Brandon Weeden and the Bad Cleveland QB Karma

Cleveland has been a really cruel place be an NFL quarterback for the past 14 years. We all know the long list of failures at that most crucial position for success in a league and sport that a tortured city cares about so dearly. Brandon Weeden is the latest victim of failing at the task of quarterbacking the Cleveland Browns, and the fans are loudly letting him know it.

Weeden has never been a popular player with the masses going all the way back to when he was drafted late in the first round in the 2012 draft. Many fans still held onto an irrational love of gritty little Colt McCoy and believed that he needed more time as the starter. McCoy is in fact an interesting to contrast to Weeden. Neither player has been/was particularly successful in their time leading the Browns offense. Both have their strong points as well as their glaring weaknesses. But McCoy was embraced by the Cleveland fans and Weeden was not.

It’s impossible for me to surmise why this was. I’ve actually been on the opposite opinion of both players as compared to the general consensus of the fans. I liked McCoy as a developmental QB as a mid-pick, but when he got his time as the starter it became glaringly obvious to me his physical limitations would always hold him back from being a championship level QB in the NFL.

I really liked Weeden coming out of college. I recognized that he had some things to learn to adapt to the NFL game but I was enamored with his arm and his ability to fit the football into tight spots all around the field. There really isn’t a throw that Weeden can’t make. From that standpoint he has all the ability that you could ever ask for from a quarterback.

However, what has subsequently happened with Weeden in his short career is that he has failed to make the necessary improvements in his game to be a great QB. He still holds onto the ball too long far too often and he has a tendency to stare down receivers and not see the whole field. When the guy he’s looking at breaks open you can bet that he’ll get him the ball. But in those instances where the receiver fails to get separation from his defender the result of the play is often quite ugly.

Weeden is not what you would call “decisive” when it comes to surveying the field. He doesn’t have the pocket presence of a guy like Tom Brady who you can watch stand tall in the pocket as he calmly scans through his reads to find the best option. While Brady is the pinnacle of calmness under pressure you could make the strong case that Weeden is currently the poster boy in the NFL right now for skittishness.

While I am finally coming around to the mass opinion that Weeden will never be a championship level NFL QB I continue to be baffled at the seemingly arbitrary players that Browns fans deem worthy of their support. Take the Browns two first round picks from that 2012 draft for instance. Browns fans defended Trent Richardson’s struggles till they were blue in the face putting the blame on the coaching staff, the offense line, and even Weeden instead of the guy who was in fact, you know, tasked with the job of running the football. However when it comes to Weeden’s struggles there’s only ever a cursory mention that maybe some of the blame could go the line, the receivers, or the coaching staff.

When Richardson was surprisingly traded after Week 2 fans screamed and cursed the organization for tanking the season by trading away the starting running back. Never mind that the guy had been injury prone and ineffective in his short career and the fact that they got a first round pick for a guy who hadn’t put up first round production, Browns fans can’t be bothered with details like that. But if Joe Banner and the Browns had traded Weeden instead for even a third round pick I guarantee that Browns fans would have thrown a collective party saying things like “Well the season was going down the drain anyways and Weeden sucked so at least we got something for him.” And seeing as how I’ve heard fans suggest that Weeden should just be cut, I don’t feel like I’m projecting much in this situation.

And I find it crazy that even now, while Richardson plays for another organization and continues to flounder in that whole picking up yards while running the ball thing, that Browns fans still defend Richardson and believe that he’ll become the great NFL running back that he was projected to be coming into the draft. Even Peter King is still a believer in Richardson and Monday night went to the Peyton Manning defense on Twitter:

I joked on Twitter myself that seeing as how Richardson and Weeden have played the same number of games in the NFL that he should be afforded the same “wait and see” approach.

But Weeden will never get that benefit of the doubt from Browns fans because they believed from the start that he was no good and Browns fans are never wrong. They pounce on every Weeden mistake with resounding boos and jeers. They pass off his good play as a blind squirrel finding a nut believing instead that his good play is the exception to the rule that is that Weeden just sucks. And maybe he does. He sure looked awful in the second half on Sunday and every arm-chair quarterback with a NFL Rewind account has affirmed this fact with screen captured pictures.[1]

And while I now believe that ultimately the Browns will need to find a new QB in this upcoming draft (in large part because there’s so many good ones) I don’t think that Weeden was a lost cause from the start…it just wasn’t going to work in Cleveland. I don’t know if I truly believe in karma but it sure seems like the collective belief of a fan base can have a profound effect on the performance of their players, both positively and negatively. And when the fans lambaste a player they deem unworthy of their support and he subsequently folds under the pressure the fans praise the self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m not wired that way and will never understand how fans can boo their own players or cheer when the guy they don’t like gets injured. In my eternal optimist view of my sports teams I have chosen to be the guy who tries to uplift the players of my teams no matter if I think they’re good or not.

Maybe in that way I do believe in karma. At the end of the day I’m rooting for laundry so I could care less if the guy playing quarterback for my Browns is a 30-year-old baseball washout or a 28-year-old journeyman who happens to be a Cleveland native. I feel like I’m alone in that belief though.

When Brian Hoyer came in and won two games he was resoundingly loved by the fans who chose to look past his obvious limitations and instead gave him the stamp of approval that they steadfastly refused to give to Weeden. In my own armchair I’ve pointed out Hoyer’s limitations and how the Browns coaching staff masked them. And it doesn’t matter that the 17 points Weeden’s offense put up in the first half against Detroit matches the point total that Hoyer’s offense put up in the whole Cincinnati game, Hoyer was “great” in that game and Weeden was just “OK” in that first half.

And don’t be bothered with the fact that Hoyer only played about five minutes against the Bills and that it was in fact Weeden who lead the Browns from behind to win that game. Don’t let these facts stop you from constantly pointing out that Hoyer was 3-0 as a starter and that Weeden is 0-3. And don’t bother pointing out that Weeden was without his top offensive player in those first two games either, as that would only hurt the ever-presiding opinion that Weeden is worthless.

Maybe he is worthless. Maybe the Weeden that looked confident and decisive in the first half against the Lions is in fact the exception and that the second half bewildered Weeden is the true reality. He has proven himself in this young short career to be consistently inconsistent. I don’t ascribe to the belief that he can’t get better, just to the belief that he probably can’t get good enough, fast enough to keep his job.

I also believe that while a big portion of the blame for Sunday’s loss should fall on Weeden just as much should fall on the defense that got consistently run over on every drive in the second half, and the coaching staff that has failed to keep a halftime lead for the third time this season. But fans and media members like and believe in the defense and the coaching staff so putting too much blame on those guys’ shoulders would hurt their reputation as smart football minds. No, it’s always better to heap the blame on the guy that you didn’t believe in all along because it proves that you were right.

At the end of the day I believe that Brandon Weeden won’t be a championship level QB for the Browns because the fans believed from the day he was drafted that he couldn’t be and have done everything in their power to prove that they were right all along. I guess in the end I do believe in karma.

Whether it’s positive or negative, we truly are “Believeland”.


[1] One note on the Weeden flip-fail play: While that was a particularly ghastly play and was ample ammunition for the Weeden detractors, don’t forget that even great QBs can make bonehead plays. Take this Andrew Luck gem from last season when as he was being tackled threw the ball directly into a defender’s chest without a Colts receiver anywhere in the area. Hey at least Weeden was directing the ball in the direction of one of his own guys. That has to count for something, right?

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