CLEVELAND: Brandon Weeden’s inexcusable decision with 4:36 remaining Sunday against the Detroit Lions should be his last as the Browns’ starting quarterback.
But, by the Browns’ own choice, he’s their only option.
When Brian Hoyer suffered a season-ending knee injury Oct. 3 against the Buffalo Bills, they didn’t bring in another quarterback.
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released Josh Freeman earlier that same day, the Browns said on their radio show that he didn’t fit their offense and allowed Freeman to sign with the Minnesota Vikings. All signs point to him starting for the Vikings on Oct. 21 against the New York Giants.
When the Oakland Raiders cut Matt Flynn a week ago, the Browns continued to sit tight. Now Flynn is reportedly on his way to Buffalo for a tryout with the Bills.
When nine-year veteran Jason Campbell showed no interest in unseating Weeden, seemingly content as a backup, the Browns made no move to find someone determined to resurrect his career.
So after they blew a 10-point halftime lead and fell 31-17 to the Lions in FirstEnergy Stadium, it appears the Browns will make a self-fulfilling prophecy out of coach Rob Chudzinski’s comment Oct. 4. Asked why he thought Weeden could keep the Browns on their roll after Hoyer tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Chudzinski said, “Well, because we have no other choice.”
Apparently they will plug along with a quarterback his team seems to be losing faith in.
That’s not what was said in the postgame locker room, but what the vibe felt like. Not just to me, but to others around the team regularly.
Josh Gordon refused to talk, walking away from a group waiting for him. Greg Little fled again without comment, this time carrying his shirt. Davone Bess went unseen. The receivers’ silence spoke volumes, especially Gordon’s. He was Weeden’s biggest defender after the Browns survived Hoyer’s injury and beat the Buffalo Bills for their third consecutive victory.
Tight end Jordan Cameron hid behind the cloak of “I’ve got to watch the tape to really find out what was going on,” but conceded that the Browns were flat in the second half.
“He was competing out there. That’s never the problem,” Cameron said of Weeden. “He’s a tough guy; he’s a competitor. We had some decisions here and there.”
Perhaps the receivers could muster no words to justify Weeden’s interception as he tried to toss the ball over the head of running back Chris Ogbonnaya and out of bounds while defensive tackle C.J. Mosley was about to grab his left ankle. Linebacker DeAndre Levy intercepted, and the Lions converted the turnover into a touchdown.
(You can see for yourself on NFL.com, although you’ll have to search for it. The Browns’ featured video on the league’s website Sunday evening was the halftime “Doggy dash.”)
Rarely anything good comes out of a quarterback who throws as he’s falling — and this wasn’t even a throw. It was a backhanded, underhanded flip as Weeden was about to go down on his left side, which prevented him from turning. He conceded afterward that it was “just a boneheaded play” and that he should have taken the sack.
“As Norv said, ‘Any time you try underhand stuff, bad things happen,’ ” Weeden said, referring to offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
“It’s on me.”
Weeden later clarified he was talking about the interception, not the loss with the “It’s on me” remark.
I wish he had said both.
The Browns’ defense also collapsed, gashed by running back Reggie Bush and 6-foot-6 receiver Kris Durham, a Georgia product drafted in the fourth round by the Seattle Seahawks in 2011. The Lions found the Browns’ weakness, exploiting poor pass coverage by inside linebacker Craig Robertson, and never let up on the three-year veteran who has made nine NFL starts. The Browns’ run game was nonexistent in the second half, with 11 yards on five carries.
But despite all that, they trailed 24-17 and had a first down at the Lions’ 44-yard line when Weeden made his disastrous decision.
It was a decision that might define Weeden’s career. But Chudzinski said it didn’t change what he thinks about Weeden.
“I don’t feel differently about anybody,” he said.
That might be true, but only because Chudzinski has resigned himself to the fact that CEO Joe Banner and General Manager Mike Lombardi are not going to provide any help at quarterback this season unless another one goes down.
Browns offensive linemen Shawn Lauvao and John Greco said they were still behind Weeden, along with linebacker and defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson.
But that could be a tough sell to everyone. Weeden is 0-3 as a starter this season, not counting the Bills’ victory, when he played all but the first four minutes. Officially he’s 5-13 in his career. He bears the responsibility for the Browns’ lack of energy in the second half and their lack of execution. After halftime, he completed 14-of-23 for 157 yards with an interception for a passer rating of 63.13.
The Browns (3-3) were at a crucial juncture in their season. Three of the next four games are on the road, with trips to Green Bay (3-2), Kansas City (6-0) and Cincinnati (4-2), a Nov. 3 home game against Baltimore (3-3) and a Nov. 10 bye.
Sunday could be the day the Browns’ season turned, along with Weeden’s career. At least that would be the case if the Browns were planning for the present, not the future.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at http://www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.