Was Cleveland Browns QB Brandon Weeden Really to Blame for the Team’s Loss?

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Updated: September 11, 2013

Going into the 2013 home opener against the Miami Dolphins, many Cleveland Browns fans were hopeful that they would see a different Brandon Weeden. After all, the new vertical offense being implemented by offensive coordinator Norv Turner is supposed to be the best possible system that fits Weeden’s skill set.

Instead, Weeden showed no improvement in key areas such as using his eyes to deceive defenders, knowing when to play it safe or take a chance downfield and showing consistent touch and accuracy. In fact, this week proved – if  you didn’t know already – that the preseason means absolutely nothing when it comes to evaluating a quarterback.

Supporters of Weeden could make valid excuses for Weeden’s poor performance. The offensive line (mainly the right side) was manhandled most of the afternoon in both run and pass protection (Weeden faced pressure on 30 of his 59 drop backs), there were four dropped balls by his receivers – two of which resulted in interceptions (even though the pick that went off Jordan Cameron’s hands was Weeden’s fault as it was behind him), the coaching staff abandoned the run for most of the game and he was without his No.1 receiver in Josh Gordon.

All of these points are true, but Weeden didn’t do much to help offset these issues to make his teammates better. He struggled with his decision-making and accuracy all game, and the deep throw to Travis Benjamin into double coverage on a third-and-four is a perfect example of Weeden’s poor decision-making.

On the other side, Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill showed great accuracy on most of his throws, especially when targeting Brian Hartline, and seemed to show great patience in taking what the Browns defense gave him. Tannehill had no running game to keep the pressure off of him either, but he made plays for his team while Weeden could not.

There are also stats that say Weeden deserves much of the blame for the pressure he faced. According to Pro Football Focus, Weeden was 5-of-24 when he was faced with pressure and had an average of 2.97 seconds to throw, which would have been the fifth-longest mark in the league last season. He was much better when he had a clear pocket, but what quarterback isn’t?

In order for Weeden to be successful, the running game has to be effective. Trent Richardson has to be the focal point of this offense and the Browns have virtually no chance of winning if Richardson isn’t hovering around 100 yards rushing. The Browns don’t have the quarterback or receivers to have a pass-first offense like the Green Bay Packers. In order for this to happen though, the offensive line must do a much better job at opening up holes for Richardson because for most of the game, he had no lanes to create for himself. The coaching staff might want to consider running left a lot more often, as they only ran Richardson left three times and he gained no less than seven yards on each of those carries.

Assuming that Richardson gets back on track and produces like a Pro Bowl-caliber back that he is capable of, Weeden will have trouble making excuses as the season goes on. When Gordon returns from suspension in week three, Weeden will have plenty of playmakers around him. The offensive line, except for right guard Oniel Cousins, has a proven track record of success and they should bounce back to be a strength of this team.

Conclusion

Offensively, the Browns couldn’t do anything consistently well and everyone is responsible for their putrid performance. But the quarterback is by far the single most important position in sports and usually deserves most of the blame if the offense is struggling. A good quarterback can cover up a lot of problems on a team, and Weeden is proving that he isn’t a difference-maker.

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