians isn’t simplifying anything about the Colts offense for Luck.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    At least McCoy has enough talent and football IQ to not get his passes batted down. Weeden leads the whole league with 30% more passes batted down than anyone else. And it comes from staring down receivers. Haden told him about that the first week of training camp. But Weeden has done it consistently in every game he’s played.

    Is Weeden capable of developing at all??

    Cousins was looking off receivers to fool DBs, and it was his first NFl start. What’s wrong with Brandon Weeden is a lot more than a terrible coach. It’s Brandon Weeden.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    Weeden’s strength is not throwing the long pass. He ranks at the bottom of the league in that category and has completed fewer long passes after 14 games than McCoy did.

    And he didn’t come from a vertical offense in college. He was in a very simplified half field offense with lots of short passes. He wasn’t very accurate with long passes there either and relied on throwing the ball up to areas of the field where fast receivers could track the ball and run under it.

    Beyond that he was staring down his receivers all through college, too. And rumor says that he still hasn’t learned the play book and by his own admission, he falls asleep whenever he tries to watch film.

    The last thing anyone would conclude from this is that Weeden deserves another year to rank at the bottom of the league and fail to make progress or fix even the most fixable problems.

    He wouldn’t be the first big-armed QB to be an NFL bust because he refuses to learn basic mechanics and has never fallen in love with the mental side of the game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    The O-line has been described as “one of the best pass blocking lines in the NFl and ranks no lower than 5th in the league.

    Shurmur may be a terrible coach, but he’s done everything he can think of to make things easier for Weeden this year. When the plays look too complicated, he has simplified over and over again and walks Weeden through everything that he needs to know for each game.

    Weeden takes that so much as his due, he complains if even one pass route that wasn’t reviewed gets into the game.

    Weeden obviously gets rattled under pressure, and over and over the coaches talk him through it give him simple very short passes to complete until he gets a grip.

    They started out the season telling the O-line to take holding penalties to keep most of the pressure off of Weeden. They even tried setting him up with simple 2 read plays in the 2nd game to try to teach him to look off his receivers until the last minute (see TD pass play to TR in 1st Bengals game). But when it’s not perfectly laid out for him, he goes right back to picking a WR before the snap and staring him down.

    I can’t think of any coach who deserves this kind of QB challenge, but Shurmur has certainly tried everything he and the other coaches can think of but nothing seems to work.

    Now they just look very worried watching Weeden from the sidelines.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    Saggy, are you talking about last year?

    Weeden is one of the least sacked and pressured QBs in the league. He gets incredible protection and has too much time to waste in the pocket holding onto the ball too long.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    Colt is like Luck and the other successful QBs. He knows the playbook inside and out and watches tons of film to make sure he knows what the next opponent is likely to do.

    It doesn’t seem like Weeden cares that much. He’s more of a Cliff Notes kind of student of the game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    Colt has completed more deep balls than Weeden in the same number of games. At Pro Football Focus where they look at deep passing, Weeden ranks 27th in the league, just ahead of Gabbert, and has only 14 long passes by their count. McCoy ranked 13th in 2010, tied with Eli Manning, and 17th in 2011, one place behind Tom Brady.

    McCoy has completed more long passes than Weeden and he ranks higher in the league doing it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    Shurmur won’t let QBs audible on their own, neither McCoy or Weeden.

    Those long balls to Gordon and this week to Benjamin are the only kind of long balls Weeden can throw because he’s roughly 25% on long balls overall, while QBs who are good at it hit between 40 and 50% of their long passes.

    Just like in college, Weeden has to throw to an area of the field instead of a specific target. He throws it up in a high arc, and the really fast receiver outruns the coverage, tracks the ball like a center fielder, and runs under it for a perfect catch.

    Weeden has a strong arm but he struggles to complete anything over 10 to 15 yards downfield. As a rookie, McCoy’s Y/A was 7.1 yards and longer than Weeden’s. Colt’s yards per pass was 11.7 yards, while Weeden’s has only recently come up to 11.5.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    Sounds pretty similar to me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    Third round, like Joe Montana and others, couldn’t be good.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    San Francisco had been losing as long and as badly as the Browns before Harbaugh took the coaching job in 2011, the same year as Shurmur came here. That first year, the 49ers were in the Conference Championship game, and the Browns were still losing like they had been before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    Around 35 – 36 minutes to our 23 -24. We can’t convert on third downs and sustain drives — rank 30th in the league this year.

