CLEVELAND — Quarterback Brandon Weeden welcomes competition for his starting job, plans to vanquish all rivals and is dedicated to making significant improvement from an uneven rookie season.
That was his message Monday during an appearance at the Cleveland Auto Show.
“I completely expect to be the starter,” he said. “I’m confident in my ability to be the guy, to lead this football team. I’ve got to show that I’ve improved to Year 2 and that’s why I’ve been working my tail off these last few months.”
The Browns have said they’ll provide competition for Weeden — Matt Moore, Brian Hoyer and Chase Daniel have been mentioned as possibilities — but he is confident he can beat out whoever that is.
“Absolutely,” he said.
CEO Joe Banner said Saturday at the scouting combine he, coach Rob Chudzinski and coordinator Norv Turner see the potential in Weeden and will give him a chance in 2013 to succeed. Banner said it’s up to Weeden and “how bad he wants it.”
Weeden was taken aback by the suggestion he wasn’t dedicated last season.
“I worked tirelessly every single night, late throughout the night, week in and week out,” he said. “So I’m not sure really where they’re going.
“I worked my tail off last year. I busted my butt every single night and tried to get ready to play on Sundays.”
The speculation surrounding Weeden’s role and future in Cleveland has been consistent since the season ended. The firings of general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur removed his strongest supporters, and Banner was slow to endorse him.
“It’s just part of the offseason,” Weeden said. “Nobody’s playing any games and it’s all rumors and it’s just the way it is every year. The only thing I really ever hear is my buddy asked me if something’s going on.
“But I don’t pay attention to it, not worried about it, I’m excited to be here this year and compete. This game, it’s all about competing and Chud’ll tell me the same thing. I’m not discouraged by it, and you can probably tell by the tone of my voice, I’m excited about the future.”
Weeden said the interaction with Banner, Chudzinski and Turner has been “minimal” because of league rules regulating offseason contact. He hasn’t even gotten a playbook but will be in Berea for the beginning of voluntary offseason workouts April 1.
Weeden went 5-10 as a starter with 14 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, a 57.4 completion percentage and 72.6 rating. He was lapped in production, praise and playoff appearances by fellow rookies Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson.
But a season of experience and a new offensive system have Weeden eager to see what 2013 brings.
“Everybody I’ve talked to that’s a veteran in this league, they say your biggest jump is from Year 1 to Year 2,” he said. “One, you know what to expect. But also, this is a tough league and you face so much adversity because everybody you’re playing against is so good.
“So I know what to expect now. I know everybody’s going to be good. I kind of have an idea of the teams in our division, what they do defensively and stuff like that. I expect completely to be better this year than I was last year.”
A big reason for optimism is the switch from Shurmur’s West Coast Offense to the attack of Chudzinski and Turner that features downfield passing.
“His arm is something all us quarterbacks would love to have,” said Browns legend Bernie Kosar, who joined Weeden to sign autographs. “It’s a powerful arm. It’s the best offense for him and I think he knows that. It’s going to give him and the team the best chance to be successful.”
An added benefit of scrapping the quick-passing West Coast system is the batted balls should decrease. Weeden led the league with 21, according to profootballfocus.
He has the arm to reach all points of the field but must improve his accuracy on deep balls. He was 14-for-57 with four drops on attempts of 20 or more yards in the air, and the 31.6 percent conversion rate was 22nd of 23 listed. He did throw nine touchdowns and six interceptions.
Weeden realizes the struggles are why all eyes are focused on him and if he will keep the job for 2013 — and beyond.
“I’m going to challenge myself,” he said. “I know what to expect. So now it’s all ball.
“I can dial it in and really get focused on what we’re trying to do. I’m going to have to learn a whole new offense. There’s no time to sit back and relax. It’s full steam ahead once I get my hands on a playbook. They’ve already said they’re going to challenge me, and as a player, that’s what I want.
“It’s my job to make this football team a better football team starting Week 1.”