After eight weeks in the saddle as starting quarterback, the question is whether Brandon Weeden was the right choice to step in and lead a sputtering Cleveland offense.
There have been two very clear groups of Browns fans who either fully back Weeden or the 2011 pivot, Colt McCoy.
Many felt that McCoy was the fall guy for a club that led the league in dropped passes, had a non-existent running game, and finished the year at 4-12.
The coaching staff promised a true competition for the starter role between Colt and 22nd overall selection Brandon Weeden, which obviously did not occur. Yet again it appeared that the loveable Hobbs, New Mexico native was getting shafted and not given a fair shot to keep his job.
However, Weeden’s raw skills and command of the huddle were undeniable through training camp.
He demonstrated an arm strength and accuracy that McCoy simply could not measure up to. Being a first round pick also meant that the Browns brain trust had a lot invested in Weeden, and needed to give him an immediate opportunity.
McCoy was forced out and was an absolute class act in quietly accepting his new assignment as a backup. The Brandon Weeden era had begun.
Week 1 vs. Philadelphia
Brandon Weeden’s induction into the National Football League can only be categorized as a complete catastrophe.
First of all he got caught underneath the American flag in a pre-game presentation and then proceeded to put together one of the worst QB performances that the city had ever seen.
Everyone remembers the four interceptions, no touchdowns, and 5.1 quarterback rating. Nothing positive could be taken from the 17-16 defeat to Philadelphia outside of that the team did not panic and left him in.
Chants for Colt McCoy were heard throughout Cleveland Browns Stadium to replace No. 3.
Could McCoy have come in and won the game from an Eagles squad that was begging to lose? Yes, but head coach Pat Shurmur wisely chose to not shatter Weeden’s ego and left him in for better or worse.
If anything came out of this match-up it was that the Browns showed the world that Weeden was their guy.
Following the dud of a home opener, Weeden and the Browns could only go up.
This was the former Oklahoma State Cowboy’s first test on the road and against a division rival in the Cincinnati Bengals
Weeden bounced back in a big way, rewarding his coach’s confidence in him by displaying the skill set Cleveland expected. Tossing for 322 yards, he produced a pair of TD passes and most importantly threw zero interceptions.
Even though the result was a 34-27 defeat it provided an exciting offensive product not seen in nearly two seasons with McCoy. It gave a glimmer of hope.
Under Colt, the Dawg Pound saw a scrambling signal caller that seemed unable to throw a convincing deep ball and settled for a short pass ‘dink and dunk’ offense. Weeden, on the other hand, looks the part of a general who uses his 6’3”, 220lbs to make an opposing secondary think twice before pinching in.
To make a statistical comparison between the two would be unfair as this 2012 squad vastly differs from a year ago.
Having Trent Richardson in the back field gives Weeden a tremendous advantage over McCoy who dealt with rushers who were either injured or could not hold onto the football. The offensive line is also much stronger this year with the addition of Mitchell Schwartz at right tackle.
The way to evaluate Cleveland’s quarterback situation must come by looking at the current offense and who is best suited to run it.
Could Colt McCoy consistently deliver those picture perfect long bomb tosses to Josh Gordon?
No. McCoy has demonstrated that he does not posses the arm power to make those throws without putting everything he has into it. Weeden makes 60 plus yard completions look effortless and defenses are coming to realize that he is not afraid to attempt those types of plays all day long.
Browns head coach Pat Shurmur commented after this past Sunday’s win, “you evaluate a quarterback based on how he leads his team to victory and I think he battled throughout.” He continued with, “It was less than perfect, but most of the mistakes he made are very correctable and will be even better this week.”
That has really been the story of Brandon Weeden through eight games. Make mistakes, learn from them, and move on.
The 29-year-old recognized that as well, in particular when speaking about his interception woes entering week six."It's an ego thing, and I think I just need to get rid of the ego and take what they give me and move on and not be as stubborn," Weeden told The Plain Dealer. "Just throw the football away and move on."
Since making those comments, the Browns have won two of their last three and a noticeable shift in on-field maturity and poise can be seen in their rookie under center. Weeden’s turnovers (10 INT) have dropped dramatically, while the number of TD passes (9) gradually grow.
At the season’s halfway point, Cleveland is on pace to exactly as many wins as they had one year ago. Matching four wins will not be seen as a triumph by the orange and brown faithful or by new owner Jimmy Haslam III.
Are the Browns really better off with Weeden calling the shots than McCoy?
The week to week improvement from Weeden and the opportunities he provides his developing receiving corps means a definite yes.
This is a special talent who gives Cleveland their first real chance at a long-term quarterback since the team returned in 1999. Like it or not Browns fans Brandon Weeden is the real deal and is here to stay.
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