    Last year with McCoy and a much weaker team, we ranked 12th.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    When you lose time of possession as bad as we did on Sunday, no defense can hang that long with the opponent’s offense. That’s the way football works.

  • mgbode

    the defense started showing major cracks in the 2nd quarter and was just a sieve the entire 2nd half. yes, it helps if the offense can help out on the TOP, but the defense had a bad game. not sure why it’s bad to note that.

  • mgbode

    hey we get it. you love Colt McCoy. you hate Weeden.
    the “eye test” is bad for anyone talking about Weeden, but it’s great to throw out spaghetti like the coaches looking worried watching Weeden?
    the sole reason your “character” resides on the internet is to post positive things about Colt and negative things about Weeden and any attempt to have a rational debate is meaningless.
    moving along.

  • C_CLE

    Except what you just said has nothing to do with Kaepernick. Thanks for that.

  • dcdawg33

    Weeden looks alot more like Drew Henson than Kurt Warner at this stage….no progress. Article hit the nail on the head….the guy looks the part, but he just isn’t very good. Having Pat Shurmur as the HC/OC doesn’t help. Who needs arm strength when you throw 5 yard crossing routes…still down about Skins game. Had a great crowd of Backers to watch that mess.

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    Your real problem is that you can’t stand hearing any opinion different from your own — especially if it is backed up by solid evidence.

    Apparently, there’s nothing in my post that you can RATIONALLY argue against. Left with nothing to say to defend Weeden, you turn to a logical fallacy and attack me personally.

    That certainly lowers the level of discussion. Way to go!

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    I was supporting your argument that it’s more coaching than just one player. I guess that flew right over your head.

    Too bad. . .

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    Good post. The experience and character would be a great influence. And learning from one of the best route runners and best hands guys in the league would help every WR and TE on the roster.

    It will be interesting to see if Belichick lets Welker go.

  • mgbode

    :)

    You do bring some solid points to the table. I wish we could spend more time discussing those. However, they often get buried in the slander you throw out on Weeden or the false accolades you give Colt. Stuff like the coaches instructing the OL to take holding penalties and Whipple looking worried watching Colt on the sidelines? That is nonsensical spaghetti throwing with no way to prove or disprove.

    When every post is either bashing Weeden or propping Colt, it gets old and makes it very difficult to take you seriously. I happened to be reading an article on Blaine Gabbert and whether or not JAX should pull the plug recently and you were even in the comment thread there defending Colt because they happened to mention that Colt was a busted starting QB.

    I have some serious concerns about Weeden and have had them since before the draft. Currently, he has not progressed as I wish he would have this season. He is not as accurate as I would like in the mid-range game nor does he seem to find the soft areas of the defense easily enough. He doesn’t go deep often enough. When he does go deep, it seems like it’s an all or nothing proposition (9 of his 14TDs, but a ton of INTs including 2 in the Oakland game, etc.).

    All that being said, I also see where he has been better than Colt. You can give me the numbers, but I can demonstrate where many of Colt’s came padded down multiple scores (great example is the Titans game – added 190yds 1TD 12x1st downs once we were down 24-6 midway through the 3rd quarter). Colt was also not accurate in the midrange game. It is bad for Weeden, but it was brutally bad for Colt as he is not as strong-armed a QB. That mid-range game HAS to be his bread-n-butter. Many of Colt’s deep passes were merely lobbed jump-balls (the 2 vs. Miami stand out in my mind).

  • http://www.facebook.com/anne.dunn.144 Anne Dunn

    That “picked up most of his yards in junk time” is really popular among the Weeden supporters, but the Titans game is one of the very few where that actually applies. In the 4th quarter of most games, the game was still in doubt.

    Looks like your pasta. Now if you want proof that the coaches looked worried, watch the televised broadcast of the Kansas City game. The cameras switched to Whipple and Shurmur standing together and looking concerned even though the game wasn’t that much in doubt. You think they were trying to decide whether to order pizza with or without anchovies?

    So you are saying I don’t have a right to criticize Weeden or praise McCoy, with verifiable evidence in both cases, when the praise of Weeden and outright ridicule of McCoy have vertutally no solid evidence behind them.