Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bring on the 20th

Like so much surrounding the Browns, I have mixed feelings about the latest quarterback switch, this time from Brandon Weeden to Jason Campbell, who will be the new era's 20th different starting signal-caller.

I'm generally averse to benching the starting QB for several reasons. It risks destroying confidence. It tends to appear like a knee-jerk response to outside pressure. It often signals a sad devaluation of the team's high investment in its starting QB, an acknowledgement of an expensive mistake. The backup QB was the backup for a reason. The backup may need "time" to "adjust" to "game speed" and develop "chemistry" with the first-teamers. This bakes in an excuse for underperformance and makes it even harder for the coach to go back to the original starter, even if he is (as was originally believed) the better player.

But in this case, sorry to say, it's pretty clear that Weeden hasn't shown the ability to play winning football at this level. It was obvious that the Green Bay game was a critical test of his competence. He came out of the gate throwing awfully, and he didn't get much better as that wet day went on. He seems like a nice, stand-up guy, but he's just not the answer.

Campbell is no world-beater either, and he didn't make a strong play for the starting job in training camp and pre-season, when he had a high completion percentage but took way too many sacks -- six, compared to 35 pass attempts. He was already passed over once in favor of the now-injured Brian Hoyer when Weeden hurt his thumb in Week 2.

Still, he has plenty of starting NFL experience, with mixed results, and if he can use his mobility to buy time and avoid sacks, that could make a difference against the fearsome defense of the undefeated Chiefs. I'm not expecting a Hoyeresque spark, but it would be nice to see what the Browns can do as a team with even average play at the most important position.

On a side note, all the other African American quarterbacks in Browns history (Dave Mays, Spergon Wynn, Seneca Wallace, Thaddeus Lewis, Josh Johnson) took the field only after injuries to their predecessors. Campbell will be the first black Browns QB to start as a pure coach's decision.

Overall, Chud's choice is a good one. Weeden has been too inconsistent, inaccurate, and indecisive. Although this move implies that the 22nd overall pick just one year ago was essentially a blown opportunity, it's better to give Campbell a chance here and evaluate each week to see what can be made of this season and who ought to be retained going forward.

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