Browns have QB quandary
BEREA, Ohio— If the Browns are trying to keep the Patriots guessing this week as to who the starting quarterback will be, they are doing a good job.
That’s because they don’t themselves know who will line up as the starting quarterback this week.
Prior to coach Rob Chudzinski’s press conference, team spokesman Zac Gilbert announced that the quarterbacks would be available for interviews following Chudzinski’s meeting with the media.
“How many (of them)?” the coach asked smiling.
Typically, the starting quarterback speaks with the media on Wednesday’s each week.
Whoever it is, Patriot’s coach Bill Belichick is probably not losing too much sleep on whoever ends up under center.
“Again, we’ve been in that situation before where we’ve had to prepare for a couple guys,” Belichick said in a conference call. “But I would say that no matter who the quarterback is, Cleveland is going to run their offense. Their offense is their offense. Whoever it is – and I’ve looked at all of them – I think they all can do what the quarterback needs to do, which is make all throws. As I just said about (wide receiver Josh) Gordon: throw short, hit the check-downs, throw intermediate routes, the in-cuts, the crossing patterns, the comebacks and those kind of plays and throw the ball down the field.
“I think all the quarterbacks are capable of doing that, including (injured Brian) Hoyer, which actually makes it five,” he said. “We’ve seen the guys do it. I’m sure the new guys that we haven’t seen do it in that system, but have seen them do it in other systems, are capable of doing that. What we’ll have to do is prepare to defend the Cleveland Browns offense and whoever the quarterback is, it is. We can’t control that. But we’ll be ready for all four of them until somebody is taken out of the picture, whether that’s on the inactive list or ruled out on the injury (report), whatever it is, but we’ll work on all of them until something declares.”
Chudzinski said that both Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden have been cleared for activity, but not for practice.
That leaves Alex Tanney and Caleb Hanie as the two quarterbacks who practiced Wednesday.
“As far as our quarterback situation goes, it’s a very fluid situation, unique, one that I haven’t necessarily been around,” he said. “I’ll name the starter later in the week. Right now, as we stand, Campbell and Weeden have both been cleared for activity, not for practice but for activity. That’s where we stand, and it’s too difficult to know exactly when they’ll be cleared through the process any farther.
“So what we’ve done is we’ve added Caleb Hanie on the roster,” he said. “We’ll work both him and (Alex) Tanney today in practice and get a look at both of those guys. It’ll be a good opportunity to see them running our plays and preparing with our game plan getting ready to play New England. Again, I’ll make that determination later in the week of where we’ll go with the starter.
Chudzinski said he might even go up until Sunday to name the starter. He is hoping that both Campbell and Weeden are cleared to play.
“I’m going to leave all options open,” Chudzinski said. “Obviously, that wouldn’t be ideal as you’d like to see them practicing.
“It’s too difficult to know when they’ll be cleared,” he said. “It’s hard to determine and how the medical team evaluates them.”
Chudzinski said it’s possible he would play a quarterback who didn’t practice most of the week.
“All of those things are possible, but not predictable,”
Meanwhile, the coaching staff is preparing Tanney and Hanie. Tanney has never played in an NFL regular season game. The last game he started was in 2011 during his senior season at Monmouth (Ill.) College.
Hanie (6-2, 222) is in his sixth NFL season out of Colorado State. He has appeared in 10 career games with four starts. Hanie has completed 59 of 116 passes (50.9 percent) for 679 yards with three touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Bears in 2008, Hanie spent four years with the Bears. Last year, he was the third quarterback for Denver for all 16 games. He spent training camp this season with the Ravens. He said his tryout and subsequent signing with the Browns was his only opportunity since being released by the Ravens.
Chudzinski said the coaches will watch each player in practice and make a determination if Campbell or Weeden aren’t available. He said there’s a chance both Tanney and Hanie could play.
“We’d like to see more of them and see them going through the course of the game plan this week,” he said. “We can wait until Friday or all the way up to game time. I think we’ll have a feeling once we get through practices.
“I think we have a plan to address that and we’ll obviously tailor a package to whichever guy is the starter.”
Some feel that between Hanie and Tanney, the edge to start would go to Hanie since he has played in the NFL before, including a playoff game. Chudzinski was asked why they didn’t sign Hanie last week when they opted to sign Tanney, instead.
