Brandon Weeden went through many changes in his first season as an NFL quarterback.
New coaches. New system. New pressures.
Now as he prepares for his second season in Cleveland — training camp starts in less than three weeks — little has changed for the former Oklahoma State superstar. The Browns changed owners midway through last season, and that led to a slew of moves.
New coaches. New system. New pressures.
“You want to prove to those guys that you're the guy,” Weeden said.
He has yet to be named the starter, having drawn criticism from new Cleveland general manager Michael Lombardi, but if anyone is capable of proving himself worthy, it's the big-armed redhead from Edmond.
“I've been in this position before,” he mused.
There have been doubters throughout Weeden's career. Doubters when he decided to try playing Division-I football after leaving professional baseball. Doubters when he was the third-string quarterback at OSU languishing behind Alex Cate. Doubters when he was a 28-year-old heading into the draft.
He proved all of them wrong.
Now, he must do the same with Browns' coach Rob Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. And he has to start by showing them that he has corrected some of the issues that led to struggles during his rookie season.
Weeden finished last year with 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. His quarterback rating of 72.6 ranked 29th in the league.
The Browns won just five games.
“There were times last year we weren't very good,” he said recently before a charity event at Oak Tree Golf Club, “and it all falls back on me.”
He's accepting more blame than he likely deserves. The Browns, after all, were often an overmatched bunch that relied on loads of young players.
But Weeden still has to be better.
And he plans to be.
“I've done the things in the offseason to get myself better, to put myself in a position to play better,” he said.
He spends hours at night studying the playbook, even enlisting help from his wife, Melanie.
“I do everything I possibly can to learn this system,” he said.
This is a system, after all, that could change the trajectory of Weeden's career. Turner, who stinks as a head coach but sure knows how to run an offense, wants to stretch the field. Go long. Go deep. That suits Weeden's strength — his big arm — much better than Brad Childress' dink-and-dump system did.
The marriage of Weeden's potential and Turner's system have folks around the NFL buzzing.
NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks identified the player at each position who he believes will be most improved this season. Weeden topped the quarterback list.
Brooks pointed not only to the way that Turner and Chudzinski want their offense to play but also to the coaches' strong track records of developing young quarterbacks. Turner worked with the likes of Troy Aikman and Philip Rivers, while Chudzinski is credited with one of the more amazing transformations in NFL history. As the Browns' offensive coordinator in 2007, he turned Derek Anderson into a Pro Bowl quarterback.
“The second-year man will not only thrive in a system conducive to his talents,” Brooks wrote on NFL.com, “but he will silence the critics questioning his potential as a franchise quarterback.”
One of those disparagers has been ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski. He was extremely critical of Weeden a year ago, ranking him dead last among NFL quarterbacks at midseason.
But after looking at film of every throw that Weeden made last season, Jaworski is singing a different tune.
“I believe Weeden to be a rock-solid NFL starter in Norv Turner's offense,” he said.
All of that flowery talk is nice, but Weeden knows that he still has to prove himself to the men in Cleveland who make the decisions.
Here's betting that he will.
“I think I've gotten better,” he said. “I think I've taken steps in the fundamentals and the little things to put myself in a better position.
“I'm excited with where I'm at.”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.