Are the Browns looking for a new starting QB?
The Cleveland Browns have had six different opening-day quarterbacks the past six years.
No. 7 could be on the way.
A year after a passer was taken in the first round, the Browns appear poised to again go through the ritual of search and find at the sport’s most important position.
Though they’ve not ruled Brandon Weeden out, new coach Rob Chudzinski and player personnel director Mike Lombardi also have said nothing to support their belief in him.
And based on Lombardi’s words as an analyst, Weeden might want to start making other plans.
At this point, the reported December rumor from the Boston Globe that Lombardi would trade for New England backup Ryan Mallett has to be given credence.
The Browns haven’t commented, but given the way they hired Lombardi after dismissing his hire, and given the way they said things came together on his hire in the past week to 10 days after it had been reported for months, well, anything seems possible.
Especially a rumor that might link Lombardi to a passer associated with Bill Belichick, such as Mallett.
And most especially with the Browns, who seem to go through the lather, rinse, repeat cycle with quarterbacks every season.
Cleveland has had 11 different opening-day quarterbacks in the 14 seasons since 1999. Only three have been the opening-day starter in consecutive seasons: Tim Couch, Kelly Holcomb and Charlie Frye. Frye was the last to repeat an opening-day start; he was traded two days later. Holcomb’s first opening-day start was because of Couch’s elbow injury.
As for Weeden, both Lombardi and Chudzinski had the chance to support him, and didn’t.
“I don’t want to get into specific players right now, any of the players on the roster,” Chudzinski said the day he was hired. “I’ve seen a little bit, and until I get the full look at the 16-game schedule and have that opportunity to see that with our staff, I’m not going to comment. That would be premature.”
Said Lombardi: “It’s going to take some time for me to really formulate my final opinions of him.”
Which may be true, but is hardly a ringing endorsement of the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 draft. Especially from a guy whose job was to evaluate players last season as a member of the media with NFL.com. Lombardi then called the Browns' decision to draft Weeden a “panicked disaster,” and criticized him during the season for holding the ball too long (a criticism that was not inaccurate).
Lombardi attributed those remarks to the need to be a little more controversial on TV. He also said that TV evaluations are instant, while an evaluation for a team depends on practice, scheme and plans.
“I think when you do media, you certainly have commentary of games, but I think, for my part, it’s a different set of circumstances,” Lombardi said. “I’m looking more towards as an organization building a team and how it relates to that.”
It’s not a complete non-answer. When Jimmy Johnson did TV before coaching the Dolphins, he worked a Green Bay-Dallas playoff game and at halftime pilloried cornerback Terrell Buckley, saying he should be benched.
When Johnson became coach of the Dolphins, he traded for Buckley. Johnson said at the time that on TV he was urged to “stir things up.”
Perhaps that’s what Lombardi was doing, stirring things up. At one point this season, Lombardi wrote a column opining Seattle should play Matt Flynn instead of Russell Wilson.
“You have to go back and really watch practices and really study, because there are things that happen in a game that you are not a part of,” Lombardi said. “I think that’s what I really need to do. I say that sincerely to you.”
The rule about sincerity comes to mind — that if a person is sincere, he or she doesn’t need to say they’re being sincere and if they say they are, well . . .
Lombardi’s criticism of former general manager Tom Heckert and the Browns' drafts was pointed, and Lombardi’s relationship with Belichick makes the Mallett trade plausible. (If they deny it, it might be time to buy the Mallett jerseys.)
But a new quarterback might have to come via trade. The draft is not considered overly strong in passers, and the free-agent list after Joe Flacco (who isn’t going anywhere) includes such guys as Tarvaris Jackson, Matt Moore and, yes, Derek Anderson.
Weeden did not end 2012 with glittering numbers (14 touchdown passes, 17 interceptions), but he did spend a year learning what life is like in the NFL. If he’s going to improve, it would come after the first-year struggles. He also would seem to fit well in the vertical passing game Chudzinski favors, and would benefit from the tutelage of offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
Bringing in a new quarterback with a new system would repeat that learning process and buy the new regime more time because — as Browns fans well know — it takes time to grow.
With the Browns, it often seems like the more things change the more they stay the same.