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Can Cleveland Browns QB Brandon Weeden Join Tim Couch in Rare Territory?
By Bob Evans
Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski let the worst kept secret in the NFL out of the bag on Tuesday, as the coaching staff named 2012 first-round draft pick, Brandon Weeden, the team’s starter for the 2013 season. After starting 15 of the Browns’ 16 games in his rookie season, Weeden—barring any injuries—will join Tim Couch, Kelly Holcomb and Charlie Frye as the only Cleveland quarterbacks to start back to back seasons since the franchise returned in 1999.
Yes you read that correctly, of the 18 different starting quarterbacks the Browns have had since returning to the shores of Lake Erie, just three have previously started consecutive seasons at quarterback for the Browns. On top of that, Frye should barely even count, considering he started only the first game of 2007 before struggling and being traded to Seattle less than two weeks later. Of those three, only Couch was able to complete an entire season as the Browns’ starting quarterback–something Weeden will attempt to be the second to do since 1999 this year.
At the ripe old age of 29, Weeden will officially join that trio at home against the Miami Dolphins to open the season. After throwing for 3,385 yards, 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions as a rookie, Weeden was thrust into a “competition” with free agent Jason Campbell by his new head coach and new offensive coordinator, Norv Turner. However, Weeden’s big-time arm and comfort in the team’s new offense ultimately won out—not that it was any surprise to Browns fans.
When addressing the media following his decision to name Weeden the starter, Chudzinski stated, “Brandon has earned this job and that’s extremely important to me that he did. He’s gained my complete trust. He’s gained his teammates’ complete trust and this organization’s trust. We are all behind him and we will all be there to support him.”
With Weeden as the team’s unquestioned starter heading into Week 3 of the preseason, any distraction that may have been there from a potential quarterback competition has been lifted. Not that it was impacting Weeden negatively, as he completed 10-of-13 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown against St. Louis and 8-of-12 passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns against Detroit. But naming him the team’s starting quarterback can allow the other players around him to settle in and not have to worry about potentially losing their leader in two weeks.
Starting running back Trent Richardson was the first to echo this fact by stating, “I think Brandon’s going to bring this team to a whole other level this year…I just knew this offense was going to suit him real good. It’s not just the shotgun. I know he’s just comfortable with the playcalling, with the coaches, with the guys that are around him. He’s got more trust in us. We’ve got more trust in him.”
Now that Weeden has the players and Browns organization 100 percent behind him, hopefully fans and the media can put the 2014 quarterback draft talk to rest for a little bit. Weeden has done everything asked of him when making the transition to the vertical passing attack of Chudzinski and Turner, and even matured as a leader according to his coaches and teammates. On top of that, anyone watching him can tell the second-year quarterback is more poised and comfortable in the pocket than one season ago.
Hungry for a winner, we all tend to forget that there is a learning curve for players—especially quarterbacks—when they come to the NFL. Weeden was thrust into the wrong system with a coaching staff and head coach that simply did not work with him, and at times looked as if they did not want or believe in him. However, many levied the toughest judgment—at times calling for the Browns to rid themselves of him based on his age and performance last season.
The fact of the matter is despite his age, Weeden was still a rookie quarterback in the NFL. While his touchdown to interception ratio (14:17) was not the greatest, he was still a rookie learning the ropes. And if the preseason is any indicator of what the 2013 season will hold, those numbers will be much improved this season.
With an improved team across the board and coaching staff that is miles ahead of the one that was in place last season, the Browns offense should be much better than they were last season. Add in a confident starting quarterback with the support of his organization for the first time in his career, and 2013 could end up being very special for both Weeden and the Browns.
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