COMMENTARY | Brandon Weeden of the Cleveland Browns looked like a starting NFL quarterback for three and a half quarters against the Detroit Lions. He made some good plays, he made some bad throws, and he was guilty of only one regrettable mistake. Then, with the game and potentially the season on the line, Weeden produced a lowlight that will be replayed on NFL blooper reels for years to come, costing Cleveland an opportunity to go 4-2 in the process.
Enough is enough.
It does not at all matter what Weeden was attempting to achieve when he carelessly tossed the ball almost straight up into the air halfway through the fourth quarter of Sunday's affair. This interception cannot, especially on first down when the team is trailing by only a touchdown with several minutes remaining on the clock, ever happen. Anything minus a fumble, including a sack or even an intentional grounding penalty, would have been acceptable.
That interception was not the result of a quarterback doing whatever possible to lead his team to victory. It was the action of a panicking individual who didn't know what to do in that moment in time. Weeden imploded on the most pivotal play to date of the season. There's no reason to believe that was a one-off and that the 30-year old second-year QB will vastly improve between now and this coming Sunday's game that will see Cleveland travel to face off against a good Green Bay Packers team.
The Browns are not playing winning football with Weeden at quarterback. This is not an opinion. Cleveland is 0-3 this season when Weeden starts. There is not, after what I've seen in the past two games, anybody who could convince me that Brian Hoyer was just that much better of an overall player than is Weeden.
This issue isn't one that is solved by a quarterback releasing the ball quicker and reading defenses more precisely. Cleveland players clearly had more confidence in games three and four when Hoyer started. With Weeden on the field, the offensive line has routinely given up on plays, and wide receivers have failed to reel in catchable balls. Hoyer was hardly Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, but there is no denying that the team's offense looked like one capable of hanging with just about any opponent when he was playing.
You can't make that claim when Weeden is the starting QB.
A football scout told me years ago that critiquing a quarterback is largely about one thing: Can you envision that player leading a team down the field for a game-winning drive? If the answer is "yes," then that QB could one day play on Sundays. Weeden does not today have the goods to be the key man in such a scenario.
I have, in the past, defended Weeden. I pointed out that he was largely a scapegoat for an underachieving offense, and that he deserved one final chance to save his Cleveland career. He got that opportunity on Sunday, and he literally gave it away.
Nobody can say for sure that backup Jason Campbell is the right guy for the gig. Maybe the team's savior is a free agent or second on the depth chard of another team. Perhaps the Browns will have to merely survive with whomever fills that hole in the offense until the 2014 NFL Draft.
Here is what I do know. The AFC North isn't all that good this season. The Pittsburgh Steelers are lousy. The Baltimore Ravens are very much so a .500 team. The Cincinnati Bengals, who lost to the Browns on Week 2 of the Brian Hoyer Experience, are a 4-2 team that is lucky to not be 3-3.
I also know that these Browns can win as long as they have a capable quarterback. Find that man, Cleveland, and find him soon. Don't give up on 2013.
This season isn't yet a lost cause.
Zac has been following Cleveland sports since a little before his birth, and thus his heart breaks a little more with every year. He has been covering the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and the NFL for Yahoo! Sports since 2010
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