Whether rookie Brandon Weeden should be considered the Browns’ long-term solution at quarterback is one of the most important decisions the organization’s new management regime faces.
Count ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski among those who believe owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner would be wise to stick with Weeden, 29, who was picked 22nd overall in this year’s draft. Despite Weeden’s lackluster statistics — he’s ranked 31st in the league in passer rating (70.3) and completion percentage (55.3) — Jaworski has noticed progress.
“With a young quarterback, it’s all about becoming more consistent, and I’m seeing as the season progresses, he has gotten better,” Jaworski said Tuesday during a conference call.
“So I think Weeden does have a future in Cleveland.”
Jaworski hasn’t always gone to bat for Weeden. In the summer, he made it known that he thought the Browns jumped the gun by naming Weeden their starter in training camp.
“I really did like Brandon Weeden when he was coming out [of Oklahoma State University],” Jaworski said. “He was a big, strong-arm, powerful thrower that kind of had all the prototypical things you’d like to see in an NFL quarterback. Now when I went through the preseason, I thought starting him was premature. And I’m just going by looking at the tape of the Browns in the preseason. I did not think he was ready to become a starting quarterback in the NFL. Now he has gotten better every week. He still needs to improve, but I think he will improve.”
Jaworski said he’s familiar with Browns coach Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator Brad Childress and quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple, and he is convinced they know how to mold quarterbacks.
“He’s going to get excellent coaching,” Jaworski said. “Now if he buys in, if he listens, he will continue to improve. And he has gotten better. You watch him this week. Were there some mistakes in the game against Dallas? Yes, but I thought he made some terrific throws as well.”
After returning from the Browns’ trip to Texas, Banner said he’s impressed by Cowboys Stadium and thinks it could spark some ideas for enhancements at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
“It’s a spectacular stadium, and there’s a lot to learn and be interested in,” Banner told reporters Tuesday as the Browns volunteered at the Cleveland Foodbank. “It’s going to be difficult to look at our particular stadium with the existing configuration and figure out what may be applicable.
“There’s some challenges in [Cleveland Browns Stadium], including just kind of the location, where you’ve all got to enter from one side. That will create some challenges. But I think maybe it can provoke thoughts that apply to us, as opposed to things we can take from there that would fit into kind of the existing situation we have.”
Coaching staff observations
Although the Browns fell to 2-8 with their 23-20 overtime loss to the Cowboys, Banner has taken notice of the team’s refusal to pack it in.
“You’re, I think, in a very profound way seeing a coaching staff able to keep everybody motivated, working hard, trying hard, which where the record is, is something that is a good indication of the coaching staff doing a good job with the players,” Banner said.
“Those are the kinds of things you’re looking at, at this point.”
No Big Ben
The Browns will catch a big break Sunday when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4), because third-string quarterback Charlie Batch will start while Ben Roethlisberger continues to deal with shoulder and rib injuries. The 6-foot-5, 241-pound Roethlisberger is 14-1 against the Browns.
“Big Ben is probably one of the better veteran quarterbacks in the NFL, so you lose a guy like that, that’s gonna be a huge blow to the team,” rookie free safety Tashaun Gipson said.
“When you’ve got a quarterback in there like Big Ben, even the Pittsburgh Steelers know the severity of losing a player like him, of his magnitude. But they’re very capable of coming down here and doing whatever they have to do to get a win, and it’s our job to get on a roll here in these last six weeks.”
Roethlisberger is known for his ability to shed tacklers and avoid sacks.
“The guy just extends plays,” cornerback Dimitri Patterson said.
“You go from playing a game where you’re covering from three to four seconds to six to seven seconds, it’s a totally different animal. You have to be in it to know what that feels like. It’s very tough to do. He’s a very good player.”