We’ll start with what you know: the Cleveland Browns selected quarterback Brandon Weeden in April’s NFL draft. He’s kind of old (he’s 28 years old). He’s tall, 6-4, and has a big arm. He played professional baseball for a few years, then went back to college and played really well, setting school passing records. He then got drafted by a team that kind of needed a quarterback.
Now let’s move to who you may have forgotten: Chris Weinke. Weinke was also kind of old when drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2001 (he was also 28 years old). He’s tall, 6-4, and has a big arm. He played baseball for a few years, then went back to college and played really well, setting school passing records. He then got drafted by a team that really needed a quarterback.
Now for the part you don’t want to hear: Chris Weinke won the Heisman because he was an extremely good quarterback. He started all 16 games during his rookie year. The Panthers went 1-15. Weinke was admittedly thrust into a tough situation where he didn’t have anyone to learn from (his backup was Matt Lytle in his rookie year) and was handed the reigns to a pretty mediocre team with sketchy wide receivers.
Did any of that hit a little too close to home?
Weeden will be handed the reigns to a team where his backup is either Colt McCoy or Seneca Wallace (better than Matt Lytle, I think we can agree on that), but it seems neither of them are particularly good. Furthermore, this is a medicore team, at best, with sketchy wide receivers. Weinke had Muhsin Muhammad, a rookie Steve Smith, Isaac Byrd, and Donald Hayes at wide receiver with Wesley Walls as his primary tight end. Is that really worse than what the Browns have prepped for Weeden?
I really really hope it is. It seems like the front office has a lot of faith in Mohamed Massaquoi and Greg Little, and I’m hoping they just get to see more than we do. Granted, the team has about five tight ends who could contribute, so maybe that’s some kind of secret new plan that’s going to somehow vault the team into the playoffs. Stranger things have happened.
As for how it panned out for Weinke, that depends on who you ask. He wasn’t terribly productive after that rookie season, but he did hang around in the league for seven years.
He became a backup to Rodney Peete in his second season, seeing limited action. He then was moved to third on the depth chart for the entire 2003-2004 seasons, behind Jake Delhomme (Cleveland connection No. 1 thus far) and Rodney Peete, not seeing a snap in either campaign. He saw a little playing time for the ’05 squad that lost in the conference championship to the Seattle Seahawks. And then, not unlike something you may remember Kelly Holcomb doing a few years earlier (I’m counting this as Cleveland connection No. 2), he got a spot start in the 2006 season and blew up. He hurled for a ho-hum 423 yards in a loss against the Giants, then proceeded to start the following two games, winning one of them.
His final start as a professional came against, that’s right, the Cleveland Browns (and there’s the third connection). In the last game of the 2007 season, Weinke, now with the San Francisco 49ers, started against the Browns and had an unspectacular day, going 13-22 with 104 yards and a touchdown.
Sounds like the kind of line from a Cleveland starter, no?