October 1, 2014

Medina
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Browns: Chudzinski mulls possible switch

BEREA — Coach Rob Chudzinski may have reached his breaking point with Brandon Weeden.

Then again, he might give his embattled quarterback another week to try to get out of the slump that has sucked the energy out of Browns Town.

Green Bay’s A.J. Hawk is called for a face mask penalty as he tries to sack Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden in the second half Sunday. Cleveland coach Rob Chudzinski is considering switching to quarterback Jason Campbell for the upcoming game against the Chiefs. (AP PHOTO)

A day after Weeden posted an abysmal 48.6 rating in a 31-13 loss to the Packers, Chudzinski said he was considering making the switch to Jason Campbell. It was a drastic departure from last week, when Chudzinski said he never thought about benching Weeden after the loss to the Lions.

“We’re going to look at it and talk again,” he said Monday.

Chudzinski planned to meet with the coaching staff and continue to evaluate the Packers game. Despite a report from CBS’ Jason La Canfora that Chudzinski was sticking with Weeden, Chudzinski reiterated he hadn’t made a decision on who would start Sunday in Kansas City against the 7-0 Chiefs.

“We’ll talk as a staff later on this afternoon and we’ll basically put the guys in positions who will give us the best opportunity to win,” he said. “At all positions we’re considering it and looking at that, that’s typically what we do every week.”

Chudzinski will likely inform the quarterbacks today.

A move to Campbell would give the Browns their third starter in eight games, including Brian Hoyer, who’s out for the year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. That’s unusual, even for this organization, which has started 19 quarterbacks since 1999.

“We’ll just keep moving forward,” linebacker and captain D’Qwell Jackson said. “We dealt with the Trent (Richardson trade) situation. We handled that perfectly. That’s kind of groomed us for anything that’s going to happen.

“I think we’ll be fine whichever direction he wants to go or decides to go.”

Questions about going to Campbell started last week after Weeden played poorly in the second half against Detroit, including the boneheaded backhanded interception in the fourth quarter. Chudzinski, the coaches and the players spent the week rallying around Weeden and expressing their confidence in him.

He rewarded them with a clunker to match the opening loss vs. Miami. He threw his first two passes out of bounds and posted a 1.7 rating in the first quarter. He finished 17-for-42 (40 percent) for 149 yards, a touchdown, an interception and averaged 3 yards per pass play.

The Browns have lost two straight to fall to 3-4 and two games behind Cincinnati in the AFC North.

In four starts, all losses, and a win off the bench vs. Buffalo, Weeden has completed 53 percent with five touchdowns, six interceptions, 21 sacks, a 66.5 rating and 5.82 yards per attempt. He ranks 30th in rating, 32nd in completion percentage, 32nd in average gain and 24th with a 3.1 interception percentage.

So why would Chudzinski stick with him?

“I think that it’s not all Brandon, and that’s the first thing you have to look at,” he said. “You look at the tape and see, there were some execution errors and issues with other guys, and he needs to play better. But we all need to play better around him.”

Campbell is 1-for-4 in his only series, finishing against Baltimore after Weeden sprained his right thumb. The completion was a desperation underhanded toss on fourth down. Weeden threw an incompletion Sunday with such a maneuver following the interception the week before.

Campbell, 31, is 31-40 as a starter, completing 61 percent for 14,682 yards, 6.7 per attempt, 76 touchdowns, 52 interceptions and an 82.5 rating. He said recently it stung when he was passed over in favor of Hoyer as the starter for Week 3 when Weeden was sidelined.

Hoyer won all three starts before the injury. A move to Campbell would come with the hope he’d provide a similar spark.

“Difficult to say,” Chudzinski said. “Again, just looking for the guy that’s going to give us the best chance to win at all positions.”

Weeden’s teammates have supported him through the injury, demotion and return. They didn’t stop Sunday in Green Bay or Monday back home.

“I have confidence in Brandon, 100 percent confidence,” tight end Jordan Cameron said. “He’s a tough guy. He’ll hang in there, and whoever they pick will be ready to play. I just have confidence in whoever they choose and I’m backing whatever their decision is.”

The success with Hoyer raised expectations for the season. A growing perception is that a lack of confidence in Weeden is hurting the entire team.

“I don’t think it’s the case here,” said Jackson, who acknowledged that happens with some quarterbacks. “I mean, the guy won on the big stage this year (vs. the Bills). I don’t know why he’s taking so much of the … I know it comes with the territory, but we’ve got our own problems on the defensive side of the ball.”

Weeden acknowledged his poor play Sunday but said he’s not discouraged. He’s known all year this could be his last chance to prove to the organization he can be the starter.

Jackson was asked if Weeden has been shaken by the struggles and ruthless reaction of the fans.

“Anybody would. I’d by lying if I said he wasn’t,” Jackson said. “You try to block out the noise and can’t avoid it. It comes with the territory. It’s a big-boy league.

“You’ve got to take the good with the bad. People are going to love him when he plays well and people are going to try to run him out of Cleveland if he doesn’t. And that goes for all of us. But it comes with the territory, especially playing in Cleveland.”

Quentin Groves played with Campbell in Oakland in 2010 and ‘11. Groves didn’t endorse a switch, but gave a scouting report.

“He provides a bit of mobility, a lot of leadership, a lot of veteran maturity ‘cause he’s been in certain situations, he’s been a quarterback that has been on streaks,” he said.

Groves said Campbell wouldn’t be here if he didn’t have something left in the tank. CEO Joe Banner and general manager Michael Lombardi would see to that.

“One thing I’ve learned about Mr. Lombardi and Mr. Banner and the front office is that if you don’t have anything, they’re going to let you know quick,” Groves said. “They do a great job of that. They obviously see something in Jason. If he’s our quarterback, then we’re with him.”

Whoever takes the snap needs more support. At least five passes were dropped Sunday, the protection has been spotty all year and the running game scares no defense. If Chudzinski stays with Weeden, the team must rally around him with its performance as well as its words.

“We’ve got a quarterback we need to help,” running back Willis McGahee said. “That’s everybody — O-line, receivers, running backs, we can’t put all the pressure on him. We’re not helping him right now.”

“It’s hard for a quarterback to come out and be perfect. Especially with the history he’s had here, it’s even harder with everybody on him. I take my hat off to him because he still walks around with a smile on his face, still competitive. That right there shows what kind of character he has.”

Jackson was waiting to hear Chudzinski’s decision, just like everyone else.

“There’s a reason why Brandon is in the position that he is because they feel he’s the best guy for the job,” he said. “Then again, you never know. We had a third-string quarterback go into Minnesota and we had a heckuva game. Anything can happen.”

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.