Going into the final home game, Browns quarterback Jason Campbell seemed to have made a case that he deserves to return next season.
After a 38-31 loss Sunday to the Chicago Bears in FirstEnergy Stadium, I’m convinced the Browns should find two new quarterbacks for 2014. They should cut ties with Campbell and Brandon Weeden and find replacements to battle Brian Hoyer for the starting job.
(Sorry, but I can’t take Alex “Trick Shot” Tanney seriously, except as a practice squad candidate.)
Campbell is 32-45 as a starter, 1-5 for the Browns this season. Even when he threw for a career-high 391 yards a week ago on the road against the New England Patriots, they lost by a point.
He posted passer ratings of 105.4 or better in three of his six starts, but the Browns prevailed in only one of those three games. In the others, at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears and on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals (when he played with very sore ribs), he verged on dreadful.
Some observers are convinced those bad numbers were the result of injuries, which is possible. He spent an unusually long time in the trainers’ room Sunday but said afterward he was OK.
He is also operating with no running game and a receiving corps that has a potential superstar in Josh Gordon and a cast of minions, with only tight end Jordan Cameron offering much help. The wind was a factor against the Bears.
But in a roller-coaster season plagued by inconsistency, Campbell is as unsteady as the rest. He is a nine-year veteran who will turn 32 on Dec. 31 and who should perform at a more even keel.
The blame is falling on the defense for three consecutive fourth-quarter collapses, but the offense has escaped its share of culpability. Yes, the Browns’ defense has allowed the Jacksonville Jaguars, Patriots and Bears to score 47 fourth-quarter points in that span. But the Browns’ offense has put up 21 against those three foes, with Campbell starting the past two. It has failed to come up with a big play to stop the bleeding and regain momentum.
On Sunday, before the Bears opened up a 14-point lead in the final quarter, Campbell threw two third-down incompletions to Gordon and one to Greg Little. One was a low throw that skipped that Gordon tried to gobble off the ground.
“I blame that one on me,” Campbell said. “I was trying to move the linebacker with my eyes and reset my feet real quick, and I just didn’t get my foot all the way around. The wind had nothing to do with that.”
The pass to Little, which started at the Bears 37, might have put the Browns in field-goal range and given them a 10-point lead.
If Campbell wanted to make his case that he deserves to serve out the second year of the two-year, $3.75 million contract he signed in March, he needed to convert one of those third downs on this Sunday, just like every other Sunday he has had the chance with the Browns.
To his credit, Campbell realizes it’s not all the defense’s fault.
“It’s not a one-side-of-the-ball situation,” Campbell said. “We had an opportunity in the fourth quarter to maybe get a field goal and go up 10. We have to do our part.
“Did I play a great game today? No, I didn’t. I didn’t have one of my best games. All of us feel that way.”
Campbell completed 23-of-39 passes for 273 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions and a 67.6 rating, with 43 yards coming on a scoring toss to Gordon with 59 seconds left.
But enough about Campbell, for this year and beyond. The Browns are at a critical juncture when it comes to the quarterback of the future.
Considering what the franchise has been doing since 1999 hasn’t worked, they can’t keep picking one at No. 22 (Brady Quinn in 2007, Weeden in 2012) and hoping for the best. They can’t keep taking a stab in the middle-to-late rounds (Spergon Wynn, sixth round, 2000; Luke McCown, fourth round, 2004; Charlie Frye, third round, 2005; Colt McCoy, third round, 2010) and crossing their fingers.
One way or another, it is time to double down.
Only seven times in their history have the Browns drafted two or more quarterbacks in the same year. Four of those years (1952, ’57, ’58 and ’62) came when Paul Brown was in charge. The last time it happened was 1976, when the draft had 17 rounds. Only twice has one of those picks been a first-rounder — 1970, Mike Phipps (1) and Mike Cilek (6); 1952, Harry Agganis (1) and Don Klosterman (3).
But the Browns have the ammunition in 2014 to make such an unusual move. They have seven picks in the first four rounds, including two in the first round, two in the third and two in the fourth. They could select a quarterback in the first round with their selection or the one acquired from the Indianapolis Colts in the Trent Richardson trade, then take another in the third round.
Or they could draft one and sign a free agent, preferably not a player in his 30s.
With two games remaining before the most important offseason of the Browns’ expansion era, it’s time to break from convention. In 2014, the more new quarterbacks, the merrier.
By Marla Ridenour - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)
©2013 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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