The Browns view Brandon Weeden as their starting quarterback, but they’re planning to push him every step of the way this offseason.
CEO Joe Banner explained the organization’s vision for its quarterbacks Thursday during a series of interviews with 92.3 The Fan and WKNR (850-AM), which helped promote the team’s new radio deal. Banner also issued the new regime’s strongest commitment to Weeden since its arrival last year.
Weeden will take the reps with the first-team offense when coach Rob Chudzinski runs his first minicamp April 16-18, Banner said. Jason Campbell, who signed with the Browns on Tuesday, will be in the mix, too, and Banner would not rule out adding a quarterback in next month’s draft, either. The organization has no plans, for now, to release Colt McCoy, but it’s open to trading him, Banner said.
“Brandon’s the starter, and there’s competition,” Banner told 92.3 The Fan. “So he’ll have to come in and play well and work hard and prove that he deserves to maintain the position he starts in. There’s a clear, direct relationship between the quality of your quarterback play and your ability to go as far as we hope to go as we build this team. So we’ll never stop focusing on trying to find and evaluate quarterbacks, and if we got lucky enough to have more than one really good quarterback, there’s nothing wrong with that problem.”
Campbell sidestepped talk of a potential quarterback controversy and vowed to become the ultimate team player during a conference call Thursday. Campbell made it clear he’s all in, even if he’s relegated to back up Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft.
“First, coach hasn’t said anything or promised anything,” Campbell said. “Whatever my role is, I’m going to give 100 percent at it, and I’m going to compete at 100 percent at each role. And I’m going to help along the way.
“I understand Weeden was a first-round draft pick last year. So I understand, at the same time, he’s going to have an opportunity to grow as well. I’m not going to really get caught up into everything and the speculation that might be going on.”
Since being picked by the Washington Redskins in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft, Campbell has been a full-time starter for the majority of his career. Campbell, 31, served as Jay Cutler’s backup this past season with the Chicago Bears, but he thinks he still has what it takes to start.
“Yeah, I still believe I can play that position,” said Campbell, whose two-year contract with the Browns is worth $3.75 million, National Football Post’s Joel Corry reported. “... I definitely feel like I can still play at a high level.”
In 2011, Campbell led the Oakland Raiders to a record of 3-2 before suffering a season-ending broken collarbone against the Browns when linebackers Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita hit him at the end of a scramble.
“How ironic is that?” Campbell said. “The team that broke my collarbone is the team I’m playing for now, so it’s definitely something I thought about when I signed.”
The day after he suffered the injury, Campbell learned the Raiders were trading for quarterback Carson Palmer. He called it a “real tough” time because he thought he was in his prime and had just started to gain command of the Raiders’ offense in his second season with the team.
Campbell, who has a career record of 31-40 as a starter, hasn’t been atop a depth chart since. As long as Weeden doesn’t falter, that probably won’t change anytime soon.
“Obviously some players come in at various positions and they’re getting the reps with the ones, so to speak, and that will certainly be Brandon,” Banner told WKNR. “But we’re going to go through minicamps and training camp and by the time we get to the first game, our goal is to play whoever the best players are. So he [Campbell] will certainly get a chance to compete.”
Banner said the Browns are in a “to-be-determined position” at quarterback. But he also reiterated Weeden, 29, will receive an opportunity to prove himself in the vertical, downfield passing attack of Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
“He’s going to be given every chance,” Banner told WKNR. “In Chud and Norv, he probably has two of the best, maybe even the two best people to be coached by in a system that should fit him very well. So I think he’s going to get every chance anybody in his position could possibly have to prove he has the ability to take us to the next level.”
If that means Campbell will be relied on to mentor Weeden, he’s fine with it.
“I’m definitely willing to help him,” Campbell said. “He’s older in age, but still young in the league, so there’s some things I can talk to him [about] and help him with.”
Banner said the Browns would be comfortable with Campbell taking control of the offense if necessary. Campbell said he fits the system well because he played in similar schemes during stints with the Redskins and Raiders. Campbell also is convinced he could run the read-option plays Chudzinski used the past two seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers.
“It’s definitely something I can do — the way that they run it from seeing the way they do it in Carolina and places like that,” Campbell said. “It’s not like they ask a whole lot out of the quarterback in doing it. But it does keep defenses on their heels, and it adds another dimension.”
With Campbell on board, McCoy’s days with the Browns could be numbered.
“Our plan is to keep Colt,” Banner said told WKNR. “That is not etched in stone if somebody was interested in trading for him, if we got to a part in training camp where we had to make some tough decisions that could include whether we even keep two or three quarterbacks. He’ll compete with Jason just as Jason will compete with Weeden.
“We have certainly not decided [McCoy] won’t be on the team or that he’ll be traded, but at the same time, I can’t honestly rule that out. He certainly won’t be released, again, until we get to a situation we may have to make some numbers decisions, then who knows what will happen?”
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.