BEREA — Brandon Weeden has always bragged about his gunslinger mentality. He’s proud of his powerful right arm and isn’t afraid to rely on it to make difficult throws into tight windows.
But after nine interceptions in his first five NFL games – all losses – he admitted he needs to make a change.
“It’s an ego thing and I think I just need to get rid of the ego and take what they give me and move on and not be as stubborn,” he said Wednesday. “Just throw the football away and move on.”
That’s easier said than done. Especially when you’ve spent your life playing a certain way.
“There’s a fine line between being aggressive and being overly aggressive,” Weeden said. “Yeah, it’s difficult because I want to make a play. I want big-chunk plays, I want explosive plays. We have the personnel to throw it and I’m able to make those throws.
“You don’t want to take away from the aggressiveness, but at the same time you’ve got to be smart.”
Ego might’ve cost the Browns their first win Sunday against the New York Giants. It certainly started a disastrous chain of events that turned a seven-point lead into a 10-point deficit within four minutes at the end of the first half.
Weeden didn’t see receiver Jordan Norwood flash open early on third-and-1 in field-goal range. He continued to drift right and threw high and wide of receiver Josh Gordon for the interception that sparked a 17-0 New York run.
“Just throw it out of bounds and let Phil (Dawson) kick the field goal and move on,” Weeden said. “Since Sunday I’ve watched every game we’ve played so far. Just areas where I can throw the football away and move on to the next play.”
Coach Pat Shurmur said the interceptions have been a combination of bad decisions, poor accuracy and bad luck. He doesn’t want to infringe on Weeden’s aggressiveness, but said discretion is vital.
“You can continue to inspire him to do the right thing with the football,” Shurmur said. “You want a guy that’s aggressive with the ball because you would like to squeeze out all of the offense you can out of every play. But then you also want to balance it with efficiency, so it’s a fine line.
“You keep going through all of the situations and all of the progressions over and over and over and then he gets a feel for the guys he’s throwing to as well.”
Weeden threw four interceptions in the opener against the Eagles and responded with a 322-yard, two-touchdown, no-interception game against the Bengals in Week 2. He’s thrown two, one and two picks in the three games since.
The two interceptions against Buffalo came in the fourth quarter as he tried to rally the Browns. The pick against the Ravens was the biggest play in the game as it was returned for a touchdown. He added a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone against the Giants when the Browns had a chance to pull within seven.
“I’ve played five games, I can’t play the rookie card. It’s long gone,” Weeden said. “When you’re in college and guys are open all the time, it’s easy to be aggressive. In this league not everybody’s open.”
Weeden has completed 55.4 percent of his 202 passes, which rank second to New Orleans’ Drew Brees. He’s thrown for 1,288 yards, which rank second all time for a rookie through five games. He has five touchdowns and a league-worst 64.5 rating.
If you take out the opening debacle, which included a 5.1 rating, the numbers are more palatable. In the last four games, he’s completed 60 percent for 1,170 yards and a 78.7 rating.
“He’s encountered some of the struggles that I anticipated he might, but I’m seeing him improve on his mistakes in a way that I knew he would,” Shurmur said.
Weeden has mixed in a few highlight-reel completions to make his bosses feel better about the decision to draft him No. 22. The picture-perfect 62-yard completion to Gordon on Sunday is Example A. The ball traveled about 55 yards in the air and landed in Gordon’s hands in stride.
Weeden called a scrambling pass to college teammate Justin Blackmon in the corner his best throw, but ranked this near the top.
“It was good just because we were playing in New York against the Super Bowl champs,” Weeden said. “I’ll probably never forget just because I just let it rip and he ran right through it.”
Shurmur jokingly reminded the media that his rookie quarterback turns 29 Sunday. Weeden just wants a win.
“It’d be a helluva birthday present,” he said.
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