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QB switch was only choice to make

Posted Oct 23, 2013

Browns Senior Editor Vic Carucci says replacing Brandon Weeden with Jason Campbell at quarterback was the only move coach Rob Chudzinski could have made.

In the end, Rob Chudzinski made the only decision he could have made.

The Browns were, for all intents and purposes, going nowhere with Brandon Weeden as their starting quarterback. The coach understood that. His staff understood that. The rest of the players on the team understood that. Everyone following the Browns, near and far, could see that.

Now, the team is hardly assured of going somewhere with Jason Campbell behind the center for Sunday’s game at Kansas City. But Chudzinski owed it to himself and many others to at least find out if the ninth-year veteran could do something, anything, to change a very discouraging narrative about the offense and the season.

It was time for drastic measures. And in the NFL, it doesn’t get much more drastic than a quarterback change.

Especially this one.

Chudzinski did far more than merely remove Weeden from the starting lineup. Although he said he would take a “week-to-week” approach at quarterback, he effectively brought Weeden’s time as a Brown to an end. Sure, Weeden could end up playing again for the Browns due to injury or other unforeseen circumstances.

But pulling the plug, even for one game, on the man who was selected with a first-round pick in 2012 to be the Browns’ long-term answer at quarterback less than halfway through his second NFL season makes a strong statement that he is, in fact, not the answer.

At least, not here.

While it’s fair to say that had Brian Hoyer not suffered a season-ending knee injury three games into his starting stint after Weeden suffered a thumb injury, the Weeden Era for the Browns would have likely been over already, there is a greater sense of finality with this benching.

What ultimately did Weeden in was the following:

>>These are the numbers: 0-4 as a starter this season, 5-14 for his brief career. Six interceptions to five touchdowns in five games this year and an AFC-low 66.5 passer rating.

>>These are the basic problems with his performance: Too slow to process plays as they are relayed to him from the sidelines and too slow to make decisions with where to go with the ball. Poor pocket awareness. Being woefully inaccurate more often than not.

Ultimately, I think the greatest damage to Weeden’s ability to remain a starter came from the fact that he had no true grasp of the gravity of playing quarterback or of the importance of every single game in the NFL.

I believe he’s still too much in the frame of mind of the pitcher he was in minor-league baseball before becoming a quarterback at Oklahoma State. Pitchers, by nature, are conditioned not to get caught up over one bad pitch because they have many more throws to make. Baseball players, by nature, are conditioned not to get caught up over the outcome of one game, or even several games, because (outside of the fall, of course) they have so many more to play and plenty of opportunity to rebound.

When Weeden made a bad pass, especially one resulting in an interception, he didn’t seem to quite understand how much of an impact it had on the offense. Having a short memory is considered a good trait for a quarterback, especially after a turnover, but Weeden seemed almost oblivious to his mistakes and it almost made you wonder whether they provided him with enough motivation to avoid repeating them.

The same was true with losses. You wondered just how much they stayed with him, given that he never had to worry about the ramifications of a single defeat or even multiple ones in his previous professional athletic career. In baseball, the season is viewed in stretches of games over extended periods. In football, a winless first quarter to the season can mean the end of the season.

Yes, Weeden has an extremely strong arm. Yes, he can make some amazing throws that other quarterbacks can’t make. Yes, he is big and strong and very tough.

But physical skill isn’t enough. So much of what goes into successful quarterbacking happens above the shoulder pads.

The Browns are counting on Campbell’s experience, which includes 71 starts, and savvy to provide, at the very least, more competence and efficiency than the team has had and, at the very most, deliver a much-needed spark.

He has the smarts. He has a strong arm, even a little stronger than Weeden’s. He has greater mobility than his predecessor.

The drawback is that Campbell has a long, deliberate release, which tends to make it easier on pass-rushers to get to him. On Sunday, he faces a highly confident, 7-0 team with an NFL-leading 35 sacks. And he does so in Arrowhead Stadium, one of the noisiest venues in the league, thus making it extremely difficult for his linemen to hear signals and set up quickly enough in pass protection but not so quick that they draw penalty flags.

Things might not go much better for the Browns’ offense this week than they did with Weeden at quarterback. They could conceivably get worse.

But after losses to the Lions and Packers, there was only one decision for Chudzinski to make at quarterback. And he made it.

>>Caruccis Call is presented by Revol Wireless. Come Save With Us.

>>Be sure to tune in Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET, for Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford on ESPN 850 WKNR or catch the live stream right here on ClevelandBrowns.com.

>>Have a question for “Cleveland Browns Daily, Driven by Liberty Ford”? Ask me at Twitter.com/viccarucci or by e-mail at daily@clevelandbrowns.com or by calling 855-363-2459.

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