Brandon Weeden might want to mind his time in the spotlight. (Getty Images)
Through his first 10 NFL games, Cleveland Browns first-round quarterback Brandon Weeden hasn't enjoyed the kind of success his team certainly envisioned when he was taken 22nd overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Weeden has completed just 55 percent of his passes, he's the fourth-worst qualifying quarterback in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics, and he's been goose-egged in passing touchdowns in four of those games ... including two of his last three.
Admittedly, it's not all his fault -- only Detroit's Matthew Stafford has suffered more dropped passes (37) from his receivers than has Weeden (32), and Weeden doesn't have a Megatron to make up for it, but it's pretty clear that Cleveland's passing game hasn't gotten off the ground.
When he was asked about a few high throws in Cleveland's 23-20 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys last Sunday, Weeden said a few things he would later regret. From Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com on Friday:
"There's a couple of routes we ran on Sunday for the first time all week and that's not fair to me, it's not fair to the receivers, it's not fair to any of us, because when you're getting thrown in the fire and the bullets are flying . . ." Weeden trailed off on that thought and went on to explain that his elbow was low on some of his throws.
Of course, Browns head coach Pat Shurmur had a response to THAT.
"I disagree with some of that because I do think that we make an effort of the ones we're going to call we practice. A lot of the plays that we practice, we've been running all year and you run them in training camp. It's nearly impossible with the amount of time and then the length of the season to practice every single thing multiple times. You see it going on behind me (after practice) right now. They spend extra time working on the individual routes. That's what you've got to do."
Later in Cabot's article, Weeden did admit that it would be impossible to run every route in practice, but the fact that he sees this as a problem points to a concern many people had about Weeden's game pre-draft. At Oklahoma State, Weeden was able to succeed in an offense that usually had a pre-determined first read, and that backfired on him at times. On Weeden's college tape, you'd occasionally see him throw to an open area for no reason except that he expected Justin Blackmon to be there. As the NFL's most prominent "see it/throw it" passer, Weeden isn't very comfortable throwing it if he hasn't seen it.
Weeden's comments would not have been seen as such an issue were they made by Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady -- those quarterbacks have obviously earned enough credibility to make people wonder what the heck is wrong with their coaches if Mr. Quarterback isn't getting the looks he wants in practice. But from Weeden, or any other quarterback who hasn't really done anything of note yet, it comes across as excuse-making, even if it isn't.
Perhaps that's why Weeden felt a need to backtrack when he was confronted on the matter via Twitter. ESPN's Bomani Jones inquired, "So, Brandon Weeden kinda blamed the coaching here, didn't he?"
"No not even a little bit," Weeden replied. "Not my intention at all. They took what I said out of context and ran with it. Listen to it all...
Weeden then responded to a tweet from Fox Sports on the same subject. "Our play calling has been great all year... Wasn't what was said AT ALL... Not even on the same topic..."
Weeden later deleted those two tweets, but Larry Brown Sports captured them for posterity.
Look, it's tough to be a rookie quarterback, and it's especially tough when other rookie quarterbacks around you are blowing things up at an accelerated rate. When you have Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Ryan Tannehill enjoying great overall seasons or credible long stretches of splash plays, it can't be easy to be the guy in the back of the line when it comes to the five rookie quarterbacks starting this season. But Weeden has to understand how those comments will be interpreted. One of the reasons he was so highly regarded by many NFL scouts and personnel people was the sense that his age (29 on opening day) would give him an edge in the maturity department.
And to be fair to Weeden, here's the rest of what he said on the subject:
These guys can't run forever. You want to make sure they're fresh throughout the week. And so if we're doing routes and I throw Josh [Cooper] a comeback, when we get in team period I probably won't throw it to him. I'll probably make him my backside read just so I can throw other routes to other guys. You try to spread them out and you know what you're throwing. You've just got to be constant about it because most plays we only run once a practice.
"That means you're throwing to one receiver. That means two or three receivers aren't getting a touch, aren't getting a catch, they're not getting the ball thrown their way. That's tough on them, so (it's) just limited amount of reps. We can't be out there for three hours and we can't go out and run every single route and make every throw. It's tough. That's why I like to do it after practice, walk through them or whatever. And you look at guys like Peyton Manning, that's what he does. Those guys are on point because he takes a lot of pride in being on time with all of his guys."
They're also on point because everyone's on the same page as far as what's done in practice, what's done after practice, and what shows up on gameday. Until Weeden is more impressive on gameday, he'd be well-advised to stay tight-lipped about the preparation stuff.
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