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The Sportsman of the Day
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Brandon Weeden is our starter, and he’s going to get better.
Those were Pat Shurmur’s words when he was told on Monday that Browns’ fans were already “clamoring” for Colt McCoy to take over at quarterback following Weeden’s miserable rookie debut.
They were direct words. They were strong words. And they were the right words.
Brandon Weeden is going to get better, and if the Browns don’t want to remain the laughingstock of the league when it comes to developing quarterbacks, then he is going to remain their starter. And not just for this Sunday, but for next Sunday. And for every Sunday that he is healthy enough to compete in this rookie season.
There is no sugar-coating Weeden’s performance against the Eagles on Sunday, and to his credit, he never tried to do so. He owned his 4-interception outing that also featured some ill-timed misfires to open receivers, and he vowed to correct the mistakes. He proclaimed that he was not “overwhelmed” by the moment, or by the Eagles, and that his mistakes were not the result of being unprepared to start in this league.
I believe him.
I don’t think Weeden is much different than any other rookie quarterback who struggles out of the gate in his first start, and that includes some of the finest QB’s to ever play the game. In fact, I fully expect to see many more growing pains for Weeden throughout his rookie season. And I fully expect him to learn from them and get better and better. He has all the tools, and the right attitude, to be a big-time player in this league.
Still, there is a vocal legion of McCoy fans — well, as much a legion as a quarterback with a 6-15 record in 21 starts can have — that believe Shurmur was wrong to hand Weeden the starting job at the beginning of training camp, rather than opening up the competition to McCoy. These fans filled the talk radio airwaves for at least 72 hours after the final gun on Sunday declaring that if Shurmur had brought in their guy, the Browns would’ve upset the heavily-favored Eagles.
They may be right.
It’s possible that McCoy may have come off the bench in the 4th quarter, hit a couple passes, kept a couple drives alive, and helped the Browns maintain their lead.
And that would have been a disaster.
Why? Because football isn’t baseball, that’s why.
Starting pitchers are meant to be changed every day. In fact, a starting pitcher knows he’s only going every five days anyway. Being lifted early in one particular start doesn’t mean much to them. They’re part-time starters as it is.
Quarterbacks are different. A quarterback is a leader every day. And quarterbacks can’t lead a team forward when they’re constantly looking backwards, especially over their shoulders, because they’re not sure when they’re coach is going to decide they don’t have their best stuff and make the move to the bullpen.
When a starter is named, you stick with him through the ups and the downs, as long as you believe he is the best player for the job that you have on your roster. Last season, for example, McCoy was the best option Shurmur had. No one was calling for Seneca Wallace to take over as the starter, unless of course McCoy was injured.
This year, Weeden is the best player the Browns have at his position. They’ve seen McCoy’s skill-set, and decided it doesn’t match up to Weeden’s. Whether they’re right or they’re wrong, they have to support the starter every step of the way, and Weeden deserves that support. Shurmur can’t go to the bullpen every time Weeden goes through a rough stretch.
Think about it this way: Let’s suppose the Browns’ coach would have lifted Weeden for McCoy, say, some time after his third interception. And then let’s suppose McCoy came in and missed a couple receivers and threw a pick of his own.
What now? Do you go back to the benched starter and somehow expect him to have confidence and the ability to re-claim the huddle and lead?
Of course not. Musical quarterbacks has never worked in this league, and it’s silly to suggest it for the Browns.
No, the solution for the Browns isn’t a return to the McCoy skill-set. It’s more simple than that. The solution is for Weeden to get better. Which he will.
He will get better when he has more time under center reading NFL coverages.
He will get better when Trent Richardson and the Browns’ offensive line establish the running game they envisioned with the former Alabama star was made the third pick in the draft.
He will get better when he starts to feel his comfort zone in the pocket, without getting too “amped up” as he put it, when making throws to open receivers.
He will get better when he knows the Browns’ coaches and his teammates have his back.
Shurmur has it now: “Brandon Weeden is our starter, and he’s going to get better.”
Yes, he will.