Monday, November 25, 2013
Browns must find faith, belief in Weeden
By Pat McManamon
The Cleveland Browns will be adding another quarterback this week -- Caleb Hanie will work out Tuesday -- as they work through bringing back Brandon Weeden for his third stint as the team’s starting quarterback this season.
The first two did not go well, as Weeden lost his four starts.
Is there room for the Browns' faithful, as well as his teammates, to believe in Brandon Weeden again?
Which is why Weeden has become the symbol and why he bears the burden -- unfairly -- of all the struggles of the Browns since 1999. The second he steps on the field, he is greeted with boos from the home fans.
That affects his teammates, and has to be something Weeden hears.
“It’s difficult,” coach Rob Chudzinski said. “I understand the perspective of fans where they’re coming from on things. At the end of the day, he’s a Cleveland Brown. We need him to win.”
Weeden said he has to laugh at the boos, but at the same time he clearly hears them and he has to know that the people in the seats do not believe in him. All he's done to earn this scorn is struggle on the field after being a first-round pick.
Weeden is accountable and stand-up. He works hard and is a good guy. He just hasn’t been a good quarterback in his four starts.
But with Jason Campbell likely sidelined by a concussion -- Chudzinski said Campbell will go through the NFL tests before being ruled out -- Weeden moves back into the starting lineup.
Since Brian Hoyer was hurt, the Browns rolled the dice by going with two quarterbacks. Their thinking was that they would only keep two active every week, and the guys on the street were not worth signing.
Now they have no choice.
Campbell may pass the concussion tests, but it’s rare a quarterback comes back the following week. It’s also risky.
The disadvantage the Browns had in not signing a third quarterback now is evident: The team is playing with a guy it tried twice already, and its backup will have a few days to prepare as opposed to a few weeks.
A few years ago, the Browns started Charlie Frye in the season opener, then replaced him with Derek Anderson in the third quarter. By Tuesday the team had decided to make Anderson the starter.
Frye was traded -- to the shock of the team and the league.
But one NFL assistant coach said he understood the team’s thinking, that when a team benches a quarterback the ship has sailed in the locker room. It’s next to impossible, the coach said, for the quarterback to regain trust and belief and the best thing for the player is a fresh start.
Which could be why Joe Haden was this blunt when asked if the injury to Campbell deflated the team against Pittsburgh.
"Yes," Haden said. "You saw it. That’s what happened. They were making plays, they were playing aggressive. When Campbell goes down, that's our guy. ... Weeden is always ready to play. But when a guy has something going, the thinking is you have your guy."
Keep in mind Haden was talking about Campbell, not Tom Brady.
Jacksonville is the next opponent. Of all the opponents on the Browns' schedule, the Jaguars were the first one checked off as a win when the season started.
Weeden has talent and he was a first-round pick. He can change the boos to cheers with a good game. But he’s doing it in some unique circumstances -- after the team has lost five of six.
The Jaguars? They’re 2-1 in their past three games.