The Cleveland Browns went into their 2012 regular-season opener with a rookie quarterback (Brandon Weeden), running back (Trent Richardson) and right tackle (Mitchell Schwartz), the first team to do so since the 2002 expansion Houston Texans. That Texans team got quarterback David Carr sacked an unbelievable 76 times, and Carr ended his rookie season with 233 completions in 444 attempts for 2,592 yards, nine touchdowns, and 15 picks.
In the end, Weeden's debut was far worse when he went up against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday ... and the debacle started before the Browns even took the field.
You can imagine what Weeden might have been thinking pre-game. "OK, good throws ... get ready to roll ... the Eagles' defense is rough; great pass rush, but we can get this done ... remember, there's more than one read in the NFL ... wonder what I'm gonna do for my 29th birthday ... boy, I sure wish Justin Blackmon was here ... say, Mike Holmgren kinda looks like Andy Reid with that bristly mustach..."
/THWACK. "What the $%^&*()???"
Yeah -- and then, this happened.
"Got no warning," Weeden told Yahoo's Mike Silver via text on Sunday night. "Was throwing like I always do and they came haulin' ass with that thing right at me."
Somehow, none of Weeden's teammates noticed the embarrassing episode, and after a 10-second adjustment to his new situation, Weeden was able to bail out from under the flag.
"I was kneeling and just crawled out," Weeden told Silver. "It was about 10 seconds but it felt like forever."
Actually, Weeden did share this episode with a team equipment man, who was also shrouded by the giant flag.
"I looked at him and said, 'This sucks.'"
Three hours later, Weeden may have wished that he'd spent the entire afternoon under the flag -- he had as rough a NFL debut as could be imagined. Caught short by his inability to adjust to pressure and hesitations when trying to process multiple reads, Weeden finished his first real NFL game with 12 completions in 35 attempts for just 118 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Browns lost a close one, 17-16, but that was more about the fact that Michael Vick struggled equally, throwing four picks of his own. If the Browns had gone for and succeeded with a two-point conversion following D'Qwell Jackson's 27-yard interception return with 13:59 left in the game, Cleveland could have forced the game into overtime. Of course, we don't know what ghastly result Weeden might have prompted with his play in a fifth quarter, nor could we imagine what horrors the grounds crew at Cleveland Stadium might have prepared for him before the extra frame.
"The outcome wasn't what I wanted," Weeden said, "but I wasn't overwhelmed."
The tape shows otherwise, but it's possible that Weeden was still affected by his impromptu Flag Day. He's got a second chance to make a first impression against the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday.
That game is set to be played at Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium, but that shouldn't bother Weeden. He's already figured out that in some cases, home-field advantage is nothing but a myth.