Weeden's climb remains steeply uphill

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
4:56
PM ET
A Cleveland radio station put together a song today.

As the theme song from the old TV show “Flipper” plays, the voices of the Cleveland Browns radio announcers and coach Rob Chudzinski talking about Brandon Weeden’s backhand, backward flip of the football on Sunday in the loss to the Lions also play.

“They call him Flipper, Flipper ... No one you see, is smarter than he.”

On Cleveland.com, the website for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a poll asked: Which former Cleveland Browns quarterback since 1999 would you take over Brandon Weeden?

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
AP Photo/David RichardA lack of mobility has proven hard for Cleveland QB Brandon Weeden to overcome.
Tim Couch got 22 percent of the vote, and 17 percent said they’d bring back the nightmare of Colt McCoy. Six percent said they’d stick with Weeden, which means at least he beat out Trent Dilfer, Brady Quinn, Seneca Wallace and Charlie Frye.

It’s been some 30th birthday for the Browns quarterback.

But the gags and the fact that Weeden turns 30 sum up the situation perfectly. Weeden finds himself back in the vortex of criticism and discussion that has followed his every move this season.

The guy whom many hailed a year ago now finds himself in the same meat-grinder that chewed up all the Browns quarterbacks in that poll. The guy is acquired to big expectations. He struggles early with a bad team, as many quarterbacks do. Fans and media grow impatient and the criticism grows. And when a regime change is made with the coach or front office, the pressure starts again to prove himself. The quarterback hears the same questions over and over, then presses to make things happen quicker. Instead of improving, he regresses. And eventually loses his job.

All last week Weeden was asked about getting rid of the ball and not taking sacks. The point was sledge-hammered into his brain, to the point that it led him to make a near inexplicable play to avoid a sack.

It led to ridicule. Now Weeden and the Browns have to try to suceeed with even more criticism -- against one of the league’s better teams in Green Bay.

Clearly Weeden had a hand -- a backhand -- in creating his situation. No clear thinking quarterback makes the kind of play he made.

And just as clearly some of his weaknesses are starting to show. He does not move well, does not feel the rush. When he is pressured he tends to focus on the pressure instead of the receiver downfield. He also is not as adept at the short pass as he needs to be.

That being said, he has skills that should translate on the field. But he’s now dealing in a difficult environment, one where many are asking: What in the heck do the Browns do now?

Weeden will not lose his job. Chudzinski said Weeden and not Jason Campbell will start. Why the Browns continue to go away from Campbell is a mystery. Perhaps they feel he had a “blue flu” when he begged out of playing with the backups in the final preseason game, or perhaps they were not in the least pleased with how disinterested he looked when he played against Baltimore -- a game when he intentionally threw the ball out of bounds on fourth down.

Weeden will start against the Packers.

“This was one game,” Chudzinski said, his voice showing no trace of emotion. “I thought that Brandon played well in spurts, and at times he made critical mistakes.”

The solution?

“It’s really just a matter of cutting out the critical mistakes,” Chudzinski said.

Which at this point seems as simple as shutting off the water at Niagara Falls. It can be done, but it sure takes work.

The biggest issue Weeden might face is now in his locker room. The team won with Brian Hoyer, and knows it can win with sound quarterback play. When Hoyer was hurt it asked Weeden to trust the rest of the players.

Weeden did, to a point.

But when a guy who’s 30 makes a play like Weeden made, it has the potential to erode support. A team easily could look and say, "We’re working like mad out here and he does that?"

Chudzinski said he does not notice any lack of faith. But Weeden is a 30-year-old quarterback struggling to find himself against some tough circumstances and long odds as a new regime establishes itself.

Maybe he should be trying to shut off Niagara Falls instead.

Pat McManamon

ESPN Cleveland Browns reporter

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