PHOENIX — Trying to interpret the statement of every Browns official about their quarterback situation this offseason proved to be a wearying experience.
Words can be overstudied, expressions misinterpreted and intentions confused.
But one thing has become clear as owner Jimmy Haslam, CEO Joe Banner and coach Rob Chudzinski addressed the situation this week with the local media at the NFL annual meetings: The team at this moment plans to give Brandon Weeden every opportunity to keep the job.
And another thing has come clear as league types plugged into the situation reveal things: The Ryan Mallett rumors are nothing more than rumors. The Browns have not seriously pursued Mallett, a backup in New England, and barring something unforeseen (the usual caveat) he will not be joining the Browns.
The team’s position on Mallet is not to comment on him. Asked on Monday if he could say whether the Browns inquired about Mallett, Banner said: “(I) can’t, just because I won’t answer that about anybody.”
“I’m glad he plays for our team,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
It became clear from talking to league insiders that rumors about Mallett were merely floated because of General Manager Mike Lombardi’s previous affiliation with Belichick and the fact that Lombardi as a television analyst had spoken highly of Mallett.
Sometimes that logic plays out, as it did when Banner hired Lombardi.
In this case, there was no real substance to the reports and guesswork.
Though things can always change, the Browns now talk about competition from within. It’s possible the team could draft a quarterback, but Haslam and Chudzinski said the focus at this point is on the guys they have.
“I see it as creating competition,” Chudzinski said, uttering the latest catch-phrase for the position. “That can be from a number of different places. We have some guys that are there and again we’re going to coach them all and we’re going to coach them all hard and we’re going to give all of them opportunities to show what they can do. So I think there will be competition from within the room.
“Competition comes from within too. I think as coaches we have to bring that out in our guys.”
“I think you can have internal competition and you can have external competition,” Haslam said. “This is the first time I’ve gone through free agency, and of course you have the draft … it’s still a pretty long time ‘til camp, right? I think we start officially in mid-July. I think we’ll see how things shape up.”
Which leaves the door open in case someone is released or cut, or in case the Browns add a mid-round guy — Banner has made it clear quarterback is not the focus with the sixth overall pick.
But trading for Mallett or any player like him was and is extremely difficult given the Browns lack a second-round pick in this year’s draft. Acquiring a talented passer might require a third-round choice this year, which would further void the Browns of high picks. That’s not good when the Browns have said they want to build through the draft.
Giving up a second-round pick in 2014 also would be a problem, because it’s two years in a row without a second-round choice, which again is not good for long-term team building.
“We’’d certainly be very reluctant to trade any picks,” Banner said, speaking generally and not about a specific player.
At this point, it appears the market did not have a guy the Browns could easily bring in to compete. The team seems inclined to giving Weeden another year and seeing what happens.
“Chud and (offensive coordinator) Norv (Turner) are way better to answer that than I am,” Haslam said. “But I think they think the offense they’ll run fits our quarterback’s skill set and there’s potential there. They’re optimistic we can put points on the board.”
“He can throw the ball, he’s got good feel and presence in the pocket and really it’s just going to be about getting him into this system, into the meetings, getting a chance to coach him and seeing what he can do once we get out there on the field,” Chudzinski said.
Chudzinski said Colt McCoy and Thad Lewis have the arm strength to run his system, though the eye check does not seem to support that claim. But the coach added he could adjust to the quarterback’s strengths. He added he does not have a timetable for naming the starter.
At this point, Chudzinski is ready to put the quarterbacks to work.
“After a while,” he said, “there’s only so many studies and there’s only so many times you can look at the tape.”