By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
When news surfaced last week of Chip Kelly’s impending hire as the Cleveland Browns’ newest head coach, many publicly wondered what that meant for Brandon Weeden.
Weeden ran an up-tempo offense at Oklahoma State, but not quite like the one Kelly runs at Oregon (where his dual-threat quarterbacks at least possess the option of running, an option Weeden — while blessed with a rocket arm — doesn’t exactly have in his arsenal).
Some reports even suggested that Kelly had reached out to Colt McCoy, through Browns CEO Joe Banner, to let him know he was in the future quarterbacking plans.
But Kelly, as you’ve likely heard, left the Browns (and Eagles, and Bills…) at the altar, bolting back to Oregon, despite his NFL flirtations, for the second straight year.
And with that last-second decision, may have come a big break for Brandon Weeden.
The Cleveland Browns hired their new coach on Thursday night, announcing that Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski had surprisingly secured the job after wowing management during the interview process.
Unlike Kelly’s up-tempo (or the West Coast check-down style Weeden ran under Pat Shurmur his rookie season), Chudzinski prefers a more downfield approach, something that blends well with Weeden’s strengths.
NFL.com Insider Gregg Rosenthal agreed in this column. Writes Rosenthal:
This is great news for Brandon Weeden A week ago, the quarterback looked like an expired part that wouldn’t be able to fit in a Chip Kelly offense (the Oregon coach interviewed the for Browns’ coaching job). But Chudzinski offers hope to Weeden. The former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator prefers a vertical offense. Weeden was not great as a rookie, but he showed flashes and has a good arm.
And along with Chudzinski, who worked with Cam Newton the past two seasons, Weeden could be learning under offensive mastermind Norv Turner, who is reportedly heading to Cleveland as the new offensive coordinator.
Turner has come under heat in recent seasons, and rightfully so, for his inability to consistently lead a talented Chargers team to the playoffs and his various flaws as a head coach.
But no one has ever doubted his offensive knowledge, not since his days in Dallas coordinating the Troy Aikmen-led offenses.
So it seems to be a mutual fit, with Weeden’s arm and the braintrust surrounding him.
But regardless of the system, Weeden must show vast improvements during his second season, a year many NFL quarterbacks tend to make strides.
In 2012, he threw for 3,385 yards (second among rookies) and 14 touchdowns. Respectable numbers, but his 17 interceptions were tied for fifth in the NFL. And his 5-11 record, while also reflective of the talent around him, forces an NFL front office to first look at the coach (fired) and then the quarterback.
He’ll need plenty of help through free agency and the draft, particularly at receiver. But it seems Thursday’s announcement was a nice fit for him on the sidelines. And that’s a start.