Browns still back Brandon Weeden

Updated: September 11, 2012, 11:37 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

BEREA, Ohio -- Rookie Brandon Weeden's four interceptions, 5.1 passer rating and general ineptness in his NFL debut Sunday against Philadelphia has some Browns fans worried.

Others are calling for change -- after one game!

On Monday, Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur expressed confidence that Weeden will shake off his abysmal outing and improve, and he delivered a strong message to fans demanding that backup Colt McCoy take over the Browns' offense.

"Clamoring for Colt?" Shurmur said dismissively, repeating the reporter's question. "Brandon Weeden is our starter and he's going to get better, that's what I'm going to tell them."

Weeden completed just 12 of 35 passes for 118 yards and threw the four picks against the Eagles, who rallied in the closing minutes for a 17-16 win. The 28-year-old's performance may have shocked the Browns, who've been impressed with Weeden's strong arm and solid demeanor from the moment he arrived in Cleveland. The Browns expected growing pains with Weeden, but ones so severe, so early?

Weeden's day began ominously when he was sacked by a giant U.S. flag being unfurled across the field for the national anthem. It got worse from there as he forced passes, missed open receivers, had balls dropped and fumbled twice.

He was historically bad.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, his QB rating was the worst for any rookie quarterback attempting 15 passes in a season opener since 1970.

It would be enough to shake any rookie, but Shurmur believes Weeden will rebound.

"He won't lose his confidence," Shurmur said. "I think it's important we go back, just like we do each week, work on the fundamentals of playing the position and get ready to play the next team. That's it."

Shurmur Clamoring for Colt? Brandon Weeden is our starter and he's going to get better, that's what I'm going to tell them.

-- Pat Shurmur, on his message to Browns fans calling for Colt McCoy to start

Weeden didn't appear ready, and there's an argument to be made that he wasn't. After all, he played just five quarters -- 18 total possessions -- in four exhibition games and did not throw a touchdown pass. He had little chance to develop chemistry with his receivers and it showed as Cleveland's offense struggled, gaining just 210 yards.

Weeden accepted blame afterward, though it was hardly all his fault. He promised to be the first at the team's headquarters on Monday morning to watch film. Shurmur couldn't confirm that happened but said the young QB was taking the necessary first steps toward improvement.

"He's got to look at this game and make the corrections," Shurmur said. "I told the team this: 'What happened yesterday is correctable.' That's the great news. We're not looking at plays and situations that they can't improve on, so that's where he's at right now."

Weeden wasn't good, but he didn't get a lot of help either.

The Browns dropped at least four passes, and Shurmur said there were other plays when Cleveland's receivers could have done more to fight for the ball.

On Cleveland's first series following a turnover, Weeden badly overthrew a wide-open Mohamed Massaquoi in a corner of the end zone. Weeden knew he had missed a chance at his first career TD pass and clapped his hands in disgust.

Shurmur was asked what Weeden needed to do to correct the mistake.

"Make a better throw," he said.

Shurmur got a little testy when asked to be more specific.

"The guy is wide open, you got to hit him," he said, raising his voice. "That's how you make a better throw. I don't know what to tell you. Take a five-step drop, the guy is running wide open and you've got to keep it in bounds and make a better throw. That's all there is to it. I wish there was some kind of formula or theorem, but that's not always the case."

Later in the half, the Browns were at the Eagles' 10 when Weeden fired a pass over the middle that caromed off wide receiver Greg Little and was intercepted at the 1-yard line by Kurt Coleman. Shurmur was adamant that Little was at fault, not Weeden.

"Hit him right in the neck," Shurmur said. "You've got to catch that ball. And as the field shrinks, that's what the red zone provides, a smaller field and less area to defend, there's lots of bang-bang plays, there just are. And when ball hits you in the neck, you've got to catch it. End of story. There's really nothing more to it. There's no formula for that."

As poorly as he played, Weeden never seemed to lose his poise. Tight end Alex Smith said the quarterback remained composed in the huddle.

"He never wavered in any way," Smith said. "I know he was kind of upset, but there was nothing that showed in his face that anybody could see."

Weeden has a week's practice to work on things before the Browns play at Cincinnati on Sunday. His debut may have been a dud, but Smith believes Weeden will bounce back.

"It's only one game," Smith said. "We have 15 more. We've all had bad games. We've all had games where you want to crawl under a rock. It's all about how you respond. That's what I'm most excited to see -- how he comes back.

"I expect to see Brandon come out slingin' and have the best game of his career."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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