Browns’ Weeden recovers from dismal debut
BEREA, Ohio — Brandon Weeden can be social again.
One week after a dismal NFL debut drove the Browns rookie quarterback underground, causing him to avoid all media and forcing him to stay up late studying game tape to see what he did wrong in his first game as a pro, Weeden can show his face in public without shame.
After throwing for 322 yards and two touchdowns in Cincinnati on Sunday, Weeden doesn’t have to hide.
He’s even back on Twitter, a place he didn’t dare visit last week.
“There’s been a lot of positive responses,” he said, “and I’ve responded back to some people.”
Weeden’s confidence is high following his performance in Sunday’s 34-27 loss, which eased some of the sting from his four-interception, 5.1-rating debacle in Week 1 against Philadelphia.
Weeden completed 26 of 37 passes (70 percent) and finished with a 114.9 rating against the Bengals while setting a Browns rookie record for most passing yards in a game.
According to STATS LLC, Weeden’s improvement of 109.8 in passer rating over a two-game span is the sixth highest by any quarterback since 2000.
But beyond the huge jump in his numbers, Weeden showed he could take a punch and keep fighting. If there was any concern about his ability to bounce back, there isn’t anymore.
“It just shows me that I can play at this level,” he said Wednesday.
It’s not that Weeden doubted his ability, but there were those outside the Browns (0-2) who began to wonder if the team made a mistake in selecting the 28-year-old former minor league pitcher in the first round of this year’s draft. But those worries seemed valid after Weeden looked so unsure and almost frightened against the Eagles.
Weeden took it upon himself to make things better.
He stayed off social media sites and avoided sports talk radio, TV and newspapers in the wake of his poor showing in the opener. Weeden joked that he “didn’t let the nation tell me how bad I played.” He also spent last week watching game film, falling asleep one night at home while viewing some highlights on his iPad.
“My wife gives me a hard time because I can’t stay awake in movies,” Weeden cracked. “I guess I can’t stay awake watching film, either.”
But the extra work paid off, and Weeden responded by lighting up the Bengals. This weekend, he’ll try to do the same against the Bills (1-1).
His tight spirals impressed his teammates, so did his tenacity.
“It’s cool just to see him have success because he’s one of us,” said wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, who had five catches for 90 yards at Cincinnati. “You always wish success to one of your teammates and a guy like that. But just his mental toughness after he took so much flak from his first game. He didn’t play as well as he wanted to, and he said he was going to come back and play a good game, and he did.
“I think that’s just a scratch of what he’s going to do and what he’s capable of doing.”
Weeden’s turnaround also can be attributed to his willingness to accept criticism. Maybe because Weeden is more mature than the average rookie, Browns coach Pat Shurmur said he’s not afraid to point out mistakes to his QB.
If Weeden does something Shurmur finds unacceptable, he hears about it.
“Oh yeah, I’m tough on him,” Shurmur said. “I’m his coach. I admire what he is as a player, but I look at him like I would look at my son. I’ve got no problem saying the tough stuff to him, I really don’t. The way this thing works is the head coach, the coordinator (Brad Childress) and the quarterback coach (Mark Whipple) are all on the same page with what we say to him.”
Shurmur said Weeden can take whatever criticism the coaches throw at him.
“You can present it to Brandon however you want,” Shurmur said. “You can whisper it to him or you can put a little oomph into it. He handles it both ways.”
Weeden appreciates the tough love from Shurmur, a former quarterbacks coach and coordinator. As long as the comments are constructive, Weeden has no problem getting an earful from his coach anytime.
“He’s not chewing me out in front of everyone else,” he said. “He’ll pull me aside and tell me exactly how he feels, and I respond well to that. At least once a practice, he’ll come over and say, ‘Look we need you to do this, this and this.’ I respect him, and I respect everything he has to say because he’s been doing this a lot longer than I have.
“I don’t want to be called out in front of the team every day, but if he can come over and tell me man-to-man like he does, it will work for a long time.”