Friday, April 27, 2012
Start of 'older' era for Browns with Weeden
By Jamison Hensley
BEREA, Ohio -- The Colt McCoy era is over. A new one -- make that older one -- began Thursday night when the Cleveland Browns selected Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden with the 22nd overall pick.
The Browns have gone from a weak-armed quarterback to a geriatric one by NFL standards. At 28 years, 195 days, Weeden is the oldest player ever to be taken in the first round of the Common Draft era, according to Elias Sports Bureau. Weeden is only two years younger than Ben Roethlisberger. He's one year older than Brady Quinn, the last quarterback taken by the Browns in the first round.
Drafting running back Trent Richardson in the first round was a no-brainer. And, even though I think Weeden can be a quality starter in this league, taking him in the first round makes little sense for a team that is not a quarterback away from contending for a Super Bowl.
The Browns have too many other needs on offense to reach for a failed minor-league pitcher. The Cleveland front office believes it found a franchise quarterback in Weeden, but you have to wonder who is going to block for him at right tackle and who is going to catch the long passes from Weeden's big arm. The Browns are right that Weeden will be an upgrade over McCoy. But, like McCoy, he might have trouble reaching that potential with the holes surrounding him.
In a span of a few hours, the Dawg Pound went from high-fiving over the selection of Richardson to scratching their heads over Weeden.
Why didn't the Browns take a wide receiver like Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill? Why didn't Cleveland pick up Iowa offensive tackle Riley Reiff or Stanford guard David DeCastro? Why did a rebuilding franchise select an older quarterback?
"We went through the process of evaluating him, we became very fond of him," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "We all did, from Randy [Lerner, owner] to Mike [Holmgren, team president] to Tom [Heckert, general manager] to myself. I came away saying this is a guy we'd like to have on our team. That's where we're at right now."
It was interesting that Shurmur pointed out that the owner had input on this decision. The pressure is on, and the clock is ticking.
At his age, Weeden has to start immediately. There's no time to let him sit and learn. And, because of his age, the expectation is to win immediately.
Browns officials shrugged off Weeden's age as being an issue. The number they concentrated on is 22, which is Weeden's wins in 25 starts in college.
"We feel like the kid's a winner," Shurmur said. "I wasn't concerned about his age."
The arrival of Weeden could mean the end of McCoy's days in Cleveland. The Browns gave McCoy a major vote of no confidence when they aggressively tried to trade up for Robert Griffin III last month.
The question now isn't whether McCoy will compete for the job. It's whether McCoy will even be on this team. Heckert didn't deny the possibility that the Browns could trade McCoy this weekend.
"To be honest, we haven't thought about that. We really haven't," Heckert said. "That's something we'll talk about tonight and tomorrow."
If it wasn't for Weeden's age, he would have been a top-10 pick. He has a strong arm. He's got a quick release. He is a hard worker. He is a respected leader.
There's a good chance that Weeden will be a productive quarterback and might end the string of other "franchise" quarterbacks like Tim Couch, Derek Anderson and Quinn. The problem is, teams draft quarterbacks in the first round to be the starter for the next decade. The odds are against that with Weeden, who will turn 30 in October next year.
The Browns have done such a great job in rebuilding the defense in the past two drafts that you want to give them the benefit of the doubt that they'll do the same on offense. When it came time for the Browns to pick at No. 22, Heckert said there was no decision to make especially after Baylor wide receiver Kendall Wright was drafted by Tennessee at No. 20.
"Brandon was by far the best player for us," Heckert said. "There wasn't really even an afterthought. As soon as a couple of guys went, we knew we were going to take him."
Weeden might have been the best player available at that point. He was just not the right player for the Browns.