Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Weeden finally gets nod as Browns starter
By Jamison Hensley
Cleveland Browns coach Rob Chudzinski officially named Brandon Weeden as his starting quarterback on Monday. It was more of a confirmation than an announcement.
In two preseason games, Weeden completed 18 of 25 passes (72 percent) for 229 yards and three touchdowns. He led the Browns on five scoring drives (three touchdowns and two field goals) in six possessions. His 139.8 quarterback rating ranked second in the NFL this preseason, trailing only Tarvaris Jackson.
Based on what Weeden has done so far, there really wasn't a decision to be made at quarterback. It was inevitable Chudzinski was going to give the job to Weeden over Jason Campbell despite the coach's recent assertion that the quarterback competition was "close."
This is hardly a surprise considering that Weeden has taken all the snaps with the first-team offense this summer. Beyond the numbers, Weeden improved his efficiency in the red zone and his accuracy, putting the ball where only his receivers could get it.
Weeden becomes just the third quarterback in the expansion era of the Browns to start consecutive season openers. The last time it happened was 2006 and '07, when Charlie Frye did so. Tim Couch started three consecutive season openers from 2000 to '02.
"Brandon has earned this job," Chudzinski said, via The Plain Dealer. "He's gained my complete trust. I felt like the timing was right."
This is the first step for Weeden to prove to the Browns' new regime that he's a franchise quarterback. If Weeden fails to convince the Browns of that this season, the organization will have to decide whether to use a first-round pick on the likes of Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel.
Weeden, who turns 30 in October, has a better chance of succeeding this year than in his rookie season. He wasn't a good fit in Pat Shurmur's West Coast Offense last year, even though the No. 22 overall pick threw for 3,385 yards (which was better than Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson) and completed 57.4 percent of his passes (which topped Andrew Luck).
Weeden's strong arm better suits this year's system under Norv Turner, who emphasizes throwing the ball downfield. In training camp, Weeden talked about how this offense "makes sense" to him. Judging by his first couple of outings in the preseason, his comfort level is apparent.
The challenge for him in the regular season is showing that he can read defenses (his 17 interceptions last season were tied for fifth-most in the NFL) and produce in the most critical parts of the game (third downs, red zone and fourth quarter). But, as Weeden acknowledged in training camp, he will ultimately be judged on winning games.
If he can significantly improve upon his five wins as a starter last year, Weeden will keep hold of the starting job for this year and beyond.
"It's exciting. It's rewarding," Weeden told reporters Tuesday morning. "I worked my tail off. Now my focus is going out and winning games."