By Nate Ulrich
Beacon Journal sports writer
BEREA: Quarterback Brandon Weeden has had trouble avoiding sacks and turnovers this season, but he will likely experience even more difficulty trying to elude negativity from Browns fans.
It’s open season on Weeden in the wake of his back-handed, shovel-pass interception that became the lasting image of a 31-17 loss against the Detroit Lions last weekend at FirstEnergy Stadium. A fan from Hudson even took out a “quarterback wanted” ad on Craig’s List.
Weeden, though, knows it’s vital for him to tune out the hate as the Browns (3-3) prepare to visit the Green Bay Packers (3-2).
“It’s part of playing the position,” Weeden said Wednesday before practice. “I have very good earmuffs on, went out and got about the best ones I could. You can’t listen to it. All I care about is what goes on inside this building. If the guys in this building have my back and I have theirs and we’re all on the same page, it really doesn’t matter what else is being said. We’re a football team here, and I love coming to work with these guys every single day.”
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski insisted Weeden has the support of his coaches and teammates as he attempts to psychologically rebound.
“This team has rallied behind Brandon and will,” Chudzinski said. “He’s played well at times, and he’s embraced the coaching and he’s working hard with [offensive coordinator] Norv [Turner] and doing everything that he can to improve. And I expect that to happen and expect him to play well.
“I like his attitude. He’s taking responsibility and accountability as we all are. It’s not just about one player. It’s the team. And as coaches, we’re going to do a better job, and so I’m excited about this weekend and Sunday.”
The captains, Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, inside linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and outside linebacker Quentin Groves, echoed Chudzinski’s sentiments about Weeden, who believes his teammates have his back.
“I think everybody in here has got a lot of confidence and trust in what Brandon does,” said Thomas, the captain of the offense. “We definitely think he’s the guy that can lead us this year to the playoffs.
“He definitely feels the support in here from us. It’s unwavering, and we see all the good things he does and not just one play here or there.”
Weeden is 0-3 as a starter this season, though he helped the Browns rally from a 7-0 deficit and defeat the Buffalo Bills 37-24 on Oct. 3.
He came off the bench after quarterback Brian Hoyer, who led the team to back-to-back wins after Weeden sprained his right thumb in Week 2, suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the first quarter against the Bills and threw a touchdown without an interception.
But Weeden’s momentum didn’t last long, and one play has prompted an outcry from fans.
With the Browns trailing 24-17 late in the fourth quarter, Weeden flipped the ball toward fullback Chris Ogbonnaya on first-and-10 at the Lions’ 44-yard line a split-second before defensive tackle C.J. Mosley grabbed Weeden’s left ankle and dragged him to the ground. Linebacker DeAndre Levy jumped in front of Ogbonnaya and intercepted the awkward pass along the sideline at the Browns’ 49 with 4:36 left. Seven plays later, the Lions scored a touchdown, capping their 24-0 run in the second half and securing the victory.
“It’s behind me,” Weeden said of the interception. “Obviously, I didn’t lose any sleep over it. It stung at the time. It will probably always sting. If I go back and watch that game again, it will bring back memories. It all happened so fast. You have to move on from it. You have to be positive.”
The Browns’ faithful certainly aren’t optimistic about Weeden, who has thrown four touchdown passes, five interceptions and taken 18 sacks in four games this season.
During an interview with ESPN.com, Hudson native Seth Pae, 22, took credit for writing a satiric Craig’s List ad seeking Weeden’s replacement. The ad was posted Monday, the same day Weeden turned 30.
In part, the ad reads: “If you’re sick of seeing desperation heaves to the sidelines, countless sacks … and underhanded lightly tossed interceptions in the 4th quarter then please come apply! If you can throw a ball, come apply! If you can’t, come anyway!
“Do you sort of kind of know some of the rules of football? If yes keep reading. If no ... well also keep reading! We will take ANYONE. This could turn into a regular gig for the right person.”
The ad has spread via social media. Weeden vowed to stop using Twitter when he reported to training camp in July, and he reiterated Wednesday his belief that social media “has turned into a joke.” He said his wife, Melanie, has recently joined his ban.
“She got rid of it, too,” said Weeden, who completed 26-of-43 passes (60.5 percent) for 292 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions against the Lions, posting a passer rating of 76.9. “Get rid of the temptation. If it’s on your phone, there’s a temptation you might listen to it, and it’s useless.
“I’m mature enough to not listen to what a 7-year-old kid has to tell me about how to play quarterback or whatever it may be. I’m not concerned with it. I’m concerned with helping this team win games.”
When asked about the Craig’s List ad during a conference call, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, “I would not find a whole lot of humor in that if that happened in Green Bay.”
Rodgers said taking criticism is “part of the territory” for NFL quarterbacks, and it’s important for them to grow from such adversity.
“I think it’s in times like that where your mental toughness is tested, your character comes out,” Rodgers said. “I think you learn how to move forward from those things. It is a growing process. You have to go through it. We all did. Anybody who’s played his position has made throws like that or decisions like that.”
Weeden wouldn’t reveal any names, but he said quarterbacks throughout the league have called to support him in recent days.
“Several guys have said, ‘Hey, man, I’ve done that or I’ve made worse [decisions],’ ” Weeden said.
“If you play this position long enough, you’re going to make mistakes. It’s how you bounce back and learn from them. I’ve had several buddies from around the league remind me. They said, ‘This position’s hard enough. You can’t dwell on the past. You move on and try to not let it happen again.’ ”
The 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, Weeden has made 18 NFL starts. But with a record of 5-13 as a starter, he knows most observers have already lost faith in him. Only winning will convince them otherwise.
“I don’t know many other guys that are having to go through that situation,” Weeden said. “But when you play the quarterback position at any level, those are the questions you’ve got to answer. Winning is a cure-all. If you can win games, that cures everything. I need to do my part to be more consistent to help this team in whatever way possible.”
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.