Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Trying to answer some of Browns' 'whys'
By Pat McManamon
Some lingering questions remain about the Cleveland Browns' season, and how certain things played out.
It doesn't take a lot more than common sense and logic to see why what happened did happen.
1) Why was so much time, effort and commitment dedicated to Brandon Weeden?
From the second the Browns hired Rob Chudzinski as coach and Norv Turner as offensive coordinator, the latter's addition was praised. This wise veteran coach would help Weeden with an offense better suited to him, an offense that would put him back in the shotgun and throw the ball down the field.
The praise was almost embarrassing to the point of making Turner sound like a miracle worker.
As the offseason progressed, no other quarterback was brought in to compete with Weeden other than Jason Campbell, a veteran backup whose career had been decidely mediocre.
Given the options, the organization, with the backing of Turner and Chudzinski, committed to giving Weeden a full chance. He was a former first-round pick, he had the big arm, he had played as a rookie. It made sense.
Brian Hoyer was added late in the offseason program, but at that point the Weeden train had long left the station, and Hoyer arrived with few credentials other than as a backup.
2) Why did Weeden receive the large majority of first-team reps in the offseason and training camp?
Even though your mother said never to answer a question with a question, this one begs a question: Is a team supposed to give the backup more reps than the projected starter?
The team and the organization as a whole committed to see what Weeden could do. Everyone gave him a chance. To give him the reps simply made sense.
3) Why was Hoyer not worked in immediately?
Because he was acquired to compete, not to start. The Browns can say this is not true, but Hoyer was a backup when he arrived -- and given reps accordingly. The word the team was given from those who knew him in places he had played was he was a backup.
At this point it's easy to say that Hoyer should have played sooner, but the case also could be made that eyebrows were raised when Hoyer was made the starter in Week No. 3.
Turner really didn't know what he had in Hoyer, and during the season he admitted everyone was surprised at his production. Who knows where the team would have wound up had he not torn his knee ligament?
Turner also thought highly of Hoyer for the future. Fox analyst Brian Billick said he talked to Turner before the Bears game and Turner expressed how much he thought of Hoyer.
4) Why not go to Jason Campbell after Hoyer was hurt rather than go back to Weeden?
Because Campbell is Campbell.
A guy with tape, a track record and a history is not going to transform into Otto Graham because he joins a new team. This is the fallacy of free agency -- that giving a guy money or signing him from another team will make him into a different player, just because.
Campbell's playing experience for the Browns illustrates the point. He played a couple of good games for the Browns, but he eventually settled into his career arc while lamenting being emotional over losing in New England, the cold, and the fact that he pressed against Chicago.
Campbell's completion percentage and his 76.9 rating were his lowest since his rookie season in 2006. Campbell is a good player, a good teammate, and a good backup quarterback.
When he arrived in Cleveland, there was film on him. A track record. That he did little to alter the track record should not be a surprise.
5) What happened with running back Bobby Rainey?
The Browns picked up Rainey after training camp, after the Ravens waived him. In a quirk of the present-day assessments, Rainey was tabbed the "best player cut," a double-edged sword if ever there was one.
He played six games for the Browns, ran 13 times and gained 34 yards.
He was picked up by Tampa, where he ran 137 times for 532 yards and five touchdowns.
If it weren't for injury, the Bucs may not have played Rainey much either. The Bucs turned to him after Doug Martin and Mike James were injured, and he responded.
The Browns waived Rainey on Oct. 18, six days after they had signed wide receiver Charles Johnson off the Green Bay practice squad. To make room for Johnson, the team put Hoyer on injured reserve.
Johnson, though, arrived with a torn knee ligament. Because Johnson was signed off a practice squad, the Browns had to leave his roster spot open for two weeks.
At that time, they hadn't added a third quarterback to replace Hoyer, and they needed to cut someone.
The team decided to cut Rainey and keep Fozzy Whittaker.
Clearly, that turned out to be a mistake, but it was a mistake forced by issues unrelated to Rainey.
At the same time Rainey was cut, safety Josh Aubrey was placed on injured reserve and the Browns promoted receiver Tori Gurley and cornerback Julian Posey from the practice squad. Posey was waived three days later, then re-signed to the practice squad two days after that.