Countdown to The Draft
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By Tony Grossi
The Morning Kickoff …
Stepping up: After another Browns season blew up with Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace getting tossed around by division foes like rag dolls, what was obvious about their quarterback situation was this: They needed size at the position. They needed a strong and accurate arm. And they needed maturity.
Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck? Ideal fits, to be sure … but unobtainable. Manning didn’t want to play here and the Colts weren’t stupid enough to trade the No. 1 pick.
Of the more realistic candidates, free agent Matt Flynn was no bigger than McCoy with a similarly popgun arm. He was never seriously considered.
Media darling Robert Griffin III also was too small. And too eager to show how fast he could run. The Browns never seemed all-in on Griffin. They pursued him just enough to say they tried.
Ryan Tannehill had the size and the arm, but his maturity as a quarterback and field leader were so lacking that he turned them off in personal interviews. He didn’t project as a leader.
So Brandon Weeden emerged as the best option. Great arm. Great size. Great production. And the very thing that scared off every other team – he’s a 28-year-old rookie because of a failed five-year stint in professional baseball – actually became an attraction to the Browns.
In seven practices – six in the voluntary OTA sessions and one on the first day of mandatory minicamp on Tuesday – Weeden has displayed a strong arm not seen here since Derek Anderson in 2007 and an accurate one with a deft touch reminiscent of Bernie Kosar in the late 1980s.
But what we’re also learning about him is his instant grasp of the position, its responsibilities on the field and off it.
“It’s exciting,” receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said in comments distributed by the team. “He’s mature. He’s played pro ball. He’s going to make us better.”
Early returns are good: We can only go by what we see and hear right now. We see Weeden make all the throws. And we hear him talk intelligently, honestly and excitedly about what lies ahead for him. He doesn’t blanch from the responsibility of being a spokesman for his team and his offense.
On whether he feels like “the guy”: “Not yet, just because nothing is formal. We’re still two months out until we play our first preseason game. No, not yet.”
On establishing rapport with his receivers: “It’s getting there. That’s when offenses get better, when their quarterbacks and receivers are on the same page.”
On his grasp of the Browns’ offensive playbook: “I’ve probably got my hands on 80 percent of it. It’s hard to say. We’re still installing it. I don’t really know, I guess, what there is that I don’t know. I like pretty much all of it. There are a couple plays in the red zone I told Coach (Mark) Whipple I wasn’t a big fan of. If I don’t like it, I’m going to continue to tell him about it. If you’re not comfortable as a quarterback throwing it, most coaches will tell you they won’t call it. As for what I like, I like 99.8 percent of it.”
On shaking off an interception at practice: “I think you guys will find out I’m pretty even-keeled. I think my track record shows I put that behind me. They say wash your hands and move on. That’s the approach I take. That comes from baseball. I gave up a lot of home runs in baseball. You just toe the rubber … take the next snap, and move on to the next play. I’m going to make mistakes. It’s how you bounce back the next series, make a completion here, a completion there.”
On the biggest obstacle to getting comfortable in the pro game: “I think just having some success. Just going out and completing a lot of balls, moving the offense. Just getting confidence in your arm and trusting your reads. I think as a quarterback, if you can get to that third read sometimes, that’ll give you a lot of confidence because you know you’re doing the right thing. That’s where I’m starting to get.”
Looking ahead: When will the Browns formally hand the starting job to Weeden? I think it’s all part of a process.
The significance of minicamp this week is for the veterans on the team to ascertain Weeden’s physical skills throwing the ball and get a sense for his work ethic and maturity on the field and in the huddle.
There are four more OTA practices next week and then they will disperse for summer vacation. By then, they will know who their quarterback is. A formal announcement by the Browns won’t be necessary.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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