Browns Quarterback Brandon Weeden Shows Promise but has Long Way to Go

By Chris Malumphy

Since their return to the NFL in 1999, the Cleveland Browns have been a sorry franchise. The city's betrayal by owner Art Modell, an NFL Hall of Fame nominee, left the town starving for football. The town had lived through a decade long dynasty led by Coach Paul Brown and quarterback Otto Graham, undoubtedly the best of his era, that began in the AAFC in 1946 and continued in the NFL throughout the first half of the 1950s. The Browns continued playing solid football in the late fifties and early sixties behind the one man wrecking crew known as Jim Brown and solid, although not spectacular quarterbacking, culminating in a stunning 27-0 victory in the NFL Championship Game victory over the proud Baltimore Colts led by quarterback Frank Ryan. The late sixties saw no championships, but numerous playoff appearances behind wobbly-kneed Bill Nelson. The seventies were mostly a time to forget, especially most of the years when Mike Phipps played behind center. The saving grace was the development of MVP Brian Sipe and the Kardiac Kids, a team that was only deprived of a Super Bowl appearance following the 1980 season by the circumstances and decisions that led to the "Red Right 88" Oakland Raider interception on the frozen tundra at Muncipal Stadium. Coach Marty Schottenheimer, quarterback Bernie Kosar and the dawgs Hanford Dixon and Frank Minniefield revived the franchise in the late eighties missing out on the chance for two Super Bowl appearances due to "The Drive" and "The Fumble." When Schottenheimer left, the team floundered. Even the great Bill Belichick could not revive the franchise and Modell gave up and moved to Baltimore, leaving the city without football for three seasons.

Since its return, the team has been saddled with leadership that has been over-hyped and which has under performed. The Carmen Policy regime of ex-49ers proved that Bill Walsh was the individual primarily responsible for San Francisco's success. The Butch Davis years were a public relations disaster, although he did coax out one playoff appearance from the quarterback tandem of Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb. General Manager Phil Savage and Coach Romeo Crennel didn't have much success either, starting quarterbacks like Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson. Eric Mangini didn't do any better with Brady Quinn or Anderson and had to resort to Colt McCoy as an afterthought when the others were injured. Mike Holmgren didn't appear to have his heart in Cleveland, despite the grandiose size of his paycheck, and thus far, his delayed selection of Coach Pat Shurmur has proved to be uninspiring. If not for the superior drafting of General Manager Tom Heckert the team would be in even more disarray than it currently is. Yet in recent weeks, the Browns have been solid, going 4-3 with one of the losses coming in overtime to the Dallas Cowboys. A strong defense, the running of Trent Richardson, a dramatically improved receiving corps, and the promising quarterbacking of rookie Brandon Weeden provide hope for the future. But although Weeden shows promise, his statistics are not yet close to even being among the best of the sorry lot of signal callers the Browns have used since returning to the NFL in 1999. Reviewing the sad passing stats from recent could actually cause some fans to wax nostalgic for the Tim Couch years.

Thus far, Weeden has displayed a strong arm and has been surprisingly difficult to sack given his limited speed and mobility. Watching him slide causes fear that he is more likely to be injured by his own lack of athleticism than by any hit he might take. What Weeden has lacked thus far is accuracy (the failing that scuttled his baseball career) and an inability to get the ball into the end zone with sufficient frequency. Only Doug Pederson (1.0% in 2000), Charlie Frye (2.5% in 2006) and Colt McCoy (2.7% in 2010) threw touchdowns with less frequency per attempt than Weeden's 3.0% thus far in 2012. Perhaps it is due to the uninspiring play calling of the coaches, the early season drops of the now improving receiving corps, or the desire to play conservatively, rather than to Weeden's talent. Nevertheless, with 75 percent of the season now completed, barring injury, Weeden will undoubtedly finish the year with the second most passing yards of any Brown since the team's return. There is also a good chance that he will also have the second most touchdown passes, albeit with the most attempts. The feature appears promising, but is far from assured. What the Browns need now is another great draft by Tom Heckert and his crew.

Cleveland Browns Quarterbacks Since 1999
(200 or more attempts)
(through first 12 games of 2012)
Year Name Att Comp Pct Yds Avg
Int Int
Sacked Sacked
2007Derek Anderson52729856.537877.212.7295.5193.6142.682.5
2003Tim Couch20312059.113196.511.073.463.0198.677.6
2000Tim Couch21513763.714836.910.873.394.2104.477.3
2005Trent Dilfer33319959.823217.011.7113.3123.6236.576.9
2002Tim Couch44327361.628426.410.4184.1184.1306.376.8
2004Jeff Garcia25214457.117316.912.0104.093.6248.776.7
2011Colt McCoy46326557.227335.910.3143.0112.4326.574.6
2003Kelly Holcomb30219363.917976.09.3103.3124.0216.574.6
2010Colt McCoy22213560.815767.111.762.794.1239.474.5
1999Tim Couch39922355.924476.111.0153.8133.35612.373.2
2001Tim Couch45427259.930406.711.2173.7214.65110.173.1
2012Brandon Weeden43324757.028206.511.4133.0153.5214.672.3
2006Charlie Frye39325264.124546.29.7102.5174.34410.172.0
2009Brady Quinn25613653.113395.29.883.172.7196.967.2
2008Derek Anderson28314250.216155.711.493.282.8144.766.5
2000Doug Pederson21011755.710475.08.921.083.8177.556.6