These days, Brandon Weeden’s critics come in all shapes and sizes — and from every direction.
One foolish pass, if it can even be called a pass, has made the Browns quarterback Cleveland’s most maligned athlete. While others harp on his costly mistake, an interception that has been lampooned locally and nationally, Weeden is doing his best to move on from an embarrassing moment that may trail him long after his NFL career is over.
He’s cut himself off from all contact with negativity. No sports talk radio. No Twitter. Nothing to remind him of the gaffe.
“The easy ones are obviously social media, which has turned into a joke,” Weeden said. “Watch movies with the wife or whatever, but just don’t listen to it. I’ve been through ups and downs enough, and I’d like to say that I’m mature enough to not listen to what a 7-year old kid has to tell me about how to play quarterback or whatever it may be. I’m not concerned with it.
“I’m concerned with helping this team win games.”
Weeden was upbeat as he met with reporters for the first time since Sunday, when his ill-advised flip toward fullback Chris Ogbonnaya in the fourth quarter was intercepted and essentially wrapped up the Lions’ 31-17 win. The pick, which drew comparisons to Miami kicker Garo Yepremian’s infamous pass in the Super Bowl 40 years ago, continues to enrage many Browns fans.
One angry Cleveland fan went as far as taking out an ad on Craig’s List to find a new quarterback.
“We’ve got problems under center ... well one problem. Brandon Weeden,” the fan posted. “If you’re sick of seeing desperation heaves to the sidelines, countless sacks after superb coverage, and underhanded lightly tossed interceptions in the 4th quarter then please come apply!”
Weeden understands the criticism and that it comes with the territory. He’s heard boos before and expects they’ll continue unless he plays more consistently. In the meantime, he’s staying positive and keeping his sense of humor.
“It’s no different for me any week,” he said. “It’s part of playing the position. I have very good earmuffs on, went out and got about the best ones I could. You can’t listen to it. All I care about is what goes on inside this building. If the guys in this building have my back and I have theirs, and we’re all on the same page, it really doesn’t matter what else is being said.
“We’re a football team here and I love coming to work with these guys every single day.”
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski believes Weeden’s teammates are behind him, and that they’re rallying to his side as they prepare for Sunday’s game at Green Bay. Weeden may have had some mistakes in critical spots, but he’s not the only reason the Browns (3-3) had their three-game winning streak stopped.
Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said Weeden hasn’t lost any support in Cleveland’s locker room.
“I think everybody in here has got a lot of confidence and trust in what Brandon does,” he said. “We definitely think he’s the guy that can lead us this year to the playoffs.”
Weeden had some strong moments in Sunday’s loss. The second-year QB threw two touchdown passes in the first half as the Browns built a 17-7 lead. But Cleveland’s offense bogged down after halftime and almost everything Weeden did was erased by the fateful flip, a play he’s been trying to shake since the moment the ball left his right hand.
“It’s behind me,” he said. “Obviously, I didn’t lose any sleep over it. It stung at the time. It will probably always sting. If I go back and watch that game again it will bring back memories. It all happened so fast, but you have to move on from it. It can’t happen. Just don’t let it happen again. That’s the way I feel about it.”
Some of the angst directed at Weeden can be traced to him starting again after Brian Hoyer, the Cleveland-raised QB who led the Browns to two straight wins, suffered a season-ending knee injury. Weeden isn’t getting the benefit of the doubt, and that’s something Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers can identify with.
It took several seasons for Rodgers to emerge from Brett Favre’s long shadow and win over Packers fans, so he feels empathy toward Weeden.
“You learn how to move forward from those things,” Rodgers said on a conference call. “You have to go through it. We all did. Anybody who has played this position has made throws like that or decisions like that. You have to be able to grow from those experiences.”
Weeden’s miscue came on the eve of him turning 30, which made the monumental birthday even tougher to bear.
“I felt 40,” he said. “The three in front of the zero is just a little bit different. I’m not going to get used to that for a while.”