BEREA: Like it or not, the Browns will probably have a new coaching staff and a new front office installed in the near future.
It would be a shame if owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner rush to judgment and acquire a new starting quarterback next year, too.
Brandon Weeden has been inconsistent this season. He has shown promise, at times, and struggled mightily, at others. He has played like, well, a rookie quarterback.
Some seem to forget Weeden is a rookie because he spent five years in minor-league baseball and turned 29 in October. Maybe the Browns and the public set their expectations too high for Weeden’s first season because of his age and maturity. Maybe their perception of his potential is skewed as a result.
Through the first eight games this season, I thought, and wrote, there was no reason to doubt Weeden can develop into the type of quarterback who can consistently lead a contender. In the second half of this season, he has been bad more often than good.
But that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in this year’s draft from Oklahoma State University. He has a great arm. He has shown the ability to stand in the pocket and deliver throws. He needs to drastically improve, and he seems to be smart enough to do it if the Browns don’t dismiss him right away.
“Can we expect it to get better? You should expect it to get better,” offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. “If you say, ‘Jeez, the guy has had time to do this.’ Is one year time? I don’t think so. I think typically, you’re judging those guys two- and three- and four-year increments, if you give them that long.”
Weeden, unfortunately, might become yet another quarterback who is chewed up and spit out by the Browns.
On Wednesday, Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe recently reported that if NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi is hired to run the Browns’ personnel department and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels replaces coach Pat Shurmur, they would likely attempt to trade for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, who would replace Weeden as the starter.
On Dec. 7, another respected NFL scribe, Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, listed the Browns as the second-most likely landing spot next year for supplanted Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
“Banner is a Vick fan,” Cole wrote. “Moreover, Banner is, at best, lukewarm on the prospects of 29-year-old rookie starter Brandon Weeden developing into a star quarterback.”
The Browns have had 17 starting quarterbacks, including 11 Opening Day starters, since their expansion era began in 1999, and the new regime won’t be doing the organization any favors if it dumps Weeden after only 16 games and continues the trend. He should get a second season to prove himself, and if he doesn’t show significant development after that, then moving on could be justified.
Weeden has thrown 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and owns the fourth-worst passer rating (72.4) in the league. He has completed 285-of-498 passes (57.2 percent) for 3,281 yards.
The Browns (5-9) will visit the Denver Broncos (11-3) at 4:05 p.m. Sunday, which should remind everyone how future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning struggled as a rookie in 1998 with the Indianapolis Colts. Manning threw 26 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. He completed 326-of-575 passes (56.7 percent) for 3,739 yards and finished with a passer rating of 71.2.
Should the Colts have kicked Manning to the curb after his rookie season? And what about their current rookie quarterback, No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck?
Luck has thrown 20 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, one more than Weeden. He has completed 308-of-564 passes (54.6 percent) for 3,978 yards. His passer rating is 75.5.
“He’s just like any other rookie,” said rookie wide receiver Josh Cooper, who played with Weeden at Oklahoma State. “He’s gone through four or five years of college, and it’s his first year in the NFL. It’s a learning process. You know you’re not going to come in as a rookie and grasp everything. When you look at statistics compared to others, they’re damn near close.”
And just because two other rookie quarterbacks — the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III (18 touchdowns, four interceptions, 104.2 passer rating) and the Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson (21 touchdowns, nine interceptions, 95.5 passer rating) — are having phenomenal seasons doesn’t mean Weeden is garbage.
Weeden has missed open receivers. He has had a league-high 21 passes batted down or tipped near the line of scrimmage. His pocket presence still needs a lot of work.
He knows it, too.
“It’s on me,” Weeden said. “I’ve got to play better. Whatever it is, I need to find a way to give our team a chance to win week in and week out. Be more consistent. That’s on me. There’s no one to blame except myself. I’m going to have to dial in on this offseason and continue to learn this offense and bring these receivers around and get on the same page and get better. I have to get better.”
Here’s hoping that he gets another year to improve with the Browns.
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.