If you squint hard enough at your television screen, you might see it.
From the No. 3 jersey to their tall, lanky builds and love for winging a careless interception downfield, Brandon Weeden has got a little Derek Anderson in his game.
In the end, it was Anderson’s maddening inconsistency that was his downfall. He could have an outstanding game one week and a terrible game the next. That is the difference between the star players and the also-rans – the stars play like the good Anderson every week.
The Browns’ current coaching staff should be looking to save Brandon Weeden from this trap, because as we’ve seen all year, and also just like Anderson, he tends to run both really hot and really cold during a game.
For example, when facing the Baltimore Ravens two weeks ago (one of his two legitimately awful games out of nine), Weeden’s best throws were:
- A 23-yard pass to Greg Little that immediately followed a 26-yard pass to Josh Gordon in the second quarter
- Later in the second quarter, an 11-yard pass to Ben Watson, followed by an 11-yard pass to Gordon, followed by a 19-yard pass to Travis Benjamin
- The nullified 18-yard touchdown pass to Gordon came two plays after a ten-yard pass to Little and a 12-yard pass to Gordon in the fourth quarter
Of the 37 total throws Weeden made in that game, those eight above were the only ones longer than ten yards, and they all came in bunches.
In all cases, once Weeden made a good throw, he was instantly in rhythm and able to make another. Such has been the pattern all season.
With that, Weeden has also shown the propensity to fall apart once he’s missed a big throw. The case examples here would be overthrowing Mohamed Massaquoi in the opener against the Philadelphia Eagles and Chris Ogbonnaya down the sideline on 3rd-and-one against the Ravens. Even though the latter wouldn’t have counted due to a penalty, the effect of both was clear: in both cases the play happened early and Weeden did not recover.
Now, when Anderson started to fade in the 2008 season, then-offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski tried to keep him afloat by building in some nice, easy, pitch-and-catch throws early.
The goal was simple and divine: gift wrap his first few completions to build his confidence and get him hot. This would settle Anderson down while giving his play callers a sense of what kind of game he was going to have. If Anderson overshot Jamal Lewis on a simple five-yard cross, they knew they were in for a long day.
The good news is that Weeden is a more promising prospect than Anderson ever was. He may not have that sweet release, but in limited time he’s shown a better feel in the pocket, is actually more mobile for a guy who wasn’t supposed to be mobile, and he has far better touch on his intermediate throws.
But he’s still a rookie being force fed an intricate playbook, and that makes him fragile. So why not steal a page from Rob Chudzinski’s book to find Weeden’s hot hand as soon as possible?
Just a suggestion: Weeden’s first pass of every game should be a high percentage chance to Trent Richardson. The goal should be to just complete the pass and not worry about any yards after the catch. This puts the ball in your best players’ hands while forcing your quarterback to settle in and show you what you’re playing with today. Keep it simple and build the passing game out from there.
I’m all for being aggressive and have no problem with the Browns throwing so much more than they run, but the first play from scrimmage in that Baltimore game mentioned above was a bomb to Greg Little running down the sideline. I understand that throw is intended to open the middle of the field and force the Ravens to respect Weeden’s authority, but that play killed them.
That pass carries a much lower success rate, is unfair to ask Weeden to make on his first play of the game, and only served to send him back to the huddle feeling less confident. The Browns wound up going three-and-out and were down a touchdown before Weeden touched the ball again.
The Browns and Pat Shurmur are not there yet. When you’re 2-7, your future lies in the confidence and health of your quarterback.
The time has come for the Browns’ coaching staff to recognize and react to Brandon Weeden’s tendencies when creating a game plan.