Everything is coming up roses in Cleveland after rookie QB Brandon Weeden‘s much-improved play on Thursday, Aug. 16, as he completed 12 of 20 passes for 118 yards in Week 2′s 35-10 win over the Green Bay Packers.
While it always is a good thing to see young players perform well even under preseason conditions, as with everything else in August, it also is good not to get too up or too down about anything.
Everyone high-fiving themselves after the latest victory needs a strong dose of reality: If this had been the regular season, not only would the Cleveland Browns have lost the game, it probably would not have been close. Even with all the injuries to the Packers defense, it still would not have been close.
I’m trying to avoid being a Debbie Downer, but the flaws on this team haven’t disappeared overnight. Plus, the Packers’ starters left the field a full quarter before Weeden and the Browns’ starters headed to the sidelines.
If you don’t think that didn’t make a difference in Weeden’s performance, please let me drink some of your Kool-aid.
The encouraging thing I took out of this game was how fast the defense looked. They still are suffering the sins of inexperience, but you can’t teach speed.
With speed, growth is possible. The last few incarnations of the Browns defense had some experience, but age and injuries took its toll and there isn’t much you can do if you know where the play is but just can’t get there fast enough.
But the focus solely is on quarterback as the league continues to change the rules to make the quarterback position a make-or-break aspect for every team. With new ownership in place, and a possible house-cleaning sitting on the horizon, anyone who thinks the new owners will patiently wait for Weeden to develop are fooling themselves. Weeden must be great, and he will have to be great now.
He doesn’t have to look like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning in their prime, but he has to look like he’ll get to that position sooner rather than later. If the front office determines it will be a three-year learning curve, the possibility of moving on is highly likely.
Then there is backup quarterback Colt McCoy, who now is in his third year, and definitely looks like he “gets it” now. He still is slightly undersized, and Weeden throws a better deep ball, but McCoy is smart and now has a few years of experience under his belt. Plus he’s cheap. The point is, you do NOT want to trade McCoy, no matter what arguments are thrown out there.
If Weeden struggles, or is injured, who do you want out on that field? Do you want Seneca Wallace and his career backup stats that are good for a game or two? Or do you want a guy playing with a chip on his shoulder who still believes he’s been completely screwed out of a starting job?
Those who defend McCoy often get a little overzealous about how he has been “wronged,” and they’re not entirely wrong. That being said, he obviously didn’t do enough to keep the Browns from drafting Weeden.
Those on the opposite end of the spectrum magnify McCoy’s weaknesses to the point where you question what games they actually were watching and if they are completely ignorant of how any other positions work on the team.
The argument about McCoy having “no help” last year is a very valid argument. Joe Montana would have been hard-pressed to have a good season with that roster and that coaching staff last year.
My soap box has been and remains head coach Pat Shurmur. The man is Romeo Crennel version 2.0. Look at what happened with San Francisco 49ers last year. Granted the 49ers had a ton more talent than the Browns, but they also were operating under some similar disadvantages. Coach Jim Harbaugh strode in, took command, and made sure that team started living up to its potential.
Shurmur, meanwhile, wandered through the season with a constant look of fear and angst while his quarterback got destroyed by James Harrison. You could say Shurmur made sure his team lived down to its potential.
As with last week, I was encouraged by the look of the offense. Unlike during the Eric Mangini regime, or last year under Shurmur’s confused approach, the offense actually looks like it’s trying to move down the field and score this season.
They’re not having too much luck yet, but I guess the phrase “baby steps” would be applied here.
Up next is Philadelphia in what amounts to an evaluation of depth for the Browns, and determining who will make the team, and who will be applying at Kinkos in a few weeks.