BEREA: Browns coach Rob Chudzinski called his uncertain quarterback situation “unique” and one he hasn’t been around.
That’s because he never worked with Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi before.
The personnel department, headed by Lombardi, the general manager, and overseen by Banner, the CEO, is solely to blame for the ridiculous circus surrounding the Browns’ quarterbacks going into Sunday’s game on the road against the New England Patriots.
With Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden still not cleared to practice Wednesday because of concussions, the Browns face a dilemma that could have been avoided had they signed a third quarterback Oct. 4.
The night before, Brian Hoyer tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against the Buffalo Bills. At that point, through five games, they had already had two quarterbacks injured. Besides losing Hoyer, Weeden suffered a right thumb injury in Game 2 against the Baltimore Ravens that sidelined him for two games.
By then, the Browns should have seen the path this season was going down with quarterback injuries and realized that keeping only two was too risky. They had also learned that Weeden wasn’t the long-term answer. At that point Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft, was 0-2 as a starter, on his way to 0-5 in 2013 and 5-15 in two seasons.
Banner and Lombardi did nothing.
They continued to obsess about the back-end of their roster, continuing a revolving door policy last seen when Lombardi worked under former Browns coach Bill Belichick from 1991-94. It not only jeopardized the quarterback position but played havoc with special teams because of constant substitutions.
Lombardi experienced a similar situation in 1988 when he was a Browns scout. Coach Marty Schottenheimer got the Browns into the wild-card game despite seeing his top three quarterbacks — Bernie Kosar, Gary Danielson and Mike Pagel — go down with injuries. Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Don Strock was called off the golf course to start in the playoffs against the Houston Oilers. The Browns lost 24-23 with Strock operating with the plays taped to his wrist. It was the best coaching job in Schottenheimer’s 4½-year tenure here, even though it proved to be his last game.
Chudzinski, in his first year as coach, didn’t have Kosar, Danielson and Pagel at his disposal. He had a dubious cast of Weeden, Campbell and Hoyer, with only the latter likely to return in 2014. If Weeden is unable to start Sunday, the Browns could make their fifth quarterback switch of the season. They could go with Alex Tanney, a second-year player plucked off the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad Nov. 26, or Caleb Hanie, who was signed Tuesday and spent four of his five years in the league with the Chicago Bears.
Making the situation more alarming is that Hanie’s tryout with the Browns a week ago, when they elected to grab Tanney, was his first since the Baltimore Ravens released him in August. Hanie said he was throwing at home in Dallas with a high school friend who played in a pro league in France last year.
Not only is Chudzinkski looking at choices with a combined four NFL starts (Hanie 4, Tanney 0), he’s considering zombies, too. Tanney said he slept two hours Tuesday night as his cramming continued; Hanie said he needs five hours a night to function.
Assistant general manager Ray Farmer liked Tanney, a Division III Monmouth College product, from their days together with the Kansas City Chiefs, with whom Tanney was on injured reserve in 2012. They could have gone after Tanney when Hoyer went down, but Chudzinski said Wednesday that Farmer didn’t lobby for that.
The Browns were accused of tanking the season to secure a higher draft position after they traded running back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 18. Yet, the Browns won three consecutive games after Banner and Lombardi fleeced the Colts.
But the front office is tanking now and has been since Oct. 4. The players surely realize it.
The list of available quarterbacks was dubious at best. But the Browns should have brought one in two months ago and got him up to speed in case of emergency. That scenario, a surprise to no one except the Browns, arrived when Weeden reported concussion symptoms after the loss Sunday to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Campbell was hurt the week before against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now the Browns might be caught without a prepared quarterback as they face defensive genius Belichick. Wildcat anyone?