The formula for the Cleveland Browns to have success has been pretty simple. The quarterback has to avoid mistakes, avoid putting the defense into bad position and then make enough plays to win the game. As a result, Brandon Weeden who could not avoid critical mistakes has been a disaster while Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell with just competent play, have looked good enough to compete. When the Browns avoid turnovers from the quarterback position, they are 3-2 with a point differential of +16. When the quarterback cannot protect the football, they are 1-3 with a point different of -41.
After both had played two games, both Campbell and Hoyer have looked pretty solid. Hoyer was able to quarterback the Browns to wins over Minnesota and Cincinnati while Campbell was able to lead the Browns to a win against Baltimore and a respectable loss to Kansas City. Neither quarterback was overwhelming in their games, but the Browns’ defense has been good enough where as long as they are not overwhelmed with bad field position, they can do enough to leave the Browns in position to win the game.
Only the game against the Bengals was a won against a likely playoff team and in that game, the Browns defense dominated the game and held the Bengals to just six points. The offense has not been overwhelming with any quarterback under center this year. They occasionally have their moments and can make some big plays but the quarterback play has been more a matter of facilitating the offense rather than elevating the play of anyone around them.
Weeden is a disaster. That is all there is to it. He cannot play and when he leaves the Browns, there is a good chance he will not get a shot anywhere else beyond a camp tryout. That might be all that stands between him and being a former first round pick who plays just two seasons of NFL football.
Weeden being a disaster did not make Hoyer a great quarterback and it does not mean Campbell is a great quarterback. The Browns are being treated to average to above average quarterback play. That is enough to win games and potentially compete for the playoffs, but that is not a Super Bowl winning formula. They still need to draft one and take one in the first round, pending one is available with their pick.
If Hoyer and Campbell do anything, it is showing how much just having average quarterback play can change the complexion of this offense. The next step is looking at what a great quarterback that elevates the talent around them could do; and hopefully with a running game.
Campbell played well against the Ravens. He made some nice plays, missed some throws and executed the flip pass that Weeden never could. Hoyer had some great moments too along with some bad moments. The Browns do not need to cast either one of them aside if they do not want to and could keep both for next year, but Campbell did not become a great quarterback. He is the same average one he was in Chicago and Washington.
The Browns do not put up a ton of points, but their key is simply avoiding letting their play give the opponent opportunities. They are not explosive enough to get away with giving up the football at this point. That could change with better quarterback play, but for the moment, they cannot afford to get mistakes from that spot on the roster. Weeden, with the exception of Buffalo in relief duty, has proven incapable of handling that responsibility while Campbell more than anyone has shown he could protect the football and minimize mistakes. The next step is finding someone who can do more than avoid mistakes and make this team like they can always win the game, which has not been the case since the team came back.