Smaller Story, But I Know You’ve Been Following It – 11/15/2012

by dave on November 15, 2012

You may not believe this, but I think the Cleveland Browns made a mistake.

I know. I will give you a minute to let that sink in. Maybe you should sit down.

In spending a first round pick on Brandon Weeden, they drafted an efficient, effective college quarterback who led one of the strongest offenses in the country at Oklahoma State a year ago. They also put their team’s fate in the hands of a 29-year old rookie.

Weeden won the starting job in training camp and has led the Browns to a 2-7 record, completing 55% of his passes for 2088 yards, 9 TDs and 12 INTs. That is already halfway to last year’s total of 4 wins with a much worse defense (last year 5th in points allowed, this year 20th). It also projects to put Weeden to nearly 4,000 yards passing on the season, something that has been accomplished once by the Browns (Brian Sipe in 1980). Even if short of 4,000, Weeden could end up with more yards than Bernie Kosar threw for in his best season (3,854 in 1986).

But set all of that aside because that isn’t what concerns Browns leadership. It is the 12 interceptions that have been thrown.

Throwing 1.25 INTs for every touchdown is not good. I get that. Having more interceptions than any quarterback in the league not named Romo is bad. I understand. But despite being almost old enough to run for President in 2016, we need to remember that Weeden is still a rookie. Last year Cam Newton had 10 interceptions at this point in the season.

Weeden’s problem isn’t that his performance and interceptions are abnormally high, it is that for him, more than others, the clock is ticking. When you join the league at an age that on average would be a 6th or 7th year pro, you aren’t allowed the learning curve that other rookies are. Weeden is still 2 years older than Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco and one year younger than Ben Roethlisberger.

Where the mistakes of others are dismissed as ‘rookie’ mistakes, Weeden doesn’t have that luxury. His peers consider the season a failure if they don’t make the Super Bowl.

While the Browns may lament the mistakes being made by their quarterback, they should really be re-examining the decisions they made in bringing Weeden into the team. What were their expectations using a first round pick on a (then) 28-year old? Did they expect, because of his age, he would jump right in and play like a veteran? Did they think being several years more mature than others he would naturally get up to speed that much quicker? If anything they should have expected a longer learning curve for Weeden given he really had two years of starting experience in college after a failed baseball career. Experience is experience. You have it or you don’t. Age is not experience.

<My god, I think the Browns just turned me into Skip Bayless with that argument.>

In the end, the Browns have set up Weeden for failure by setting an impossibly high bar for him to clear with little help around him. Could he reduce his interception rate by being less reckless with his passing? Of course. But it is a thin line between reckless and aggressive. Lose some of the aggression and Weeden will be constantly checking down to underneath receivers or throwing the ball away. The offense will flounder and Weeden will be blamed for an anemic passing attack (see: Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings). He also will never learn which windows to throw into and which to avoid because he will be avoiding them all.

If Weeden doesn’t have Benjamin Button disease then the Browns failed to understand the risks of drafting a quarterback in the first round who will see 30 well before the next summer Olympics. The Browns are a young team with only pockets of talent. The Browns are thinking long term but relying on a quarterback who is old and inexperienced. In short, the Browns may be a mess.

Stop me, if you have heard that before.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/football/nfl/11/14/brandon-weeden.ap/index.html?sct=nfl_t2_a11

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