By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
Updated at 1:54 p.m.
Extra Points …
No. 17 is No. 20: In a surprise to some, Jason Campbell was named the Browns’ starting quarterback for Sunday’s game in Kansas City.
Even though Brandon Weeden had been playing worse – he was 0-4 as a starter and his passer rating had sunk to 66.5 – there were indications that Weeden would get one last start to pull out of his slump.
Campbell admitted he was surprised when informed of the decision, which was made by coach Rob Chudzinski on Monday afternoon.
Despite Weeden’s worsening, often deflating, performance, the coach termed the move “a tough decision.”
“I believe this is in the best interest of the team, gives us the best chance to win,” Chudzinski said. “I think, looking at Jason, the things he brings to the table (are) his leadership, his experience, he’s been productive, he’s been successful in the league. You look at his arm strength and his mobility. Also from a game plan standpoint, what we feel like what we need for this game.
“It really is about production and ultimately being consistent in that area.”
Campbell becomes the 20th quarterback to start a game for the Browns since their rebirth in 1999.
This is the fifth season in that time that the Browns have burned through three quarterbacks. And Chudzinski wouldn’t promise that the carousel is over. He wouldn’t commit to Campbell beyond this week.
“We’re going to evaluate it on a week to week basis,” he said. “The whole goal is to put the guy out there that gives us the best chance to win. Going back and forth isn’t ideal, but ultimately we’re (trying to find) the production and consistency that we need.”
A season of surprises: This wasn’t the first time Campbell has been surprised this year.
Brought in to “compete” with Weeden and push the incumbent to a higher level, Campbell was surprised he was passed over for Brian Hoyer to start Game 3 after Weeden suffered a sprained thumb in Game 2 in Baltimore. Campbell had relieved Weeden in the final series in that game and was mentally preparing to start on the flight home.
“I thought so at the time,” Campbell said. “But coach makes those decisions. I’m a competitor and any competitor wants to play. At the same time just because it doesn’t go your way doesn’t mean you just get inside yourself. You root for the next guy. We’re all professionals. We’re all on the same team. Our main goal is to win. That’s first and foremost.
“I believe if you can stick to that mindset and not make things about you, I think your team always has the opportunity to grow in a mature way. It’s all about how you handle situations. My nine years playing this game, it’s never been about one person. Guys that make it that way, it becomes a bad apple to the team.”
At the time of Hoyer’s promotion, Chudzinski cited the fourth preseason game in Chicago as evidence that Hoyer could light a spark to the team. Hoyer played the whole preseason game that night because Campbell fell ill and was a late scratch. Ever since then, it has appeared that the Browns lost confidence in Campbell as a potential leader of the team.
“It didn’t at all (set back my confidence),” Chudzinski said. “He was real sick a couple days leading up to that game. It would have been tough for him to play at all. He was there on the sideline in case of an emergency.”
Yet when the Browns went through a short work week leading up to the Thursday night game against Buffalo – which proved to be Hoyer’s last start – they rushed Weeden in as the active backup even though he had thrown only one day off to the side after having a cast removed from his hand. Campbell again was passed over.
Going to Kansas City: But now the coach is calling on Campbell. Unlike the move to Hoyer, Chudzinski has not expressed hopes of Campbell “providing a spark” to a team that has lost consecutive games by the scores of 31-17 and 31-13.
Campbell gets the short straw to face a 7-0 Chiefs team leading the NFL in sacks and scoring defense and also ranking first in third-down and red-zone defense.
“From a game plan standpoint, I like the things that Jason brings to the table,” Chudzinski said. “Jason does have good mobility and that’s one of the things he’s strong in.”
Campbell didn’t exactly radiate energy in fielding questions about his promotion.
“It’s an opportunity to go out there, as you get back to the game, and just having fun,” he said. “Obviously we want to go win games and do the best we can, but at the same time we understand we’re a growing football team. One thing we can’t forget is to get back to having fun in this game.
“It’s not about one person. I know everyone wanted to say it’s about Brandon. We as a collective group have to do a better job play-in and play-out of doing our own job. I think the only thing I have to do is try to be a leader, but at the same time do my job to the best of my abilities. Not try to do anything to the extreme, just stay within the game.”
The team seemed resigned that a change was inevitable.
“This is our third time with a different quarterback, so I think we’re ready for it,” said receiver Josh Gordon.
“Obviously you want consistency at the quarterback position, knowing who’s going to be there every week. But that’s the NFL,” receiver Davone Bess said with a shrug.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to email@example.comFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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