This is the time of year when hope springs eternal in the NFL and it's no different in Cleveland.
Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that the player who has been publicly espousing that optimism is also the biggest obstacle to its realization.
That player is quarterback Brandon Weeden.
It would appear that any talk of a quarterback competition in Cleveland was just that, as Weeden has worked with the first team throughout OTAs.
I think we have a chance to be really good, I'm speaking about the whole team. Guys are flying around on that side of the ball just like we are. I think we have the potential to be really, really good.
That's an easy statement to make when players are running around in shorts and shells. However, once there's an opponent lined up opposite Weeden, odds are that "really, really good" is going to be pushing it where the Browns are concerned.
This isn't to say that Weeden bears all the blame for this fact on offense. Hardly. The Browns have one of the NFL's better offensive lines, anchored by tackle Joe Thomas, but the cupboard at the skill positions isn't exactly stacked.
Running back Trent Richardson has shown flashes of considerable talent, but durability is already becoming a real concern with the youngster. Knee and rib injuries limited Richardson throughout his rookie season, and now a shin injury could potentially sideline Richardson until August.
The team appears to have been wise in pulling the trigger on Josh Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft, as the speedster looked pretty good as a rookie.
However, that doesn't change the fact that Cleveland's receiver corps isn't going to be confused with Denver's or Green Bay's any time soon.
When trading for Davone Bess is cause for excitement among a fanbase, you know that the wideouts need help.
At the end of the day, though, the NFL is a league in which teams generally go as far as their quarterbacks carry them. In Weeden's case, he didn't do anything last year to indicate that he can carry the Browns very far.
Weeden's rookie season was uneven at best. He completed less than 60 percent of passes, threw more interceptions than touchdowns and posted a passer rating of less than 75.
His supporters will chalk some of his struggles up to being a rookie, and others still to the bland offensive scheme of former head coach Pat Shurmur.
However, those qualifiers don't change the fact that Weeden's numbers don't exactly compare favorably to those of the other rookie quarterbacks who saw significant playing time last year. Even where they do, it doesn't turn back time and make Weeden younger.
Weeden's age has been beaten into the ground by the media, but it's still a huge factor. One would certainly hope that Weeden's play improves under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner. Given that he was the worst starting quarterback in the NFL last year according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), there's nowhere to go but up.
The odds just aren't good that Weeden will ever be anything more than an average NFL starter. Even if he beats those odds, by the time he does, Weeden will be on the downslope of an abbreviated career.
It's completely understandable that fans of the Browns want to hope against hope that things are going to be different, that the new regime will maximize Weeden's potential and the Browns will finally, mercifully at least be competitive.
I get that. I've been a Browns fan for 30-plus years. My first year of watching the team as a boy culminated on a snowy day in Cleveland with a lovely play known as Red Right 88.
The losing gets old and Cleveland fans have endured losing in every agonizing way possible, including losing the team altogether.
However, sometimes false hope is worse than no hope at all. Maybe Weeden will get better and it's fair to expect improvement from the team overall in 2013.
If "really, really good" means contending for the playoffs, though, then forget it. It's not going to happen with Weeden under center.
Maybe that's for the best. A faceplant in 2013 would mean a high draft pick and there's some really good quarterback talent in the 2014 class.
Good, young talent.
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