BEREA: Before Browns coach Pat Shurmur ventured to his polling location Tuesday afternoon, he cast a vote of confidence.
Despite Brandon Weeden’s dismal performance Sunday in the Browns’ 25-15 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Shurmur remains convinced that the 29-year-old rookie quarterback is the right man for the job.
And Shurmur approves that message.
“I do believe in him, and he is our guy,” Shurmur said during his final news conference of the bye week. “And I know it’s not going to be perfect, and it’s not going to be pretty all the time.”
Although Shurmur said he’s not worried about Weeden’s confidence, the latter could use some support. He seemed to regress when the Browns (2-7) fell to the defending AFC North champion Ravens (6-2) for the second time this season. He is ranked 32nd out of 33 NFL quarterbacks in completion percentage (55.1), interceptions (12) and passer rating (67.9).
“I’m frustrated,” said Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft from Oklahoma State. “We’ve won two games. We’ve been in games when we’ve had a chance to win, and we’ve come up short too many times. I think as a quarterback, that’s frustrating. I feel like I need to do more to help this team win. This position, when things are going great, you’re getting too much praise. When things are going bad, you’re getting too much negativity.”
Weeden has received ample criticism from fans and media following his latest performance. CBS analyst Rich Gannon, a former NFL quarterback, ripped Weeden during the network’s telecast. Then on Monday, Shurmur agreed the word “clunker” is an apt description for Weeden’s outing.
“When you’re in a situation like I am, a first-round guy, starting quarterback, there’s 31 other guys in this world that do what I do, and we’re all under the same microscope,” Weeden said. “So they’re just like I am. They don’t let it get to them. They don’t let it bother them. I’m way over that, way past that.”
Shurmur said Weeden copes well with the tough love the coaching staff dishes out.
“I think he handles it fine, in my opinion, in a way that promotes learning,” Shurmur said. “He’s very quick to say he made a mistake. It’s tough when you have to convince a guy, ‘Hey, listen, this was wrong.’ It’s hard for a player to get better, if he won’t admit that he screwed the thing up.”
Weeden completed 20-of-37 passes (54 percent) for 176 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for a rating of 44.4 against the Ravens. The Browns settled for a field goal from Phil Dawson on all five of their trips into the red zone.
“I didn’t really do my part — throughout the entire game for four quarters — to help this team get in the end zone,” Weeden said. “Whether it’s in the red zone, there’s a lot of different things, I think you have to take pride in scoring touchdowns.”
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Weeden didn’t take a single shot at the end zone, and the Browns are ranked 31st in the league in red-zone efficiency (33.3 percent), scoring six touchdowns in 18 chances. Weeden is still trying to strike the right balance between being aggressive and smart.
“I think when you have a ballhawks back there like [Ravens safety] Ed Reed, and you’ve worked your tail off to get where you’re at, and you have a kicker like Phil and you have a game like that, the routes we had designed, I could have tried to squeeze one in there,” Weeden said. “But if I did and something did happen, you guys would be asking me the same question: ‘Why in the hell would you throw the ball when [Reed] is back there?’
“So I’m in a lose-lose. So I check it down and hope to God that my backs can get a first down. If not, get a few yards and kick a field goal. But you’ve got to take shots. If they were there, if they were open, then I’ll throw it. But they weren’t open, so when guys aren’t open, you can’t force it, especially with [Reed] back there. He’s a game-changer.”
Other missed opportunities still bother Weeden. He overthrew running back Chris Ogbonnaya while he was sprinting wide open down the Ravens’ sideline in the first quarter. He also lamented misfiring to tight end Benjamin Watson late in the fourth quarter.
“When the guys are open, you have to make the throws,” Weeden said. “And when they’re open, you have to be routine with those. When they’re wide open, you have to be 100 percent. You know I missed Obi. It wouldn’t have counted [because of wide receiver Josh Gordon’s pass-interference penalty away from the ball]. That’s a wide-open throw. I’ve gotta make that — the throws like that. I missed Ben on a crossing route. Simple throw. I’ve gotta make that. That’s the stuff that eats away at me more than anything. It’s [when] guys that bust their tail to get open, and I’m not able to give them a chance.”
If Weeden sounds like a guy who needs a vacation, then he’s in luck because the Browns are off until Monday. He’ll go back to Oklahoma, where he’s expecting good golfing weather.
“I feel like we’ve been in games where we’ve had a chance to win a couple and we’ve come up short,” Weeden said. “This bye week is perfect. I’ll go back to look at those games and see where we came up short, and hopefully we can fix it. We’ve got a lot of season left.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. 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