BEREA: Brandon Weeden wants to be the Browns’ quarterback of the future, and he realizes he must convince the new sheriffs in town that he’s the right man for the job.
It’s no secret that owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner are keeping an eye on Weeden and trying to figure out whether he can be the team’s long-term solution. Weeden has seven games left this season to make his case.
“They’re taking over this organization, and they’re going to do the moves to help this team win,” Weeden said Wednesday after practice. “And I obviously want to be the guy that they have a lot of confidence in going forward, and I’ve got to play like it. I’ve got to go play well and keep the team growing and keep the team making better plays and let the rest kind of take care of itself.”
Since striking a deal to buy the Browns in August, Haslam has gathered advice from owners throughout the league, and they have all stressed the importance of securing a franchise quarterback. Haslam introduced Banner Oct. 17 during a news conference at the team’s headquarters. When asked if the new regime believes it has its quarterback in place, Haslam made it clear that he and Banner would take a wait-and-see approach.
“I think Brandon is no different than everybody else,” Haslam said. “He’ll be evaluated at the end of the year.”
So what does Weeden need to do in the final seven games to prove he’s making progress?
“Don’t throw interceptions,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “Done. End of story.”
Only Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has thrown more interceptions than Weeden this season. Romo has thrown 13 interceptions. Weeden, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel have thrown 12 interceptions apiece.
Weeden and the Browns (2-7) will visit Romo and the Cowboys (4-5) Sunday.
“We never want to throw interceptions,” said Weeden, a 29-year-old who was 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft. “My aggressive manner, my mind-set, sometimes gets me in trouble, but I’m not going to take that away from myself. I agree, I’ve got to take care of the football. I’ve got to cut down on them. … I don’t let it get to the front of my mind, where I’m so paranoid about throwing interceptions that I don’t take shots.”
Quarterbacks often struggle to strike the right balance between aggression and carelessness.
“The essence of a quarterback is you have to be a good decision maker, and you have to decide when it’s important to try to be aggressive with a throw and then it’s also important to then, of course, be smart with the football,” Shurmur said. “I’ve looked at all [of Weeden’s] interceptions, and there were times when he could have made better decisions. There’s, of course, things that happen where a ball bounces off a guy’s chest, so you look at all those things. You don’t want to play anxious football, but you also have to be smart, and I think that’s something that we all have to come to grips with.”
The rapid decisions won’t be any easier for Weeden to make Sunday. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who had the same role with the Browns from 2009-10, is known for trying to confuse quarterbacks with exotic blitzes. The Cowboys have the league’s ninth-ranked defense (372.7 yards allowed per game).
“He wants to put pressure on you, he wants to switch it up, give you different looks, and I expect him to keep doing what he does,” Weeden said. “I think he’s going to come after us a little bit. I’ve watched a lot of tape on them, and they have a tendency to do that.”
After the Browns’ 25-15 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 4, Weeden’s frustration seemed to peak. But he believes resting last week and spending time with family in Oklahoma during the bye did wonders for his mind and body.
“I’ve got a fresh arm for the first time,” he said. “My arm feels great, and you can tell that the time’s definitely helped me.”
Weeden has completed 185-of-336 passes (55.1 percent) for 2,088 yards and nine touchdowns with 12 interceptions this season. His passer rating is 67.9.
Despite those lackluster statistics, Shurmur believes Weeden can become successful in the NFL.
“I think he’s got a chance to be an outstanding player,” Shurmur said. “I don’t think there’s any question about it. That’s it. He’s got to lead us to victories and don’t throw as many interceptions.”
Weeden has heard the message. He has a clear vision of his mission in the final seven games.
“Do my part to let us win some games and play better,” he said. “I think lost in all of this is that I’m a rookie. I’m still playing teams for the first time. I’m still seeing things for the first time. I’m making a lot of mistakes that I’m making for the first time. I’m trying not to repeat them. But I’m not a nine- or 10-year veteran. I think some people might lose track of that sometimes. But it is what it is. I’ve got to play better. I know that. I’m not a moron. I know I’ve got to play better, and I’ve got to do my part to help this team win.”
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.