By Tony Grossi
Extra Points …
Under fire?: Just nine games into his rookie season, Brandon Weeden is getting the feel for what it’s like to play in the city where quarterbacks go to die.
A day doesn’t go by when he isn’t getting blamed indirectly for not calling the plays correctly in the huddle or executing them on the field, for burning timeouts to avoid delay penalties, for missing open receivers, or for throwing interceptions.
Weeden only has two ears – maybe three, counting the helmet headset – and it seems at times as if he’s overloaded with multiple voices in each one. Do this. Don’t do that. Make a play. No, check it down. Hurry up. Slow down.
Welcome to the Browns, Brandon. You’re only the sixth quarterback in six years to start for them on Opening Day. Will you end that streak and be behind center in September, 2013?
Last week, new CEO Joe Banner questioned whether Weeden is the team’s quarterback of the future. Sure, everybody’s under review. But is his future hinging on the final seven games? Really?
Weeden was a frustrated player before departing for some R&R during the bye week. He returned a little more relaxed, but still irritated with over-sized expectations for him.
“I think lost in all this is I’m a rookie,” Weeden said Wednesday. “I’m still playing teams for the first time. I’m still seeing things for the first time. I’m making a lot of mistakes I’m making for the first time. I’m not a nine- or 10-year veteran. I think some people might lose track of that sometimes. I’ve got to play better. I know that. I’m not a moron.”
I asked him if he felt he was under fire.
“No, I don’t feel like that,” Weeden replied. “I’m nine games into my career. Yeah, it’s not going the way I would have expected, maybe, but I don’t feel like that.”
No sweat: Weeden said that Banner’s comments in The Plain Dealer last week did not add pressure to his job.
“I would have expected him to say that,” he said. “They’re taking over this organization and they’re going to do the moves to help this team win. I want to obviously be the guy they have a lot of confidence in going forward. I’ve got to play like it … keep the team going, make better plays and let the rest kind of take care of itself.”
Then there’s the never-ending command from coach Pat Shurmur. DON’T THROW INTERCEPTIONS.
On Wednesday, Shurmur was asked what Weeden needs to improve on over the final seven games.
“Don’t throw interceptions,” Shurmur replied. “None.”
“I think the essence of a quarterback is to be a good decision-maker. You have to decide when it’s important to try to be aggressive with a throw and also important to be smart with the football. I’ve looked at all those interceptions and there were times he could have made better decisions. You don’t want to play anxious football, but you also have to be smart.”
Weeden has 12 interceptions – second-most in the NFL. Four came in the first game, so he’s had eight in the past eight games.
This is one of the occupational hazards of the position. Quarterbacks are always hounded by their coaches about not throwing interceptions. It’s a continual teeter-totter. The other end is turning into Captain Checkdown, dinking and dunking for 3-yard gains on third-and-7 for the sake of securing field-goal position.
“My aggressive manner, my mindset, sometimes gets me in trouble,” Weeden said. “You guys know that. I‘m not going to take that away from myself. I agree, I’ve got to take care of the football, got to cut down on them. But I think guys that are aggressive like that, that’s one category, unfortunately, they might have more than they like. Sometimes making an aggressive throw can spark a drive, or something.”
I wondered if Weeden’s unwillingness to throw a single ball into the end zone against Baltimore, despite five trips inside the Ravens’ 20-yard line, was the result of too much emphasis on avoiding interceptions.
“If you watch the tape, no one was open,” he said. “I made smart decisions down there. In the red zone, the balls I did throw, I did check down. The windows are smaller there.
“(Shurmur and I) haven’t sat down and talked about not throwing interceptions. It’s just a common knowledge between the both of us. It’s in my forefront, but I’m not so paranoid about throwing interceptions that I don’t take shots.”
Weeden’s counterpart in Dallas on Sunday, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, happens to lead the NFL with 13 interceptions. And he’s in his 10th NFL season.
I asked Romo on a conference call how he feels when the interception-harping gets loud.
“Interceptions, they all fall on the quarterback,” Romo said. “I don’t care if it’s a tipped ball, or somebody runs the wrong route, or you’re hit when you throw. It’s all gonna fall back on the quarterback. That’s partly why you have to have everybody do things the right way.
“As a quarterback, you have to let it go and trust the people around you, otherwise you don’t have a chance.”
Weeden said the bye week gave his cannon arm a chance to rest.
“I’ve got a fresh arm for the first time. My arm feels great,” he said.
Ready. Aim. BUT DON"T THROW AN INTERCEPTION.
|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
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