BEREA: Jason Campbell needs to remove some rust because he’s on the verge of becoming the 20th quarterback to start for the Browns since their expansion era began in 1999.
“Go get some 40-W, EW-40 or something like that,” Campbell said Wednesday before practice.
The Browns hope Campbell is better at guiding their offense than he is at rattling off the proper name of WD-40.
Coach Rob Chudzinski announced Wednesday morning during a news conference that he’ll bench Brandon Weeden and replace him with Campbell when the Browns (3-4) face the Kansas City Chiefs (7-0) on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. It’ll be Campbell’s first start since Nov. 19, when he filled in for Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and suffered a 32-7 defeat against the San Francisco 49ers.
“It’s a tough decision,” Chudzinski said, adding that he made up his mind Monday night. “I believe this is in the best interest of the team ultimately and gives us the best chance to win. I’m excited to see what Jason will do with this opportunity.
“I think that looking at Jason and the things that he brings to the table, leadership, his experience, he’s been productive and he’s been successful in the league. I think when you look at his arm strength and you look at his mobility and some of those things and tie into it as far as a game-plan standpoint, it’s what we feel like we need for this game and gives us the best chance.”
Drafted 22nd overall last year by the previous regime, Weeden is 0-4 as a starter this season and 5-14 in his career. His passer rating of 66.5 is ranked 30th in the NFL this season. His completion percentage (52.8) is 32nd, and his yards per attempt (5.92 average) is 31st. He has thrown five touchdown passes and six interceptions.
“It really is about production and ultimately being consistent in that area,” Chudzinski said, explaining his decision to demote Weeden.
Chudzinski said he doesn’t want to vacillate between quarterbacks this season, but he didn’t rule it out.
“We’re going to evaluate it on a week-to-week basis, and the goal is to put the guy out there who gives us the best opportunity to win,” Chudzinski said. “Going back and forth isn’t ideal, but ultimately finding the production and consistency that we need is the goal.”
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Campbell joined the Browns by signing a two-year, $3.75 million contract in March. He has a career record of 31-40 as a starter. During Campbell’s last two seasons as a full-time starter, he went 11-7 with the Oakland Raiders. That stint ended in 2011, when he began the season 3-2 before suffering a season-ending broken collarbone against the Browns in Week 6.
Campbell, 31, believes he has something left in the tank and is eager for a chance to prove it.
“I think I’m still kind of young in real life,” said Campbell, drafted 25th overall in 2005 by the Washington Redskins, his first of four NFL teams. “In football terms, they’d say I’m at the midway. I think my arm strength’s still there. I still believe in my arm and still have confidence.”
Campbell is 2-1 as a starter against the Chiefs, but it’ll be tough to maintain a winning record against them. The Chiefs have the NFL’s fifth-ranked defense (304.6 yards allowed per game). They also lead the league with 35 sacks and are on pace to break the 1984 Bears’ record of 72 in a season.
“They are No. 1 in third down, No. 1 in the red zone and No. 1 in points allowed [11.8 points allowed per game],” Campbell said. “So it is definitely a challenge. Each and every week is a challenge, but Arrowhead is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. We need to be on the same page with our play calls and make sure everyone is hearing it and making sure we are all getting lined up correctly because it’s going to be hard to hear at times. And when you go into a hostile environment like this, you have to make sure we are together and keep our composure.”
Chudzinski said he met with Campbell and Weeden to tell them his decision.
“It was tough at the same time for me even with the friendship that I have with Brandon,” Campbell said. “I made sure I talked with him, and [tried to] keep him encouraged and keep his head up.”
Weeden, 30, declined to speak to reporters Wednesday but is expected to do so this week, a team spokesman said.
“Obviously, Brandon was disappointed, but he’s a pro,” Chudzinski said. “I expect from him what all the guys have done in the past and being ready to play. He’s showed that he is ready to play, and I’m confident that he will be.”
The Browns won back-to-back games with Brian Hoyer as their starting quarterback after Weeden suffered a sprained right thumb Sept. 15 against the Baltimore Ravens. Chudzinski let Hoyer leapfrog Campbell on the depth chart and start in place of Weeden.
“When Hoyer was named the quarterback, we did nothing but rally behind him,” free safety Tashaun Gipson said. “That’s all we’re trying to do right now.”
Two weeks ago, Campbell conceded that “it stung” when the Browns passed over him for Hoyer.
“You can never predict anything, and the NFL season is like a roller coaster,” Campbell said. “There are up-and-down moments, and the main thing you have to try to do is stay even-keel throughout it all. Not everything goes your way at times.”
Another shake-up at the position began when Hoyer, 28, suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the first quarter Oct. 3 against the Buffalo Bills. Weeden entered the game and helped the Browns rally from a 7-0 deficit to win 37-24. But he struggled mightily Sunday in a 31-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers and Oct. 13 in a 31-17 defeat against the Detroit Lions.
“That’s the easiest thing to say — that something had to be done and we had to pretty much make a switch,” wide receiver Davone Bess said. “We know we’ve got a lot of work to do, and it’s not just one person, starting with Brandon. We all have some accountability to own up to, and that’s the nature of this business.”
The Browns’ 20 starting quarterbacks since 1999 is the most in the NFL during that span. The league average is 11.3, according to STATS LLC. In 2010, the team was on its third starting quarterback by Week 6, when then-rookie Colt McCoy filled in for Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace after they suffered ankle injuries.
Campbell said his top priority is to provide leadership for a team that’s tied with the Ravens (3-4) for second in the AFC North and has already defeated the first-place Cincinnati Bengals (5-2).
“We are still right in the middle of our division as far as fighting for that position,” Campbell said. “You would rather be playing for something during December than not playing for anything, and that is what brings a sense of urgency is to have a shot when it is all said and done.
“It’s all about responding. This group is a resilient group and a group that has been through some things early on in the season, was able to respond, and I expect us to continue to respond and bounce back.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.