BEREA, Ohio — Head coach Pat Shurmur tried Monday.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden did his best on Wednesday.
On Thursday, it was offensive coordinator Brad Childress’ turn to explain how a guy the Cleveland Browns felt was so ready he didn’t need to play the final preseason game could finish with four interceptions and a 5.1 rating in the season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
It wasn’t a simple task.
But though Weeden admitted things can’t get worse, Childress said the quarterback did not seem like a guy who is just not ready.
“I don’t feel that way,” Childress said. “I don’t think he cowered in the face of it. I thought he had a good demeanor during the course of it.”
Childress called the NFL’s passer rating a “convoluted” way to measure how a guy played. Then he listed the measurables he uses to assess a quarterback’s play.
They included completion percentage, which he said he would like to see at 65.
And yards per attempt. “Is he getting it down the field, throwing for chunks?” Childress said.
Last is how the quarterback is “orchestrating the whole deal,” whether its efficient, whether he’s getting the offense good yardage on early downs to be in makeable third downs.
By those measures, it’s a good thing Weeden had a good demeanor. Because not much else was good.
Weeden’s completion percentage was 34, barely more than half the ideal Childress mentioned.
His yards per attempt was 3.37, which of course ranks last in the league — a full yard behind the player ranked 31, rookie Russell Wilson of Seattle, and just short of two yards short of the player ranked 30th, Arizona’s John Skelton. The median yards per attempt — 17th in the league — is Philip Rivers, and he averaged 7 per attempt.
As for third downs, the Browns had 13 in the opening loss. Six were five yards or less, which shall be called “manageable.” (One was a four-yard deficit thanks to a Philadelphia penalty on third down.)
So six of 13 third downs were “manageable.” Weeden and the offense converted twice — from 1 and 4 yards.
Of the seven others, all were nine yards or more, with none longer than 11. The Browns converted none, missing five, throwing one interception and benefitting from that Eagles penalty.
The passer rating might be convoluted, but Weeden flopped by the evaluation system Childress described.
Childress also went over Weeden’s mistakes, and they basically revolved around the “he’s got to be better” theme.
The first interception was caused by wide receiver Greg Little, who dropped a pass he should have caught.
The two down the sidelines were both on deep routes to rookie Travis Benjamin.
“He doesn’t give Travis a chance to use his speed,” Childress said. Or throw it far enough so Benjamin could run by the corner and catch the ball.
The last came on the last offensive play of the game, on first down of a possible game-winning drive.
“The pocket kind of push in on him,” Childress said. “The ball was high. It kind of sailed on him.”
On the play when tight Ben Watson was wide open to the left and Weeden rolled right and threw the ball away, Childress said: “He missed it. He should have hit him.”
Why didn’t he throw to Watson when he looked left? Perhaps because at the moment Weeden looked a lineman blocked his view of Watson.
Of the missed touchdown to wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi early in the game, Childress said: “Missed him.”
And of the miss to tight end Alex Smith in the end zone in the third quarter, Childress said: “I think he got pushed a little.”
To his credit, Weeden didn’t hide. He admitted it was awful and said Sunday in Cincinnati had to be better because it “couldn’t be worse.”
In short, he kept his good demeanor.
The Browns are not budging on Weeden. He is the starter, and anyone clamoring for Colt McCoy should save it.
But when a guy starts with no touchdowns and four interceptions, he has done nothing but ratchet up the pressure, especially since the next game is on the road against a team with one of the nastiest defensive tackles in the league (Geno Atkins) and a very underrated defense. And especially because it’s a division game and the Browns have not won a game in the division in almost two years.
Weeden can put a lot of the chatter to rest by playing well in Cincinnati. A win would be optimal, but a solid performance would do him some good.
To Childress it’s simply a matter of him settling down and playing like he knows he can.
“We had our chances,” Childress said. “We had our swings at it. We just didn’t execute the way we needed to.”