By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
The quarterback problem: Brandon Weeden is tied for last in the NFL in interceptions, is 29th in completion percentage, 31st in average gain for pass attempt and last in passer rating.
The one number that explains all the others doesn’t look too bad on the surface. He is second in pass attempts. Bingo, that’s the problem.
He is throwing way too much. Check that. He is being asked to throw way too much.
Weeden has attempted 202 passes through five games. That’s an average of 40 a game. Weeden’s pace of 646 pass attempts would obliterate the franchise record of 567 set by Brian Sipe in 1981.
Weeden might be 28, going on 29 in two days, but he is an NFL rookie. It is a dereliction of duty for coaches to ask a rookie quarterback to throw so much.
Here are the pass attempts of the other four rookie quarterbacks starting for their teams:
* Russell Wilson, Seattle, 125.
* Robert Griffith III, Washington, 139.
* Ryan Tannehill, Miami, 169.
* Andrew Luck, Indianapolis, 177.
Each of those rookie QBs has two or more wins. Weeden has none.
The only quarterback who has attempted more passes than Weeden is Drew Brees with 236. Brees has one win.
At this point, we should acknowledge the statistical probability that teams with losing records are generally behind more and, thus, throw the ball more to try to catch up on the scoreboard. The art of game-day coaching, however, includes avoiding a great imbalance of run and pass no matter the score. It takes guts and commitment and perseverance.
Eye-popping numbers: I asked Brad Childress, Browns offensive coordinator, if he ever checks the statistics at halftime and adjusts his play-calling to correct pass-run imbalances.
“Not usually,” Childress said, “because we’re tending to script our openers. It takes us through the first quarter, sometimes into the second quarter. We have a pretty good sense of where we’re at.
“It’s not like one of those ‘Hey, let’s throw it, throw it, throw it,’ or ‘let’s run it, run it, run it.’ We’ll never get into that. There are a lot of times, to be honest with you, that I don’t look at halftime stats. You’re doing it by the way you feel like you need to play to win the game.”
Here’s the problem: Through five games, the Browns are throwing 69.2 percent of the time and running 30.8 percent. That’s the third-worst pass-run ratio in the league. The only teams worse are New Orleans (72.1 to 27.9) and Oakland (70.5 to 29.5). New Orleans is 1-4 and Oakland is 1-3.
Again, falling behind usually results in the play-caller dialing up pass, pass, pass.
“Would I like to be able to run it more?” Childress said. “Yeah, I would like to be able to run it more, but we put ourselves in some situations where the way that you have to come back is you have to throw the football. I don’t know if (Weeden) is being asked to (throw too much). He’s holding up under it decently. That’s for you guys to say.”
Here are the pass-run ratios of the league’s best teams, and also of other teams of note:
* 5-0 Houston: 45.9 percent pass to 54.1 run.
* 4-1 San Francisco: 48.4 to 51.6.
* 4-1 Minnesota: 51.9 to 48.1.
* 4-1 Baltimore: 61.8 to 38.2.
* 3-2 Cincinnati: 58.0 to 42.0.
* 2-3 Pittsburgh: 62.0 to 38.0.
* League average: 61.8 to 38.2.
Simple solution: The Browns are throwing the ball, on average, 12 percent more than the league average. And they’re doing it with a rookie quarterback and perhaps the worst receiving corps in the league. Makes no sense.
It’s not like their running back situation is a complete joke – like last year. They have Trent Richardson, who was considered the best non-quarterback offensive player in the last draft, underperforming because he is underused.
Childress and coach Pat Shurmur both cited the stat that Richardson was in on 85 percent of the offensive snaps in the Giants game.
“He has to get a drink of water sometime, too, you know?” Childress said.
Richardson can drink all he wants when the defense is on the field, you know.
Weeden this week fell on his sword and blamed his league-high nine interceptions on “an ego thing … I think I just need to get rid of the ego and take what they give me and move on and not be as stubborn. Just throw the football away and move on.”
It’s not his ego that’s the problem.
Weeden turns 29 on Sunday. The best birthday present he could receive would be an offensive gameplan centered around Richardson with the fortitude of the coaches to stick to it. Be creative in the running game. The passing game will be much more efficient as a result.
|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 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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