The Cleveland Browns played the Detroit Lions for the their sixth game of the season, and any questions, any curiosities about what this team would be with Brandon Weeden back at the helm were settled. Weeden is done as a Cleveland Brown. This team cannot win with him at quarterback.
The Browns entered the game tied for first place in the AFC North and on a three-game winning streak. The team was still a question mark, but almost all of that was because of Weeden. Could he replace an injured Brian Hoyer who had replaced an injured Weeden? Was Hoyer a better quarterback than Weeden, or was it that Hoyer had Josh Gordon where Weeden had not? Fans didn’t think that was the case. Fans thought that Weeden was just an inferior quarterback. And as we witnessed in Sunday’s game against the Lions, the fans were right.
Weeden and the Browns in Week 6 looked like Weeden and the Browns in Weeks 1 and 2: Solid first half, halftime lead, second half of three-and-outs, with a 4th quarter of getting outscored as the Browns defense wore down from fatigue. Watching the 4th quarter and thinking these thoughts, I saw the Browns in a scenario that they had faced in Weeks 3 and 4 with Hoyer as the quarterback — the team needing to be led down field to victory. Against the Minnesota Vikings, it was to take the lead. Against the Cincinnati Bengals, it was to make a three-point lead a 10-point lead. Hoyer had succeeded both times.
With the Browns down seven in the 4th quarter and less than five minutes left in the game, it was Weeden’s turn. This was make it or break it for him, and he broke it. In what Weeden himself called a “boneheaded play,” the QB threw away his chance. And it was underhanded, at that. On first down, across midfield, trying to avoid a sack, Weeden tossed the ball towards the sideline. The ball floated in the air and linebacker DeAndre Levy snatched the ball, the game, and Weeden’s career out of the air. No game-winning drive. No score. No victory. No chance Weeden will be the quarterback again for Cleveland after 2013, maybe never again in First Energy Stadium.
When Weeden choked that game away, I said, “That’s it; the team has to bench him. Not because Jason Campbell is going to come in and save the team, but because now the atmosphere will be too poisonous. It would actually be a disservice to Brandon Weeden to let him go back out there for another game and let the fans unleash their frustration on him. Sit the guy down.” I mean, I don’t know if any of you saw – or rather, heard – how the fans reacted on Thursday Night Football when Weeden came in to relieve an injured Hoyer and started off by throwing the football 900 feet over his first target, but it was ugly. Now? They’ll kill him.
Of course, that means giving up on your season starter and benching your first round pick from last year. Yes, he’s not the pick of this management team, but it still may be irresponsible to say that all of his remaining games will be like the Lions game (which was like the Baltimore Ravens game, which was like the Miami Dolphins game). After all, he did fine against the Buffalo Bills in that Thursday Night game where the fans were ripping into him. Quite a dilemma, I thought, until I realized that the next game is on the road. So is the game after that.
This gives Browns coaches and Weeden a chance to save himself, at least to some degree, without the pressure of the fans. As the future quarterback of the Browns? No, that ship has sailed. But as the Browns quarterback of the present. No, he’ll never be loved or even liked by the fans; that’s sailed also. But if he could come out and play decent in the next two games, maybe he can survive long enough to finish out the year he started.
But if not and he comes out and lays a couple more eggs, then no way can you let him start once the Browns come home. You have to let Campbell start and pray he doesn’t get hurt. Certainly that seems to be the way Rob Chudzinski is thinking as on Monday he announced that Weeden would be the starter for Week 7 against the Green Bay Packers.