BEREA — In about 35 minutes, the Browns reminded everyone, not once, but twice, why they’ve struggled so much since 1999.
Quarterback after quarterback after quarterback has met his demise in Cleveland. Twenty of them have started for the Browns during an expansion era in which only two winning seasons and one playoff appearance have been earned.
Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell are just the latest victims in a long line of failed Browns quarterbacks. The organization cut both Wednesday, announcing Weeden’s release at 3:50 p.m. and Campbell’s at 4:23 p.m.
Neither move was a surprise. But the fact that the Browns swung the ax on both players during the same afternoon certainly was emblematic of the franchise’s ineptitude.
The Browns drafted Weeden 22nd overall in 2012, but he never lived up to the expectations placed upon him as a first-round pick. He went 5-15 as a starter in his two seasons with the team.
In a news release issued by his agent, Sean Howard, Weeden thanked the Browns, owner Jimmy Haslam and some of the executives and coaches he played under.
“Though this day might be the end of one chapter, I view this as the beginning of another,” Weeden said in the release. “… Most important, I want to say thank you to each and every one of my teammates for their support, camaraderie and friendship through some tough times and some good ones. I will grow and develop as a player in the National Football League, and I look forward to the next opportunity.”
Drafted by former team President Mike Holmgren and ex-General Manager Tom Heckert, Weeden went 5-10 as a starter during his rookie season. He showed flashes of promise but regressed as the season wound down, finishing 297-of-517 passing (57.4 percent) for 3,385 yards and 14 touchdowns with 17 interceptions and six fumbles. He had a passer rating of 72.6 and took 28 sacks.
Weeden, 30, played minor-league baseball for five seasons before becoming a football star at Oklahoma State University. The Browns brought him to the NFL at age 28 partly because they were desperate to find an upgrade over then-starter Colt McCoy, a third-round pick of Holmgren and Heckert in 2010. They also traded up one spot in 2012 and used the third overall pick on running back Trent Richardson, who was traded to the Indianapolis Colts last year and has struggled mightily.
Ex-CEO Joe Banner took over for Holmgren during Weeden’s rookie season, and former General Manager Mike Lombardi succeeded Heckert when that season ended. Neither Banner nor Lombardi believed Weeden was the long-term answer at quarterback, although he entered the 2013 season as the starter.
But Weeden lost his job because of a sprained thumb in Week 2. Brian Hoyer replaced him and led the Browns to back-to-back wins in September before suffering a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Oct. 3 against the Buffalo Bills.
After Weeden was summoned to replace Hoyer during the first quarter against the Bills, he helped the Browns prevail 37-24 in prime time. Everything went downhill from there as Weeden struggled with accuracy, reading defenses and releasing the ball on time.
Former Browns coach Rob Chudzinski benched Weeden in favor of Campbell because of poor performances in back-to-back starts in Weeks 6 and 7. Weeden went 0-5 as a starter and completed just 141-of-267 passes (52.8 percent) for 1,731 yards and nine touchdowns with nine interceptions and six fumbles. He posted a passer rating of 70.3 and absorbed 27 sacks.
“First and foremost, the Browns would like to thank Brandon and his agent for being true professionals,” new GM Ray Farmer said in a news release. “The circumstances in which he found himself were not easy for him or the team. After discussions with Brandon and his agent, we’d like to give him the ability to pursue other opportunities.”
Weeden was scheduled to make base salaries of $1,124,872 next season and $1,492,308 in 2015. He’ll welcome the fresh start that comes with a new contract after he became a routine punch line in Northeast Ohio and the target of booing at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Campbell, 32, was due a $250,000 roster bonus today. He was scheduled to make a base salary of $3 million next season.
Last year, Campbell signed a two-year deal with the Browns as an unrestricted free agent. He began the 2013 season as a backup, but Hoyer’s devastating injury and Weeden’s poor performances led to him being thrust into the starting lineup in Week 8.
Campbell, who the Washington Redskins drafted in the first round (No. 25 overall) in 2005, went 1-7 as a starter. He completed 180-of-317 passes (56.8 percent) for 2,015 yards and 11 touchdowns with eight interceptions and three fumbles. He posted a passer rating of 76.9 and took 16 sacks.
Campbell played well at times, but he also had rough outings, especially when an injury to his ribs bothered him. He repeatedly told the media that poor performances and disappointing losses affected him mentally and caused him to press in subsequent games.
“We appreciate Jason’s contributions to the Browns in 2013,” Farmer said in a news release. “He’s a respected veteran player in this league. We felt like at this time, early in the free-agency period, we would give him a better opportunity to move forward. We wish Jason the best in his future endeavors.”
Now the Browns have only two quarterbacks on their roster: Hoyer, 28, and Alex Tanney, 26. Hoyer has progressed well while rehabilitating his surgically repaired knee and is expected to compete for the starting job this offseason. Tanney is a project without any experience in an NFL regular-season game, so the Browns will definitely acquire a quarterback or two to vie with Hoyer.
The competition could come in the form of a rookie — the Browns have two first-round picks (Nos. 4 and 26 overall) in May’s draft — or a veteran acquired via free agency or both.
Matt Schaub and Rex Grossman have been linked to the Browns for weeks because they’ve played for new Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
Schaub, 32, isn’t a free agent yet, although the Houston Texans might part ways with him. John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday that the Texans would keep Schaub for a while. Still, the $11 million he’s scheduled to make next season suggests he’ll eventually go elsewhere in the wake of losing his starting job in 2013.
If Schaub isn’t in the cards for the Browns, they could turn to Grossman, 33. Grossman became an unrestricted free agent Tuesday, when his contract with the Redskins expired.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebookwww.facebook.com/browns.abj.
By Nate Ulrich
©2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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