BEREA — Quarterback Brandon Weeden entered the bye week fresh off his worst two games since the fall-flat-on-his-face opener. He’s headed back to Oklahoma to enjoy the sunshine, maybe play some golf and reflect on a promising but rocky first nine games of his career.
Coach Pat Shurmur dispatched Weeden with some strong words of support.
“I do believe in him, and he is our guy,” Shurmur said Tuesday after the lone practice of the week. “I know it’s not going to be perfect. It’s not going to be pretty all the time.”
There was plenty of ugliness Sunday against the Ravens, especially if you believe CBS analyst Rich Gannon. He ripped Weeden during the game for not going through his progressions, not seeing open receivers and not developing quickly enough.
The Browns settled for five Phil Dawson field goals in five red zone trips and lost 25-15. Weeden didn’t throw a ball into the end zone and was quick to dump it to his backs. He’s second in the league with 12 interceptions and was criticized early in the season for being careless with the ball. Now people are wondering if he’s become too cautious.
He bristled at the idea, repeatedly mentioned Ravens safety Ed Reed as a “ballhawk” that forces a quarterback to be careful and defended his decisions.
“I could have tried to squeeze one in there but if I did and something did happen, you guys would be asking me the same question: ‘Why in the hell would you throw the ball when 20 (Reed) is back there?’” Weeden said. “So I’m in a lose-lose. So I check it down and hope to God that my backs can get a first down. If not, get a few yards and kick a field goal.
“If guys are running open and I’m not throwing it to them because I’m tentative, that’s one thing. But they weren’t open, so you can’t force it.”
Weeden has repeatedly described himself as a gunslinger, and Shurmur said he’s been bold enough.
“There’s a fine line between being aggressive and, of course, being very careful with the football,” Shurmur said. “You can’t take a guy that’s not aggressive and make him aggressive. You can take a guy that’s aggressive with the football that has trust in his skill and ability, and make him understand, ‘Hey, there are times when you can’t save every play.’”
Weeden said he watched the film twice and is over the loss to the Ravens. But he had a bit of an edge when talking to reporters.
“I think I’m frustrated ’cause I knew what kind of questions I was gonna get and I came in prepared,” he said. “I’m frustrated. We’ve won two games. We’ve been in games when we’ve had a chance to win and we’ve come up short too many times.
“I feel like I need to do more to help this team win. This position, when things are going great, you’re getting too much praise. When things are going bad, you’re getting too much negativity. But on the flip side, if we’re able to do the things we need to do to get our team in position to win games, that’s all we care about.”
The Browns split their last two games, but scored only one touchdown and Weeden didn’t throw it. Nasty weather was a factor during the 7-6 win over San Diego, but couldn’t be blamed Sunday.
He’s 31-for-64 (48 percent) for 304 yards, two interceptions and a 49.2 rating in the last two weeks. His 55.9 against the Chargers and 44.4 against the Ravens were the lowest ratings since the 5.1 against the Eagles in Week 1 when he threw four interceptions.
Shurmur said he’s not worried about Weeden’s confidence and that he has no trouble taking criticism.
“He’s very quick to say he made a mistake,” Shurmur said. “Where it’s tough is when you have to convince a guy, ‘Hey, listen, this was wrong.’ That’s when it’s hard for a player to get better, if he won’t admit that he screwed the thing up.
“It’s OK to be disappointed. I think where the mental toughness comes in is you learn the best you can from it and you move forward. I think he just wishes maybe we could have won the football game.”
Weeden didn’t agree with his loudest critics and said he played better against the Ravens than against the Chargers. But he was quick to admit it wasn’t enough.
“I didn’t really do my part, throughout the entire game for four quarters, to help this team get in the end zone,” he said. “There’s a lot of different things. I think you have to take pride in scoring touchdowns. Yeah, three points sometimes isn’t bad. But you’ve gotta score touchdowns.
“And just the things that are routine, doing them 100 percent of the time. That’s where the great quarterbacks become great. They do the things consistently all the time. That’s what I’m working toward.”
Weeden’s season rating of 67.9 ranks No. 32 in the NFL. He’s tied for third with 336 attempts, 12th with 185 completions, 32nd with a 55.1 completion percentage, 14th with 2,088 yards and tied for 23rd with nine touchdowns.
Weeden was upset with a couple of missed throws Sunday that could’ve been big plays. He overthrew Chris Ogbonnaya down the sideline and was wide of Benjamin Watson on a crossing route late.
“When the guys are open, you have to make the throws,” he said. “And when they’re open, you have to be routine with those. When they’re wide open, you have to be 100 percent.
“That’s the stuff that eats away at me more than anything. It’s guys that bust their tail to get open and I’m not able to give them a chance.”
Despite the bumps in the road, Shurmur remains steadfastly in Weeden’s corner.
“I think he has done some good things in the first nine games,” Shurmur said. “He has had a lot of opportunities to do some good things. Then there are some things, some throws and some decisions that he’ll learn from. I think that’s just natural. That really is the routine that all players go through.
“It’s amplified when you’re a rookie quarterback in this league.”