There is a ton of frustration aimed at Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden and he deserves every bit of it. Chances are that backhanded flip pass he tried to make that will go up there with Garo Yepremian’s attempted pass in Super Bowl VII as one of the most ill-advised passes in NFL history. Like with Yepremian, that play will be forever encapsulated as the lasting memory fans have of Weeden in the NFL. As bad as that pass was and it was awful, much of the game for Weeden and especially the first half, just average to solid quarterback play made the offense function, go down the field and score points, which is basically what the Browns were getting from Brian Hoyer. The Browns can certainly keep Hoyer and should, but they have to draft a quarterback and let Hoyer compete for the job with that player. Hopefully, the winner is good enough to lead the Browns to the Super Bowl but the Browns have a great backup option if they cannot.
Weeden had that disgrace of an NFL pass along with the other interception, also made by DeAndre Levy he had no business making. In that instance, Weeden stared down Chris Ogbannaya on a wheel route and despite the great coverage by Levy, Weeden threw the ball anyway. He was being rushed by Ndamukong Suh, but Weeden never appeared to look anywhere else and while a quarterback might want to put his faith in his teammates that they can go up and make a play for him, Ogbannaya is not that guy. It would have been a little more understandable if Weeden threw a pass intercepted by trying to let Josh Gordon or Josh Cameron go up and make a play and the defender was just better. Trying to have a running back and almost any running back try to make that play like that is begging for disaster. And Weeden got what he was begging for in a turnover.
Other than that, Weeden showed a lot of what people thought would make him a good quarterback. He made some strong armed throws and some really accurate throws that allowed players like Gordon, Cameron, and Little to make plays. He had stretches where he looked solid and had a rhythm going and was able to move the offense. Unfortunately, with Weeden, almost like a spastic tic, there is a knowing feeling that at some point, he will make a huge mistake that could be potentially crippling to the team. That happened today.
The Browns need a franchise quarterback. They need someone who makes the players around them better and do not simply allow them to operate. While some might argue otherwise, Hoyer never really made anyone around him better. He allowed Gordon to be great and Cameron to be great. At times, so did Weeden. The fact that Weeden was able to do it in stretches should point out to those who thought Hoyer was doing something out of the ordinary, that they were simply allowing the offense to function.
A strong, consistent running game would definitely help these quarterbacks, but it is only going to take them so far and outside of games against other mediocre quarterbacks such as Andy Dalton, Christian Ponder and E.J. Manuel, the Browns cannot go into games against legitimate championship contenders without a sense that their quarterback can hold their own.
The fact of the matter is that the Teddy Bridgewater ship has sailed. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a pretty solid lead for that pick already and the only way the Browns could hope to get it is by having the Giants finish dead last and the Browns try to outbid teams to move up for him. That is unrealistic. It is becoming more likely the Browns will not be trading both first round picks to move up and get a quarterback. Rather, they will sit tight and select one available or possibly maneuver up a few picks and grab one, but in doing so, likely keep the other pick to help build the offense around them. Who the quarterbacks are that warrant such a move are up for dispute, but that is where the Browns are at this point.
Hopefully, Hoyer can get healthy and be in a position where he is able to compete for the job next year. If they are not comfortable with the quarterback they draft initially going in, Hoyer is a great option to start some games and allow them to ease that player into the game. The discussion and analysis as to which quarterback the Browns are draft will be ongoing for the next seven months. Average quarterback play can make this offense function in stretches. That much is clear. The question is how they elevate that position to be good or great so they can win the Super Bowl.