Originally written October 22, 2012 on Waiting For Next Year:
Lost in all of the Pat Shurmur play-calling bashing, questions about the health of Trent Richardson, the special teams disaster, the extra point gaff by Reggie Hodges, and of course the big drop by Josh Gordon was the stellar play of rookie QB Brandon Weeden. Remember back after the 17-16 season-opening loss to Philadelphia, half of the city was already done with Weeden? The Colt McCoy catcalls were in full effect. I for one told people that what I saw from the rookie in his debut was some of the worst quarterbacking I can ever remember. I walked away from the game thinking the defense was better than I thought and Weeden was a disaster waiting to happen. But a funny thing happened on the way to writing Weeden off….. He got better and better and better. This is not Blaine Gabbert version 2.0 folks. While last week’s big home win over Cincinnati was a day we will look back at as Weeden’s first victory as a pro, it was yesterday’s 17-13 loss that may have been his finest hour in his first year under center in Cleveland. I know, the Browns only scored 13 points and you aren’t going to win many games that way, but it certainly wasn’t the fault of Weeden. He was efficient and smart, completing 25-41 for 264 yards and two TD’s. The rapport with college teammate Josh Cooper worked well. He only made one ill-advised throw by my count. The poise was there. Weeden is a victim of porous play-calling at times too, which is the west coast offense way. I am still not crazy about these two yard crossing routes on third and four (and we see them way too much). But with each passing week, you can see Brandon’s improvement with the command of the offense. The guy we are seeing today compared to that deer in the headlights rattled rookie in the home opener are as different as Terry Francona and Bobby Valentine. And as we know, that is a very good thing. Of course he’d have gone over 300 yards with three TD’s and possibly had been a winner if not for Gordon’s fourth quarter endzone drop. And on that particular play, Weeden couldn’t have thrown a better ball. The narrative this morning would have been completely different. There would be story after story about the ascent of the Browns rookie QB. Instead, we are discussing the Jimmy Haslam reaction shot. Think about the stakes and the timing of the play. The Browns trailed 17-13 with just over six minutes to play. It was third and one at the Colts 41. Weeden play action-faked and was absolutely crushed as he put a perfect ball in the air in stride right to Gordon, who has become the Browns big play receiver. He just dropped it. These things happen. Gordon obviously has to make that catch, but he also came down with that amazing TD catch a week before against the Bengals and has shown the ability to give the Browns something they haven’t had since Braylon Edwards 2007 season – a legitimate deep threat. Take the good with the bad. Credit Weeden for standing up for his guy after the game as well. “The loss was not even close to being on him. Everybody in this locker room makes mistakes. He makes that catch nine times out of 10. He’s coming into his own, and he’s becoming a really good player,” he said. That is the kind of leadership that teammates love from their QB. As much of a talent Cam Newton is in Carolina, check out his comments after the Panthers lost another heartbreaker at home to Dallas yesterday: “This taste, this vibe – I’m not buying it, man,” Newton said, according to Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer. “And I don’t know what it is but something’s going to have to change. Something’s going to have to change real fast.” “We just find a way to keep the game close and just wait to see what happens at the end,” Newton said. “I’m getting tired of it. That’s not a formula to win. Domination is a formula to win. “I’m going to leave this (media) room and I’m going to bring in a suggestion box and I want your suggestions to be in that suggestion box because I sure don’t know,” Newton said. “I really don’t. I wish I could tell you. But the only thing I control, sweetheart, is myself. Offensively, I am the leader of this bunch and we haven’t been getting the job done.” Stark contrast right there. Weeden gets it. I know you are all upset about losing this very winnable game, but this is another throw-away year in terms of record. Its all about the improvement and seasoning of the young core players. From Weeden to Gordon to Richardson to Craig Robertson to Joe Haden to TJ Ward to Billy Winn to Jabaal Sheard…. I could go on and on. The bottom line here is being competitive each week while growing as a group and Weeden is leading that charge. What we’ve seen out of him since that first week debacle is probably the best Quarterbacking in Cleveland since the return of the Browns in 1999 other than the fluke 2007 season from Derek Anderson. There’s nowhere to go but up. (photo via John Kuntz / The Plain Dealer)
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