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The Grass is Always Greener

Dec 14, 2012 -- 8:09am

By Bruce Hooley

We can examine the statistics, watch the games and read reams of coverage in newspapers and cyberspace about the National Football League, but do we ever change our original opinion in the wake of all that enlightenment?

Not when it concerns Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden.

Weeden was the last of four first-round quarterback taken back in April, and when Russell Wilson emerged out of Round Three and drove the Seattle Seahawks toward the playoffs, Weeden sank another notch on the list of rookie quarterbacks starting in the NFL

Browns fans embrace Weeden like they would their creepy step-grandma with the mole on her cheek – because they must…because he’s family…but not because they love him unconditionally.

Maybe it’s Weeden’s advanced age for the rookie, or maybe it’s the rotten first impression he created with four interceptions in a season-opening loss to Philadelphia. Whatever the reason, many Browns fans seem predisposed not to see Weeden as their franchise quarterback for the future.

To them, he’s a poor excuse for Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 pick overall who it appears more and more likely will start for the Redskins (7-6) Sunday at Browns Stadium, despite a sprained knee.

They wish Weeden could produce more passing yards than Griffin or complete a higher percentage of his throws and suffer fewer interceptions than No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck.

Oh, wait.

Weeden is doing all that, given his 3,037 passing yards to Griffin’s 2,902, and Weeden’s 57% completion rate and 15 interceptions to Luck’s 55% completion rate and 18 picks.

Know what else?

Weeden has thrown for more yards than both Ryan Tannehill (2,709) and Wilson (2,492).

That’s not to say Weeden is better, or will have a better career, than any of the other four rookies who’ve started all season at quarterback.

Each player will develop at their own rate. Some will have a statistical edge in certain areas because of how their team’s respective offense is structured. Some will never put up big numbers because the scheme they run emphasizes other things.

The only number that matters, ultimately, is the one Browns coach Pat Shurmur says he weighs most heavily – the number of wins Weeden compiles.

Right now, he and the Browns are at five victories, with games against Washington, at Denver and at Pittsburgh remaining.

If Weeden doesn’t win another game this season, he’ll have improved on the Browns’ win total from last season, while leading the offense to a 19.9-point per-game average, compared to the painful 13-point norm that prevailed in 2011.

Weeden’s doubters won’t accept that as progress, or certainly as not enough progress.

They demand he be the same sort of stud as Trent Richardson.

Richardson, almost every Browns fan agrees, is a beast who will only become better as time goes on. But Richardson’s 3.5-yard per-carry average is more than full yard behind the average of his backup, Monterio Hardesty (4.7 yards per-carry).

Washington rookie Alfred Morris was a sixth-round pick in April, when Richardson went No. 3 overall.

So far, Richardson has six fewer carries than Morris, but 359 fewer rushing yards.

That’s not to say Richardson is a bust.

But if a sixth-round quarterback were producing that much more than Weeden, would Browns fans give him the leeway they’re giving Richardson?

Bruce Hooley hosts The Hooligans from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on ESPN 850 WKNR. He is the author of, “That’s Why I’m Here: The Chris and Stefanie Spielman Story.”

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