In Cleveland Browns Country, 2013 has all been about one thing: Brandon Weeden. There were other question marks for this football team, but all eyes ultimately turned to Weeden. There was a lot to be answered about the quarterback after an uneven 2012.
Browns fans never liked the Weeden pick at no. 22 in the 2012 draft. He was in his late 20s. He had played professional baseball and had not succeeded at that. Besides, he wasn’t one of the guys that ESPN talked a lot about. Browns fans act like they’re savvy, but in the end they’re just like everybody else: they want buzz.
There was no buzz with Weeden. The worst thing you ever want to do is start off on the wrong foot with Browns fans. If they don’t like you, you’re going to have to be very successful to win them over. It’s a marriage full of passion, but a lot of abuse on both sides. Weeden started out on the wrong foot.
2012 saw Weeden throw for a lot of yards (3,385) and he completed almost 60 percent of his passes (57.4 percent), but he threw more interceptions (17) than touchdowns (14). His quarterback rating was pedestrian (72.6).
People told other people until it became truth that he stared down his receivers. Sorry, Browns fans, but you cannot tell where a quarterback is looking while you’re watching him on TV. Besides the distance, you’re looking at a profile shot of a guy wearing a helmet. Stop it.
The team lost a lot of games. Weeden was never exceptional. Never mind that the guy was a rookie; Browns fans wanted results now. It’s always about the future and “one of these days” when it comes down to this team. Fans are sick of waiting. From that impatience and the new ownership/management/coaches, the consensus became, “This is a one-year audition for Weeden.”
Is it? Who knows? Maybe the time for auditioning is over. When asked about Weeden returning as starter, head coach Rob Chudzinski answered with, “What choice do we have?” Ouch.
But more than what this means to the team — which has been examined and debated ad nauseum — is what this means to the man himself.
What he wants professionally is right in front of him. After whatever that was that made up his rookie season, he stands a sophomore and everything is on the line. Even if he’s not auditioning for the Browns, even if his time there is over, he’s certainly auditioning for another NFL team.
Everyone talks about his age. He’ll be 30 on Monday, old for an NFL sophomore, but young in terms of life. But imagine yourself at 30 and your dream right in front of you. Everything you’ve worked for is there for the taking. Do well, and see your dream blossom. Do poorly and watch it all go away.
Look, no one should feel bad for Weeden in an average-person sense. The guy is getting paid a lot of money and he will stay in the league for a while even if he’s just a backup. He’ll not be dealing with the issues that you and I deal with, but if you’ve ever had a dream and you’ve ever tried hard to make it come true, then you can at least see through the man’s eyes.
Most of us will never know the pressure that he’s facing. Most of us will be fine being professionally pedestrian. We’ll put in our time and make a little more money, and maybe even move a little up the ranks just because we keep showing up. There is no one-year audition for us.
But imagine having just one year with everything riding on it, and no excuses: if you fail, you fail on your own. And for the rest of your life, you’ll look back at that one year and wonder.
For Brandon Weeden, that year is 2013.