ESPN analyst Jon Gruden has seen Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden progress during the preseason, and he believes the organization should let Weeden continue to improve before deciding the upcoming season is a make or break one for him.
Eighteen quarterbacks have started for the Browns since their rebirth in 1999. On Sept. 8, Weeden will become the fourth one to start consecutive season openers during the expansion era. Like almost all of the Browns’ starters, Weeden will receive tonight off when the team faces the Chicago Bears in the preseason finale at 8 p.m. at Soldier Field.
“I don’t know what direction Cleveland would go,” Gruden said today during a conference call. “It’s easy to say it’s make or break, but who are you going with next year? I mean they’ve changed quarterbacks more than any team in NFL history in the last 20 years since they’ve been back in Cleveland. What’s the alternative? I think they have to try to build around Weeden. Maybe improve the receiving corps [and] let him work himself through this new offense. I’m confident he’s going to be a good pro quarterback. But if it doesn’t work out, coaches and quarterbacks don’t last long. I know that.”
If Weeden falters, the Browns certainly could draft a quarterback next May. But for the most part, Gruden is encouraged by what he has seen from Weeden, the 22nd overall pick from last year’s draft, heading into his second NFL season.
“He has a huge arm,” said Gruden, who won a Super Bowl as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “He’s got a tremendous, live arm, and I thought he made more tight-window throws than almost any of the other college quarterbacks that came out that year. I think he’s on a football team that doesn’t have tremendous skill around him. I don’t think that his wide receiving corps is a polished group yet, but I do think he is developing. I like what he did against St. Louis. I really liked some of the things he did against Detroit. None of them played very well against Indianapolis. Weeden and the rest of the offense didn’t play very good. That was a setback and somewhat of a disappointment.”
Gruden also said new offensive coordinator Norv Turner should be able to help Weeden a great deal.
“Norv Turner as an offensive coach, you’d be lucky to have him running your offense if you ask me because he’s gotten it done wherever he’s been, he’s developed quarterbacks and he just has a very good temperament, a vast amount of knowledge, creativity,” Gruden said. “And I think he has guts to call plays in certain situations on game day that most people don’t.”