By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Brandon Weeden might fit well in the Browns’ new vertical, downfield passing attack, but coach Rob Chudzinski said Wednesday it’s “premature” to label Weeden as next season’s starting quarterback.
Chudzinski announced offensive coordinator Norv Turner will handle play-calling duties in addition to serving as the team’s quarterbacks coach. With those details ironed out, Chudzinski and Turner must get together with the rest of the staff and evaluate the roster to determine how they’ll approach free agency in March and the draft in April.
Figuring out the team’s quarterback situation is at the top of the list, Chudzinski conceded.
“That’s what the evaluation process is,” Chudzinski said during Turner’s introductory news conference. “It’s going through and looking at guys and projecting them. ‘Hey, this guy can be this. At the end of the day, this guy can be that type of player.’ And then does that fit in scheme-wise? And what can we do to adjust scheme-wise to anybody we’re talking about? Certainly [the quarterback] position is a critical position in the offense, and we’ll be going through that early on in that evaluation process.”
Turner spent the past six seasons as the coach of the San Diego Chargers, and he’s familiar with the Browns because they defeated the Chargers 7-6 on Oct. 28 in Cleveland. Turner believes Weeden has the attributes needed to run his style of offense.
“In terms of the style of offense we have, you look at the tape and identify things that I think Brandon does well that we’re going to ask him to do,” Turner said. “I looked at things where I know he needs to improve, needs to get better to do the things we want him to do. But I think he has a lot of the skill set that we’re looking for. And again, this is early in terms of an evaluation, but he does have a big arm and he can throw the ball up the field.”
Still, Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, will need to prove himself in the offseason. The Browns have Weeden and fellow quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Thaddeus Lewis under contract for this year, but they might acquire someone else to intensify the position battle in training camp.
Weeden started all 15 games in which he appeared last season, completing 297-of-517 passes (57.4 percent) for 3,385 yards and 14 touchdowns with 17 interceptions while operating the West Coast offense installed by former Browns coach Pat Shurmur. Weeden finished with the fourth-worst passer rating in the NFL (72.6).
“You’re looking for ways for him to improve,” Turner said. “Certainly there are things I look at right now and say Brandon can get a lot better at these things, so you get excited about going out and work on the details of playing the position. Part of playing quarterback is getting everyone around him playing at a high level also.
“I love working with young guys. Rob and I have had a lot of success with young players. A lot of guys I’ve been with had their best seasons while I was coaching them. That’s an exciting thing to get with some guys and watch them grow.”
Turner doesn’t believe Weeden, a 29-year-old former minor-league baseball player, is too old to develop and become successful. Turner pointed out that Trent Green, who he guided as coach of the Washington Redskins, didn’t become a full-time starter for the Kansas City Chiefs until 2001, when he was in his early 30s.
“He had an unbelievable career in Kansas City and was a productive player in terms of the passing, won a lot of games when he was a quarterback there,” Turner said. “The guys do such a good job of staying in shape, their conditioning and everything they do that guys are playing a lot longer than they did at one time.”
Neither Turner nor Chudzinski elaborated much when asked about McCoy.
“I am familiar with Colt, watching him come out, watching him play when he played for Cleveland,” Turner said. “He brings a different style than maybe Brandon. He’s been a productive player when he’s played.”
Turner, though, gushed over running back Trent Richardson, the third overall pick in last year’s draft.
“I got to see Trent firsthand,” Turner said. “He made an amazing, explosive run against us in that game in October. He’s an impressive young player. I’ve been fortunate through most of my stops to be with outstanding running backs, great running backs, guys who have characteristics like Trent. I’ve been fortunate to be able to coach five backs that have led the NFL in rushing.”
Turner also said the Browns have a good offensive line and some wide receivers, including Josh Gordon, who have the ability to make big plays.
“I saw potential,” Turner said. “I saw guys that when they were doing things right, they did them very well. When you’re dealing with young players, getting them to do it over and over and over again can be the challenge.”
Of course, making the right decision at quarterback is an even bigger challenge.
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.