By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden isn’t taking out an ad for a scapegoat on Craigslist or anywhere else in the aftermath of losing his starting job.
“I’ll take full responsibility,” Weeden said Friday after practice. “I’m never going to be a guy that’s going to point the finger. I had plenty of opportunities to make plays. There are some throws that I’d love to have back. Unfortunately, you don’t get them back. That falls on me. I’ll take 100 percent of the responsibility, and when I get an opportunity, I’m going to do what I can to fix those mistakes. All is good when you’re playing well, and all is bad when you’re playing bad. That’s just the way it is when you play this position.”
Coach Rob Chudzinski demoted Weeden this week and will replace him with Jason Campbell when the Browns (3-4) face the Kansas City Chiefs (7-0) on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium. Campbell will become the 20th quarterback to start for the Browns since their expansion era kicked off in 1999.
Drafted 22nd overall in last year’s draft by the previous regime, Weeden is 0-4 as a starter this season and 5-14 in his career. His struggles during the team’s current two-game losing streak led to Chudzinski benching him.
“I think he has improved,” Chudzinski said. “But we’re looking for the consistency and the production.”
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said he believes Weeden, 30, has put forth his best effort. Still, his lack of positive plays left the coaches with little choice but to make a change. Weeden has completed 103-of-195 passes (52.8 percent) for 1,154 yards and five touchdowns with six interceptions this season. His passer rating is 66.5, ranked 30th in the NFL.
“There were plays that Brandon could have made, and he knows he could have made them,” Turner said. “... The accuracy, sometimes Brandon gets speeded up. He’s missing guys that are open, and they’re throws he’s capable of making.”
The switch to Campbell, who’s 31-40 as a starter, could signal the end of the Weeden era in Cleveland. But there are nine games left this season, so there’s certainly a chance Weeden could be summoned again if Campbell, 31, is injured or doesn’t perform to Chudzinski’s liking. Chudzinski said he doesn’t want to go back and forth from one quarterback to another, but he also insisted he plans to evaluate the position on a week-to-week basis.
“I’m still 100 percent confident in my abilities,” Weeden said. “I feel like I have what it takes to play in this league, and that’s not going to change. There’s a lot of variables that go on in this league to play this position, and you’ve got to get it done. When it’s all said and done, you’ve got to get it done, and I’ll get another opportunity sometime. You’ve just got to be ready when that number’s called.”
Weeden learned that lesson Oct. 3 against the Buffalo Bills when he came back from the sprained right thumb he suffered Sept. 15 in a 14-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and served as the backup to Brian Hoyer, who led the Browns to back-to-back victories after Weeden was hurt. Hoyer suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the first quarter against the Bills, Weeden entered the game facing a 7-0 deficit and helped the Browns rally and triumph 37-24.
“I’m a team guy,” Weeden said. “I want this team to win on Sunday. I’m going to be ready if I’m called on, if the situation is like Buffalo. I was ready and prepared, and I’m treating it the same way.”
Chudzinski is confident that Weeden can succeed in a relief role.
“I think he’s responded as well as you would expect,” Chudzinski said. “Obviously, he was disappointed, but he needs to be ready. He realizes and understands that. He’s told me he’s ready to go, and he’s approached it like a pro. We’ve seen how it happens and that things come up in the games. He’s done it one time before, and I expect if he needs to, he can do it again.”
Although Weeden is disappointed with being benched, he vowed not to become a distraction.
“It’s tough,” Weeden said. “I’m a competitor. This is not the situation I want, any competitor wants. With that being said, I’m going to support Jason just like he supported me. He’s been outstanding. He’s helped me a lot along the way, and that’s my role now and that’s the way I’m going to approach it this week.
“I know this town, this team, this organization is counting on us as quarterbacks. We want to do everything in our power to make all of us look good and win games. That’s our goal. I hope I get another shot. I’m champing at the bit.”
Does Weeden think he’ll get another chance with the Browns?
“I hope so,” he said. “You never know. This league is crazy. Whether it’s this Sunday, four Sundays down the road or at the end of December, I’ll be ready.”
The NFL trade deadline is at 4 p.m. Tuesday. All signs seem to be pointing to the Browns moving forward next year with a rookie quarterback acquired in the May draft and Hoyer, 28, so it wouldn’t be shocking if the Browns dealt Weeden or got rid of him after this season.
“I’ve been traded before and those things are way out of my control,” said Weeden, a former minor-league baseball pitcher who went on to star at quarterback for Oklahoma State University. “I don’t have a crystal ball. I can’t see the future. Whatever happens, this league is just like baseball. I got traded in baseball, and you just never know. Our focus is Sunday, and whatever happens on that is again out of our control.”
Weeden insisted he wants his next opportunity to be with the Browns.
“I love it here,” Weeden said. “I think this team is on the rise. We’re doing some good things, and I’m excited about the group we have. I love this town.”
But the organization might have already counted him out.
“It’s hard,” Weeden said. “I don’t know. I don’t think too much about it. Those decisions, they have a plan, and unfortunately I don’t get to sit in those meetings.”
No matter what Weeden’s future holds, he’s not cowering in the wake of his latest career setback.
“I’m not going to stand back and hide from [the media] and hide and sulk and all that,” Weeden said. “I’m going to confront the situation head on. I think that’s the right way to do it. That’s the professional way to do it. I like to think of myself as a pro. If I go and just hide and don’t want to talk to anybody, that’s not the right way to do it. I take full responsibility of my effort. Whether it’s good, bad, indifferent, I take full responsibility of how I play, and I’m not afraid to answer any tough questions.”
That’s one of the reasons Weeden’s teammates have supported him through thick and thin.
“He’s very mentally tough, and that’s what a quarterback should be,” tight end Jordan Cameron said. “It’s awesome that he’s a stand-up guy. You got to respect that. He’s in here. He’s studying. He’s playing, and he’s still the same old Brandon. That’s very tough — I know it is on him. But he’s been good so far this week.”
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.