BEREA -- Nobody takes a beating faster or harder than a Cleveland Browns quarterback.
In a town starved for wins and long-suffering because of losses (54 the past five years alone), a failure of a Browns quarterback draws condemnation faster than the Tasmaniam Devil spins.
Brandon Weeden suffered that fate this week.
He played the second-worst game of his career against Washington, and the outcry was loud. It was not unwarranted based on that one game, because he played poorly.
But were it not for ownership change and a coaching change that might follow, Weeden might be looked at a little different. Or at least given more time.
Hes in a rookie season of learning what the drill is and getting that first lap around the track, offensive coordinator Brad Childress said. Thats no different than he or Mitchell Schwartz or Josh (Gordon) or anybody. Can we expect it to get better? You should expect it to get better.
Because the expectation is things will get better, teams will stick with young quarterbacks provided they show something. Childress believes Weeden deserves that consideration.
If you say, Geez, the guy has had time to do this, is one year time? Childress said. I dont think so. I think typically, youre judging those guys two and three and four year increments, if you give them that long.
A look at the numbers shows that Weeden might not be setting the world on fire, but hes had a fairly decent season. Andrew Luck receives more plaudits (deserved) because the Colts are winning, but his and Weedens numbers are not that different:
--Weeden ranks ninth in the league with 498 attempts, ahead of Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub and Aaron Rodgers. This might be the single most amazing stat Weeden has. With a back taken third overall on the roster, the Browns are asking Weeden to throw 35.6 passes per game.
--Weedens completion percentage is not good: 57.2. That ranks him 30th, and only guys like Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez, John Skelton and Chad Henne are worse. Oh Andrew Luck also is worse. For Weeden, this could be the combination of adjusting to a new offense and working under center, but its a number that must improve.
--Weeden is 17th in the league with 3,281 passing yards, which is partly a result of the number of throws. But its way ahead of fellow rookies Ryan Tannehill, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. Weeden has more starts than any other rookie in Browns history, and more yards. In fact, if he averages 297.5 yards the final two games (which is a lot) he would have the second-best single-season passing yardage total by any Browns quarterback (Brian Sipes 4,132 is first). The guy clearly has the arm and ability to make the throws.
--His yards per attempt is 6.59, which is too low and well behind RG3s 8.21. This yards per attempt is typical of Shurmurs quarterbacks, and system. The previous two seasons he called plays for Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford, and they averaged 5.9 and 6.0 per attempt. Weedens seems Favre-like in comparison.
--Weeden has 14 touchdowns, which is 23rd, and 17 interceptions, which is tied for third. Thats not good, but as a rookie Peyton Manning had 26 TDs and 28 interceptions and won three games. Go down the list. In their rookies seasons, Tim Couch was 15 TDs and 13 INTs, Eli Manning six and nine (and 1-6), Cam Newton 21 and 17, Matt Stafford 13 and 20, Carson Palmer 18 and 18 and David Carr nine and 15. All were highly drafted. As well as Luck has played, he leads the league in interceptions with 18. Weeden suffers by comparison with RG3, who has 18 TDs and four INTs. But then Luck suffers in that comparison as well. The big difference: Luck has nine wins, Weeden five.
--Because of the interceptions Weedens ranking is a brutal 72.4, which puts him 32nd in the league. One ahead of him? Luck.
As for the issues most complained about, Childress said he does not agree that Weeden holds the ball too long, but he admits Weeden has had too many passes batted down at the line.
They havent quit on the rush and from our standpoint, we probably cant be staring in the same spot for too long, Childress said.
One large question about Weeden that wont go away is his age. At 29, if he does not go on a the positive progression next season, hes already 30. His age drove teams from drafting him, but the same Denver Broncos team that won with Tim Tebow and then signed Peyton Manning had Weeden high on their draft boards last April. The age issue affects patience, and makes it important that Weeden not plateau.
Will he get better next season?
Im not going to say leaps and bounds, Childress said. I would say youd see a different guy come to training camp, and progress through the preseason and into the regular season. Thats provided things stay static around him, which theres no guarantee there either.
This is a fluid business as we all know.
Yes, as we all know.
No team should ever stop looking at acquiring better players -- at every position. McCoy could tell Weeden a thing or two about that reality.
Weeden has ways he can improve, no doubt. But hes done enough as a rookie to be given another season -- provided the team does not bring in someone who is clearly better.
If there were no ownership change, though, another season would probably be a given.
At this point nothing is a given with the Browns. With ownership and front office change, change for the sake of change always remains an option.