The Cleveland Browns have been committal about being non-committal about their quarterback situation. From Rob Chudzinski to Michael Lombardi and yesterday Norv Turner the Browns have been steadfast in putting barely a single word on the record that leads anyone to believe that Weeden is first on the depth chart right this very second. Even if you’ve somehow found a way to infer that, it is only by default because that’s the way the season ended and there hasn’t been a roster move that easily leads everyone to speculation otherwise. The Browns claim to need to see more tape study, but it seems to me that a need for more tape study is all the sign of a lack of confidence that I need to see.
I am not saying anything about Brandon Weeden, personally. I think he had a pretty typical rookie year, statistically speaking. He definitely trailed many of his rookie brethren in terms of rookie performance too. I’m just characterizing the vibes I’m reading from the public comments thus far. And maybe it’s true that they need to see more tape. Maybe they will unleash those hours of footage of Shurmur-led practices and decide that Weeden is a guy they can mold and that under their new tutelage he’ll become a front line NFL starter. It just seems to me that the guy who plays the most important position on the team who also put 15 games of real NFL video into the universe this season is likely to have made enough of an impression on the team that they might be willing to say something that tips their hand that they like him. Of course that’s only true if they were given a positive impression.
To be fair, Norv Turner was somewhat complimentary of Weeden because he helped the Browns beat Turner’s Chargers this season. Then again, Weeden had a QB rating of 55.9 against the Chargers completing 11 of 27 passes for 129 yards in a 7-6 win.
“Brandon’s a very, very young player in terms of his experience,” Turner said before adding “but he did good things in the game when we played and he did good things in the games that we evaluated getting ready for that game.” That’s not wholly uncomplimentary, but he polished it off by saying, “So for me to give you a big evaluation on Brandon would not be fair. I, first of all, haven’t met him and I just started looking at tape.” I’m sure his tape study is different now than it was when the Chargers were game planning, but didn’t Turner just say they reviewed his tape before going up against the Browns?
That line about tape study should sound familiar because it is almost exactly what Rob Chudzinski has said so far. To me that’s just enough of a company line about a guy who is far from being a locked in starter. Again, this isn’t to say anything about the qualifications of Colt McCoy or even down the depth chart to Thaddeus Lewis. This is just to say the old adage (that everyone’s tired of me quoting) is still true. If you don’t know if you have a quarterback, then you don’t have one. If you have a controversy, you don’t have one. When you have one you’ll know it.
The best case scenario for Brandon Weeden right now is that the Browns truly mean it when they say they don’t know yet. More likely though, I think they would know enough about what they’ve seen so far that they’d be expressing some confidence in what they might expect him to turn into with their coaching and with their systems. But they would only give us that information if they felt confident in him.
All that being the case, I’d be surprised if they didn’t at least explore options at the position this off-season including the draft. What position always rises in the NFL draft? Quarterback, of course. Could it rise all the way to number six? Would that even get the Browns the best QB prospect in the draft? Probably not. I know it might seem like I’m trolling with a question like that, but if you don’t know and it’s the most important question that any team needs to answer, you never know what depths – or draft heights – teams will go to achieve it. I still wouldn’t bet on the Browns doing anything like that because I just don’t see the QB prospects in the draft this year, but a bold move for a QB this off-season still wouldn’t shock me either by free agency or by trade.
In the end, this isn’t great news for Brandon Weeden, but it is good news for Browns fans, I think. One of the most frustrating parts of last season for me was the lack of true competition at quarterback as Shurmur and company handed Brandon Weeden the job. I think Weeden’s ceiling is higher than Colt McCoy’s, but I don’t doubt for one second that Colt McCoy gave the Browns the better chance to win in the first quarter of the season. The Browns were too ingrained in old school thinking to be bold enough to face potential controversy and try to win games at any cost. If that meant starting Colt McCoy for the first four to eight games and then giving way to Brandon Weeden, so be it.
We’ve seen it too many times now. Russell Wilson wasn’t supposed to be the starter in Seattle this year. It was supposed to be Matt Flynn. Colin Kaepernick wasn’t supposed to be the starter in San Francisco. It was supposed to be Alex Smith. Go back in time even further. Tom Brady wasn’t supposed to supplant Drew Bledsoe, especially after Bledsoe went down due to injury.
The Browns seem like they might be poised to make whatever decision they think will win them the most games right away. Never mind where anyone was drafted, or who started the most games this past season. Also maybe we can forget a lip-service sham of a quarterback competition that was allowed Brandon Weeden to sleepwalk through the pre-season as the Browns sputtered out of the gates. You’re supposed to do whatever you can to win football games. If that means Brandon Weeden starts, then fine, but I think I’m happy that they haven’t named him the starter just yet.