Are the Cleveland Browns Already in the Matt Barkley Sweepstakes?

Michael Schottey@SchotteyNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 10, 2012

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 09: Starting quarterback Brandon Weeden #3 of the Cleveland Browns warms up prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles during their season opener at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 9, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns, as crazy as it seems, could be serious players for Matt Barkley next April.

In fact, if Brandon Weeden has many more weeks like Week 1, the Cleveland Browns will be looking at their own "Suck for Luck"-type campaign and yet another rebuilding plan under new management.

Fail starkly for Barkley?

Be laughed at for Matt?

Win-percentage erosion for the Trojan?

Whatever you want to call it, Monday morning had to have come awfully quick for guys like "Football Czar" Mike Holmgren, GM Tom Heckert and head coach Pat Shurmur. These guys were already on hot seats, but with new ownership pending league approval, they will need to prove they're worth keeping around.

New owner Jimmy Haslam has been a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and will surely want to put that kind of organizational stability in place with his new team. Before that happens, however, he'll need to make sure he has the right people in place.

Would it be surprising, at all, if Haslam watches the CBS NFL pregame and wonders exactly how many of his dollars he would have to throw at longtime Steelers coach Bill Cowher?

Of course, ditching the three horsemen of the Browns' apocalypse would also mean another complete rebuild for the next regime. While guys like Trent Richardson, Joe Thomas and Joe Haden would almost certainly be important building blocks for the next guy, Weeden likely wouldn't be.

Is this talk premature in the morning hours following Week 1? Of course.

Weeden could, just as easily, blow out the Cincinnati Bengals next week and start an epic Rookie of the Year campaign. It wouldn't be that surprising if the Eagles are one of the better defenses by year's end, so maybe this is just a fluke.

Weeden supporters can quickly point out the many fantastic quarterbacks that had horrible rookie seasons—Peyton Manning being the best example.

But, Weeden isn't a rookie in the traditional sense.

Weeden is approaching 30 and never had time for an NFL learning curve. If he's going to be a long-term starter, he needs to prove he's that guy today—tomorrow might never come. Both he and Colt McCoy could be valuable trading chips for a new general manager looking to stockpile draft picks.

Most importantly, whether or not it is a good idea—whether or not you, I or Cleveland sports media think it's a great idea—what matters is what the new ownership thinks. This would not be the first hostile takeover in business, and it certainly wouldn't be the first in sports.

New bosses mean employees have to prove their worth all over again, and Weeden (along with the Browns' brain trust) failed to make a good first impression in Week 1.

How will that pressure affect them all season? Will that pressure alone be their undoing?

So, it could be Barkley time in Cleveland awfully soon, or the Browns could decide to "stay novice for Logan Thomas." Either way, if the Browns leadership and Weeden want to last into 2013, they need to be better than they were in Week 1, much better.

Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff alongside other great writers at "The Go Route."


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