Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Just as we started to get comfortable …

brandon-weeden-no-luck-at-all-qb… about the quarterback situation for the Cleveland Browns, the team has a day like today.

The off-season was moving along OK and it looked like the Browns were going to be able to focus on filling some important holes on defense, rather than worry about the quarterback position. And that’s saying something for a franchise that has seen 11 different players start at the quarterback position in Week 1 since the franchise returned in 1999.

Over the weekend, CEO Joe Banner, while not coming out and saying that incumbent starter Brandon Weeden will be the guy under center when the season starts this fall, sure made it sound as if the Browns were willing to see what Weeden can do in Norv Turner’s NFL-caliber offense.

“I think we want to give him the best chance to succeed,” Banner said at the NFL Combine. “We have a huge vested interest in him being successful. We think that we’re bringing in coaches that can maximize that. We think we have some existing benefits. I actually think the most valuable asset a quarterback can have is an offensive line that’s good. He’s in an unusual position of coming in as a rookie and inheriting a team that has a good offensive line. So we have a huge vested interest. It will accelerate our ability to get to where we want to if he succeeds.”

So far so good.

Put Banner’s comments with the fact that it looks like Kansas City is the front runner to overpay for San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, mix in the report that New England may not be trying to con the Browns into trading for Ryan Mallett, and suddenly we have something to work with here.

But then came Sam Wyche from NFL.com, who reported on Tuesday that Browns running back Trent Richardson told him – off camera – that Weeden may not have what it takes to be an NFL quarterback.

“(Trent) said as a rookie, (Weeden) really had trouble reading defenses from time to time and they had to skew their offense a little bit, sometimes somewhat predictable,” Wyche said on the NFL AM show. “(Trent) thinks things are going to open up a little bit, but he really does like Brandon Weeden.”

Now remember, Richardson’s alleged comments were off camera, but what he did say on camera lends some weight to what Wyche reported.

“We can’t put too much on Brandon, especially as a rookie,” Richardson said. “We want to make sure he believes, he knows he’s going to be our quarterback. When it comes to stuff like that, we’ve just all got to be behind him.”

Couple Richardson’s off-camera comments with what Jake Spavital, a former graduate assistant coach during Weeden’s junior year at Oklahoma State, said and, well, it’s enough to give Browns coach Rob Chudzinski some sleepless nights.

But that’s why Chudzinski and Turner are in town. There has to be something there to work with in Weeden – he didn’t put up the numbers he did at Oklahoma State simply because he played with Justin Blackmon. It’s up to Chudzinski and Turner to find out what works with Weeden and make sure that is part of the weekly game plan.

As for Weeden, he sounds ready to prove he can be a quarterback that makes the other team worry – rather than being one that makes his own team nervous.

“(Chudzinski and Turner) do a lot of stuff to fit the skill sets of the guys they have around them, and I think my skill set is throwing the football down the field and giving our receivers a chance to make plays vertically,” Weeden said in published reports. “So I’m excited about that. I’m going to challenge myself. I know what to expect. I’m not going to my first camp anymore. I kind of know how it all works as far as just the daily schedule, how everything works. So now it’s all ball.”

If Chudzinski and Turner can find the switch with Weeden and turn it on, then the Browns can finally cross off quarterback as an off-season priority and get to work on other issues.

And if that happens, Weeden won’t be the only one in Cleveland who will be excited come Sundays in the fall.

(Photo by Sports Illustrated)

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