BEREA — Quarterback Brandon Weeden lost his starting job twice this season, but gained some perspective.
“A little adversity’s not bad for somebody,” he told The Gazette on Friday. “I think it’s made me a little bit better, more appreciative of the situation I’m in.”
Weeden could be in his final days with the Browns. He’s under contract for two more years with salaries of $1.1 million next season and $1.5 million in 2015, but isn’t expected to be back for a third season.
Browns CEO Joe Banner will see if he can find a team interested in trading for Weeden. If not, he will likely be cut.
Weeden knows his future is uncertain.
“That’s up in the air,” Weeden said. “That’ll all take care of itself. It’s out of my control. Whatever happens happens. I still think I can play at this level.”
Despite posting an 0-5 record as a starter, 70.3 passer rating and being benched for Brian Hoyer then Jason Campbell, Weeden insists he hasn’t lost confidence.
“I had a little talk with Chud (coach Rob Chudzinski) yesterday and I told him I’m still confident in my ability,” he said. “There’s obviously things I need to work on. There’s a couple glaring errors I’m going to work on in the offseason and go from there.
“It’s just funny because I’m a second-year guy, I’ve started 20 games or whatever it is. You’d think that I’d been in the league for 10 or 12 years with the way that some of the things are perceived. This is a tough league, it’s a tough position to play, I’m still seeing some things for the first time. I’m still a second-year guy and I didn’t even play a full second year. I still believe I can play in this league.”
Weeden was the No. 22 pick in 2012 and started 15 games as a rookie, going 5-10 and completing 57.4 percent of his passes for 3,385 yards with 14 touchdowns, 17 interceptions and a 72.6 rating. The hope was he’d thrive in coordinator Norv Turner’s downfield system this year, but Weeden never got going.
He injured his right thumb at the end of the second game and missed two games as Hoyer won both and energized the team. Weeden replaced an injured Hoyer in Week 5 and beat Buffalo, then lost to Detroit and Green Bay, playing six straight terrible quarters, including an ill-advised backhand flip against the Lions that became a season-defining interception. He was benched again, this time for Campbell.
Weeden resurfaced against Jacksonville on Dec. 1 when Campbell was out with a concussion. He overcame an end-of-half meltdown that featured three turnovers to throw for a career-high 370 yards and the go-ahead 95-yard touchdown to Josh Gordon, only to watch the defense give up a touchdown in the final minute.
Campbell got healthy, and Weeden got the hook. In a season that was supposed to be an evaluation of Weeden, he never started more than two games in a row.
“The first two weeks we didn’t have Josh (Gordon) and we were learning a new system and it was tough for everybody and we’re playing two really good defenses,” he said. “Then you get hurt. Then you come back and you haven’t taken reps and you haven’t really thrown a ball all week and you go play. So they’re not ideal situations, but at the same time as a player in this league, as a quarterback, you’ve got to be ready to go at all times regardless of the outcome. I felt like I was.
“It was broken up, it was so choppy, you never could really get in a rhythm. You couldn’t get in a rhythm with the guys around you, you couldn’t get in a rhythm with the flow of the game and Norv’s play calling.”
Weeden wasn’t making excuses. He readily admits he wasn’t good enough. He had the chance to keep the job with a strong showing in Green Bay, but missed wide-open receiver Greg Little on the first drive, never settled in and never got the starting job back.
“I still think about the one,” he said. “The conditions sucked, but when they’re that wide open you’ve got to hit those. That one right there for some reason sticks out more than the others. Still haunts me a little bit.”
Weeden will be the backup to Campbell on Sunday in the finale at Pittsburgh. The Steelers knocked out Campbell in the first meeting with a concussion, so Weeden’s season may not be over yet. But there’s not nearly enough time to salvage it.
“Difficult. Extremely difficult. Obviously not the way I imagined it,” he said. “It was weird. Whether it was not playing well, injuries, it was just an up-and-down year. Sitting back and watching and understanding the perspective from being a backup and how to prepare and understanding the importance of being in the locker room and still maintaining a good attitude and the reflection it has, I think I’ve learned a lot from that. I can only take the positives from it, there’s a lot that obviously was out of my control. From there on, it was just how I handled it and try to be a pro about it.”
Weeden said he needs to work on some fundamentals during the offseason. He wants to improve his footwork to get better at eluding the pass rush, and work on the alignment of his shoulders so he can have better field vision.
Included in his season to forget were the loud boos from the hometown crowd.
“I couldn’t care less,” he said. “Actually I got in the huddle one time and they were booing me and I was laughing. It got a smile out of everyone else. It doesn’t bother me.”
Receiver Josh Cooper was Weeden’s teammate at Oklahoma State and remains a close friend. He said it’s impossible for Weeden not to have been affected by this year.
“It was rough those first couple weeks, when changes started happening,” Cooper said. “A lot of the fans turned against him and that’s going to affect anybody. You can’t expect a guy to go out there and play with confidence and all that if nobody’s behind your back.
“Once he got over that stuff, he’s been fine ever since.”
With the lack of support from the fans and front office, Weeden might be better off starting over somewhere else.
“I don’t know,” he said. “You look at guys that have had fresh starts that have been in pretty good situations where they’ve gone and won games, they’ve had some success. I’m not saying that’s best for me.
“I know one thing, I enjoy being in this locker room with these guys. I’ve said it all along, this is one of the best locker rooms, the best teams I’ve been around. We’ve got a great group of guys. Whatever happens happens, I’ll play it by ear.”
Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @scottpetrak.