Brandon Weeden has the swagger, the size and the smarts that every NFL team looks for in a franchise quarterback.
Unfortunately for the Browns, he doesn’t appear to have the skills to fit the above description.
Weeden came up empty Sunday in the biggest game of his rookie season, throwing two ugly interceptions and a bunch of bad passes that sucked the life out of Cleveland in its 38-21 loss to the Washington Redskins.
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“It’s as disappointing as it should be (to me),” said Weeden, who also had three passes batted down by defensive linemen. “I didn’t play well for the most part throughout. You have to get first downs, and that’s my job.
“We came in today with a lot of confidence and just didn’t find a way to win. My hat is off to the Washington Redskins. They played well.”
While Washington’s entire team did play well, quarterback Kirk Cousins was flat-out terrific. The rookie from Michigan State amassed 329 yards on 26 of 37 attempts with two touchdowns, one interception and a 104.4 passer rating.
Cousins not only won his first NFL start, he pulled the Redskins into a first-place tie in the NFC East while doing a pretty good impression of Washington superstar Robert Griffin III, who missed the game with a sprained right knee.
“Kirk and I are good buddies, so I’m happy for him,” Weeden said. “Coach (Mike) Shanahan put him in a great spot, running nakeds (options) and play-actions over the middle. And (offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan called a great game and tailored things to the personnel they have.”
On the other side of the ball, Weeden finished with respectable numbers — 21-of-35 for 244 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 66.8 passer rating — but padded them greatly after the game had been decided.
For a more accurate look at his afternoon, check out the third quarter when Weeden was picked off twice — leading to 14 Redskins points — and made an inexcusable decision on a fourth-down play.
The latter sequence saw Browns coach Pat Shurmur show great faith in his quarterback by going for it on fourth-and-3 at the Washington 41, only to have Weeden make little effort to extend the play before throwing the ball directly out of bounds.
“In the (third), we threw two interceptions and missed on a fourth-down conversion, which essentially is a turnover,” Shurmur said. “They scored twice off those two interceptions and got points, then stretched the lead out.
“Whether he was able to get through it (to his intended receivers) or not, I thought the protection was good initially. We can’t throw interceptions.”
And yet, Weeden continues to do so, upping his season total to 17. New Orleans’ Drew Brees and Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck share the NFL lead with 18, but have attempted 76 and 66 more passes, respectively.
Weeden, a former minor league baseball pitcher, also has displayed little command, completing just 57.2 percent of his passes while posting the league’s fourth-worst rating at 72.4. The only players ranked below Weeden are the much-criticized Mark Sanchez of the Jets, the benched Matt Cassel of Kansas City and the abysmal John Skelton of Arizona.
“Today I just told him, ‘Man, it happens. We’re here with you, Brandon.’ You’ve got to know that,” Cleveland running back Trent Richardson said. “We’re here with you and we’re behind you.”
While Richardson continues to stand behind his man, Weeden is standing behind all of the other rookie starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
Griffin and Luck are already elite players, Seattle’s Russell Wilson has been a revelation and Miami’s Ryan Tannehill and Philadelphia’s Nick Foles have sparked hope among their fans. Cousins also has shined brightly in the Redskins’ last two games.
Weeden, meanwhile, keeps teasing the Browns and frustrating their fans, who booed him off the field several times against Washington. His 69-yard TD to Travis Benjamin was a thing of beauty, but his near pick-six on the opening drive and a 7-yard overthrow of Josh Gordon were anything but.
And to objective outsiders, which new Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam III and CEO Joe Banner are, it’s worth noting that Weeden’s statistics are inferior to backup Colt McCoy’s totals in 2011.
“I’ve got to be better, I know that,” Weeden said. “I’d love to have the answers by Week 14 or 15 or whatever it is, but I don’t.
“I’m not losing confidence because I know I can get the job done, but it’s tough, especially in games like today. We expected (what the Redskins’ defense did) and we prepared for it. We just couldn’t execute it.”
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.
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