CLEVELAND: Leave it to the Browns to try to orchestrate a controversy where one doesn’t exist. While most NFL teams avoid open quarterback competitions like they’re staph infections, the Browns insist they have one despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
There never really was one, and that’s actually a good thing.
If anyone can spot a quarterback controversy, it’s Browns fans. They’ve endured Kelly Holcomb vs. Tim Couch, Brady Quinn vs. Derek Anderson, Charlie Frye vs. Anderson and Jeff Garcia vs. the Women of the Warehouse District.
This year? Forget it.
Brandon Weeden is the Browns’ quarterback. There is no competition, controversy or contest. If there was any doubt before (and there wasn’t), Weeden eradicated it with his performance in a 24-6 preseason victory Thursday over the Detroit Lions.
He was 8-of-12 for 117 yards and two touchdowns. He completed a brilliant 34-yard pass over Josh Gordon’s back shoulder to set up the first touchdown. He rifled two scoring passes to Jordan Cameron. (Want a fantasy sleeper? Cameron has the potential to be a terrific red-zone target).
In two preseason games, Weeden is 18-of-25 for 229 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He has done everything asked of him to this point in camp. He has made all the throws, he is emerging as a leader in the locker room and he seems to know the playbook well.
All of that makes Browns coach Rob Chudzinski’s insistence this week that the quarterback competition is “still close” just plain silly.
I get it, it’s still early in camp. If Chudzinski wasn’t ready to declare a starter after only one preseason game, fine. But don’t patronize the rest of us by insisting the emperor really is wearing a toga. We can see for ourselves what Weeden is accomplishing this month, and it’s about time he gets the proper support from everyone else.
From the time Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi took over, there has been a reluctance within the organization to embrace Weeden. He was initially, quite literally, the red-headed stepchild. He was thrust upon a front office and coaching staff that viewed him as a set of chopsticks in front of a bowl of soup.
He’s old, he was old when he was drafted by a different regime and no one was quite sure what to do with him. So Jimmy Haslam insisted shortly after taking control of the team that the Browns were going to have a quarterback competition this summer. Chudzinski said he wanted to see in this training camp how Weeden responded to adversity.
Only one problem: There hasn’t been any adversity, so now Chudzinski is trying to keep the pressure on him by creating a false adversity.
It’s hard to argue with the results, but I doubt Weeden has played this well out of fear of losing the job. It’s much more likely Weeden’s success has to do with coordinator Norv Turner’s brilliant offensive mind, this new vertical passing attack and an aggressive use of the shotgun.
Weeden was 7-of-11 out of the shotgun Thursday for 95 yards and two touchdowns. After a slow start, he completed four of his last five passes out of the shotgun for 72 yards and both of his scores.
He worked out of the shotgun almost exclusively in college and obviously thrives there, which begs the question why wasn’t it used more last year? But that doesn’t matter anymore.
Turner’s use of the shotgun makes this offense so much more suitable to Weeden’s skills compared to last year’s short passing attack, which left him looking inaccurate and erratic.
Lombardi’s now-famous criticism of the Browns for drafting Weeden continues to hang over the team. It probably won’t go away until Weeden starts winning.
He’ll turn 30 during this season and obviously won’t be the quarterback 10 years from now, but he could be a better alternative than most of the quarterbacks the Browns have trotted out over the last decade.
I don’t know if Weeden will win big in the NFL, but he’s surpassing the fairly limited expectations this front office originally held for him.
So Haslam didn’t get his wish and the Browns never really had a quarterback competition this summer. So what? That’s not a bad thing.
It’s time for someone within the organization to publicly warm to the idea of Weeden as the starting quarterback. Through two terrific preseason games and a solid training camp, he has earned at least that much.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow the Browns on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.