“At that particular time, Tanney had been practicing and working in Dallas (on the practice squad).”
Regardless, both players say they are ready.
“I’m ready to go today, if need be,” Hanie said. “I’ll use all week to prepare right up until Sunday.
“You can learn a whole lot (in one week),” he said. “They brought me in Monday night and I’ve got five or six days to prepare.”
Haine was last with the Ravens in the preseason before being released and has been back home in Forney, Texas, with is wife and two children.
“It is what it is,” Hanie said. “It’s a crazy league. One week I’m eating Thanksgiving dinner with my family and the next week I’m playing for the Browns.”
Hanie played in the NFC Championship Game against the Bears when Jay Cutler was injured. He was 13-of-20 for 153 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions on Jan. 23, 2011.
“It’s better that I’ve been through starts in the NFL and know what to expect,” he said. “It’s daunting on its own (to start an NFL game). Every team has good players. I’m fine with that. I’ve been around six years. I played against the Packers (NFC Championship) and that was pretty intense.”
If Hanie plays, he knows his role.
“My expectation is to make good decisions and get the ball into the play makers hands,” he said. “I don’t have to win the game, but don’t want to lose the game.
“I don’t feel I have to be perfect,” Hanie said. “I would love to (make no mistakes) but I have realistic expectations.”
Tanney has one extra week in the Browns system and he mentioned when he signed with the Browns that Tom Brady was his childhood hero. He might play his first game against the Brady.
“It will be something pretty special (to start opposite Brady)” he said. “If my number is called, it will be exciting (to play).
“Obviously, if you’re in the league, you want to play,” Tanney said. “I will be ready.”
Tanney was active for his first game against the Jaguars and said he was comfortable.
“(The coaches) had a nice package that I felt good with,” he said. “Definitely, I’m growing in this system, if called upon. The game plan is a little more extensive (than last week).”
If Campbell or Weeden doesn’t start this week, it will be the 21st different quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999 and fourth this season.
“I haven’t seen anything like this , but this is the NFL,” Davone Bess said. “It’s easy to go south and be sour about it, but we’re still got the game to play. Guys in the locker room still got character and we want to get after it.”
The Browns have had injuries to all three of their projected top three quarterbacks thus far this season. Weeden (sprained right thumb, concussion), Hoyer (ACL tear) and Campbell (bruised ribs, concussion).
“Unfortunately, bad things have happened to our quarterbacks,” Willis McGahee said. “It’s the whole point of being pros. The main thing four us is to play a complete game of football.”
— CB Chris Owens was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury and DB Julian Posey was signed off the practice squad to replace him. Posey (5-10, 190) played at Ohio University. He appeared in one game against the Packers, but has spent most of the season on the practice squad. Owens played in 12 games and started three. He finished the season with 54 tackles. 2.5 sacks and three passes broken up. He also had on forced fumble and a fumble recovery after being signed as an unrestricted free agent in the off-season. Posey wears No. 38.
With the season-ending injury to Owens, rookie CB Leon McFadden will move into his role.
“McFadden has been playing more and more in recent weeks,” he said. “He’s earned that opportunity. He was injured in training camp and he’s really earned the opportunities that he’s gotten. It will be a good opportunity for him.”
McFadden said he’s excited for the chance.
“I feel much better and am working every day on my technique,” he said. “I want to take full advantage of the next four weeks.”
McFadden was the Browns third-round draft choice this season but was slowed with a groin injury during training camp and really never got into the rotation until recently.
“McFadden has been playing more and more,” Chudzinski said. “H e got injured in training camp and fell behind, but I feel good about his improvement.”
McFadden is expected to be the third cornerback this week,meaning he will be going up against Brady.
“*Brady) is a future Hall of Fame quarterback,” he said. “I understand he will attack me, but you have to embrace the challenge.”
The Browns also placed LB Brandon Magee on injured reserve with a pectoral muscle injury. His roster spot was taken by Hanie.
— The Browns got some reinforcements back at linebacker with the return of LB Tank Carder and LB Craig Robertson to practice Wednesday. Robertson has missed two games with a knee injury, while Carder missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury.