December 22, 2014

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Another QB change for Browns: Jason Campbell to start vs. Chiefs, Brandon Weeden benched

Cleveland Browns quarterback Jason Campbell has been named the starting quarterback for Sunday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland Browns quarterback Jason Campbell has been named the starting quarterback for Sunday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

BEREA — Jason Campbell stayed in the middle of the field house to throw to the receivers Wednesday during practice. Brandon Weeden jogged to the corner because the running backs needed someone to hand them the ball.

The roles of starter and backup are clearly defined. The Browns had made another change at quarterback.

Coach Rob Chudzinski chose Campbell to start Sunday in Kansas City against the Chiefs (7-0), benching the ineffective Weeden, who was 0-4 as a starter. Chudzinski made the decision Monday night and announced it Wednesday.

“It’s a tough decision,” Chudzinski said. “I believe this is in the best interest of the team ultimately and gives us the best chance to win. I’m excited to see what Jason will do with this opportunity.”

Chudzinski’s on his third starting quarterback in eight games as a head coach. Campbell will be the league-high 20th starter for the Browns (3-4) since returning in 1999.

“It’s the NFL. You really can never be surprised about anything,” Campbell said. “It’s an opportunity to go out there and just get back to the game and just having fun. Obviously we want to go win games and do the best we can.”

Weeden, 30, went into the season convinced he could prove himself the long-term answer to the front office and coaching staff that inherited him. Instead, his Cleveland career could be finished just 18 months after he was the No. 22 pick in the draft.

“I’m not going today, guys,” Weeden said, declining to talk to reporters.

Offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey patted him on the arm as they passed in the locker room. Weeden, who is 5-14 as a starter, spent most of the time hunched in the chair in front of his locker, head buried in a phone.

“I know everyone wanted to say it’s about Brandon, but it really wasn’t about one person,” Campbell said.

“We all as a collective group have to do a better job play in and play out of doing our own job.

“I think the only thing I should do is just try to be a leader. Not try to do anything to the extreme, just try to stay within the game and find your rhythm.”

A couple of weeks ago, Campbell seemed resigned to life as a backup. He opened the season No. 2 on the depth chart, but was passed over for Brian Hoyer when Weeden couldn’t start in Week 3 with a sprained thumb. When Hoyer got hurt in Week 5, Chudzinski went back to Weeden.

“It is just one of those years, you can never predict anything and the NFL season is like a roller coaster,” Campbell said. “There are up and down moments and the main thing you have to try to do is stay even-keel throughout it all. Not everything goes your way at times and not everything is gonna be that way and those decisions are out of your hands.”

The latest decision will send Campbell into deafening Arrowhead Stadium to face a Chiefs defense that ranks first in scoring (11.6 points), sacks (35), the red zone (22.2 percent touchdowns) and on third down (25.3 percent). The Chiefs are tied for first with 19 takeaways.

“They’re tough,” he said. “As an offense, we just have to go in there and do what we do and try to be as patient as possible and keep ourselves in good positions to win.”

Campbell, 31, is 31-40 as a starter in a nine-year career with 76 touchdowns, 52 interceptions and an 82.5 rating. He was last a full-time starter in Oakland in 2011 and said he was playing the best of his career. The Raiders were 4-2 when a tackle by Browns linebackers Scott Fujita and Chris Gocong broke his collarbone and ended his year.

He spent last season as a backup with the Bears. In his only start, a loss to San Francisco, he went 14-for-22 for 107 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions and a 52.7 rating.

Campbell’s only playing time this year was a series against Baltimore after Weeden was hurt. He was asked how he’ll shake off the rust.

“Go get some 40-W, EW-40 or something like that,” he said, searching for WD-40, the popular lubricant. “I’ve had some great practices.”

Hoyer went 3-0 before suffering a season-ending knee injury, but Chudzinski wasn’t guaranteeing a similar spark from Campbell (6-foot-5, 230 pounds).

“I think that looking at Jason and the things that he brings to the table, leadership, his experience, he’s been productive and he’s been successful in the league,” Chudzinski said. “I think when you look at his arm strength and you look at his mobility and some of those things and tie it into as far as a game-plan standpoint, it’s what we feel like we need for this game and gives us the best chance.”

The revolving door at quarterback is business as usual for the Browns. They used three starters in 2010 — Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy within the first six games — four in 2008 and three in 2004 and ’00.

That’s not normal for the NFL. The league average since 1999 is 11.3 starting quarterbacks, with New England and Green Bay as the most stable with three, according to STATS LLC.

“Obviously, you want consistency at the quarterback position and know who is going to be there every week, but that’s the NFL,” receiver Davone Bess said. “We can’t really do nothing about that. All we can do is show up, man.”

“It’s somewhat difficult, but we can definitely overcome it,” receiver Josh Gordon said. “I don’t see it as a big problem. We’ll be fine.

“Guys get hurt, guys come in and come out. You roll with the punches.”

Weeden started the season slowly, recovered to win the Buffalo game off the bench, then struggled the last six quarters in losses to the Lions and Packers. His 66.5 rating ranks 30th and his 52.8 completion percentage 32nd.

He’d become a punching bag for the fans, but Chudzinski said the benching wasn’t about his mental state.

“It really is about production and ultimately being consistent in that area,” he said. “I think that Brandon has improved. He’s worked awfully hard. It just goes back to production.”

Chudzinski said the decision had nothing to do with the fans’ growing animosity toward Weeden and declined to commit to Campbell for the remainder of the season.

“We’re going to evaluate it on a week-to-week basis and again the goal is to put the guy out there who gives us the best opportunity to win,” he said. “Going back and forth isn’t ideal, but ultimately finding the production and consistency that we need is the goal.”

Campbell feels he can get the job done.

“I think I’m still kinda young in real life. In football terms they’d say I’m at the midway,” he said. “I think my arm strength’s still there, I still believe in my arm and still have confidence.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.