Brandon Weeden's tenuous hold on the Browns' starting job began before he ever played his first NFL game. New owner Jimmy Haslam took over the franchise last summer and he wasted little time finding out what he had. His first question to then-team president Mike Holmgren: Can Weeden play?
Five wins and one bumpy rookie season later, the answer is … maybe.
Weeden started 15 games in 2012 and completed 57 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. But Weeden's biggest allies, the front office and coaching staff, the same people who were convinced it was a good idea to take a 28-year-old quarterback with a first-round pick, were fired in January. And when they left, so did the sense that the new regime had faith in a guy it now had nothing invested in.
Convenient ambivalence might be the best way to describe the Browns-Weeden dynamic. Still, the organization seems willing to give him a chance to keep his job, even though Jason Campbell was signed to a two-year deal earlier this week.
"Brandon's the starter, and there's competition,'' Browns president Joe Banner told WKNR, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "He'll have to come in and play well and work hard and prove that he deserves to maintain the position he starts in. There's a clear, direct relationship between the quality of your quarterback play and your ability to go as far as we hope to go as we build this team. So we'll never stop focusing on trying to find and evaluate quarterbacks, and if we got lucky enough to have more than one really good quarterback, there's nothing wrong with that problem.''
The Browns' first minicamp runs from April 16-18, and Banner said Weeden will get first-team reps.
"We're going to go through minicamps and training camp and by the time we get to the first game, our goal is to play whoever the best players are," he said. "So [Campbell] will certainly get a chance to compete.”
Put another way: Despite Weeden's place atop the depth chart, Banner acknowledged that the position is unsettled and the quarterback situation is unsettling.
"I feel like we're at a to-be-determined position,'' he said. "Frankly, that's not really where you want to be. Anybody watching [Weeden] saw some things that were very encouraging last year and saw some things they feel like need to get better. In [new coach Rob Chudzinski and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner], he probably has two of the best, maybe even the two best people to be coached by in a system that should fit him very well. He's going to get every chance to prove he has the ability to take us to the next level.”
In the meantime, the Browns could be in the market for their next franchise quarterback, possibly with the No. 6 pick in next month's draft.
"I view quarterbacks as assets," Banner said. "If you happen to be lucky enough to end up with two, which is extremely rare, that can't be a problem. So we'll continue to pick quarterbacks, develop quarterbacks, with the full understanding that we're never going to be what we want to be until we're really strong at that position.''