Why the Browns Should Chase Matt Barkley
Hey Cleveland Browns fans, gather around because it’s story time. Let me take you back to week eight in 2009. The Browns were a whopping 1-6 heading into Soldier Field to face the Chicago Bears.
2007 “star” quarterback Derek Anderson has been in a battle with Brady Quinn for playing time, and after two poor performances by Quinn, Derek Anderson is handed the reigns. Anderson gets the start against the Bears in week eight, and is just two games from a game in which his QB rating was just 15.1.
We figured that it could not get any worse. Of course Anderson then goes 6/17 for 76 yards, two interceptions, a rushing touchdown and a fumble lost. His rating at the end of that game was just barely below the number of losses that the team had in 2009 of 11. Yes, a 10.5 QB rating for Derek Anderson, which pretty much sealed the deal and forced Brady Quinn back into the starting lineup.
We didn’t think that it could get much worse, yet again. But it since has.
The Browns drafted a quarterback on the verge of retirement age in Brandon Weeden with the 22nd overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. As a Browns fan, I was personally screaming at the television in hopes that we would not repeat drafting an over-hyped quarterback in the first round.
Of course, Weeden has arm strength and has shown signs of accuracy, pocket poise and quarterback vision. But I am not convinced that we will ever see it consistently, and even if it happens, it likely will not be enough to help the Browns win the division or even make the playoffs.
Sunday’s performance by Brandon Weeden was one of the worst that I have ever seen by a Browns quarterback. Granted, it was his first start against a team that has playoff potential, but he literally did nothing to help this team win a football game that was practically handed to them by Michael Vick on more than one occasion.
Weeden completed 12 of 35 passes for 118 yards, 0 touchdowns and four interceptions. He was sacked twice, and also fumbled twice, although he did not lose either one. The worst part about Weeden’s performance is that there were opportunities to score points.
On the first drive after hitting Mohamed Massaquoi on a slant for 24 yards, Browns fans were excited. On second and nine just a few moments later, Massaquoi had his man beat by a good five yards in the end zone, only for Weeden to completely over throw him which ultimately resulted in a Phil Dawson field goal after a failed third down conversion.
There was almost nothing good to come out of Weeden’s performance in week one. His timing with the receivers were off, he refused to learn from his mistakes, throwing into double and triple coverage more than three times, and trying to go deep and under throwing to the 5’10 Travis Benjamin who was covered by 6’2 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie who intercepted the ball both times.
The interception thrown that was intended for Greg Little can mostly be blamed on Little’s stone hands, but the pass in the middle of the field with three defenders around Little should have never been a ball thrown in the first place.
The lack of clutch ability was also frustrating. Cleveland got the ball on the 32 yard line with 14 seconds left in the first half. With the way the game was going, the Browns should have taken a knee, but they insisted on taking shots down field.
Weeden missed on a down field pass to Travis Benjamin (again), then completed a 20 yard pass to Josh Gordon. On the Philadelphia 48, with just a second left on the clock, the next step is to take a shot to the end zone. But the one time in the game that Weeden decides not to throw into multiple coverage was on what should have been a hail mary attempt to at least give his receivers a shot to make some magic. Instead, Weeden tucks and runs for 25 yards which amounts to nothing.
The game sealing interception by Kurt Coleman was thrown on a massive overthrow to Mohamed Massaquoi, once again in the middle of the field with four defenders in the area. There was 1:12 left on the clock, and the Browns needed just 35-40 yards to get into range for a game winning field goal. Unfortunately for the Browns, Dawson never got the opportunity.
There is just very little that Weeden showed in this game, or even in the preseason that makes me believe that he is an NFL quarterback. The arm strength is quite intriguing, but his decision making in this game was on par with Derek Anderson’s in his entire career. His lack of poise in the pocket was frustrating, and his touch was non-existent.
Weeden does not have the best receivers in the league, but if he can’t even place the ball into their numbers or in front of them, how can they make a play?
Regardless, the Browns are officially in the hunt for the #1 overall pick, despite the way the defense played. Those who are lobbying for Matt Barkley in the 2013 NFL will likely come close to their wish, although the Browns usually finish with just enough wins to keep them out of that top pick contention.
I think it is safe to say that Weeden will improve, considering he can’t do much worse. However, improvement does not mean that he will be the right man for the job in the future. If he continues to play poorly, the Browns will have no choice but to trade up to the #1 overall pick and grab Matt Barkley who looks to be one of the safest quarterbacks in recent history, not named Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin.
Barkley’s ability to make every NFL throw is extremely attractive. He has the arm strength to make the big throws down the field, but he can also orchestrated one heck of a west coast offense, finding his receivers open in the short-intermediate routes and allowing them to make plays after the catch.
Pairing Barkley up with Trent Richardson in the back field is just the type of upside that the Browns need if they ever want to compete for the AFC North as all three of their rivals all have seemingly franchise quarterbacks with Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger and possibly Andy Dalton in the mix.
Barkley’s decision making has improved immensely, and him being a four year starter for a major university that has produced the likes of Mark Sanchez, Carson Palmer, and Matt Cassel makes him that much more attractive.
Studies have shown that the more experience at the collegiate level amongst quarterbacks have made the difference between drafting a Peyton Manning as opposed to an Akili Smith.
The issue at hand here is that there is no telling what the Cleveland management will look like if the Browns fail to succeed this year. If history is any indicator, it’s quite possible that Pat Shurmur and Mike Holmgren are both out of jobs by the end of the season, which could mean that a new offense is installed, setting the Browns back another two or three seasons.
Do not mistake this article for an over-reaction. As a Browns fan, I have just seen this several times and it’s the same old song and dance.
Of course Weeden is not nearly the only player at fault from Sunday’s performance. Greg Little continues to show off his stone hands, the offensive line refused to create any holes for Trent Richardson, and even Richardson himself missed out on a few nice opportunities to pick up big yardage.
No team should ever play to lose for a draft pick, and I will not condone losing to get the #1 overall pick to grab Matt Barkley. However, if the season does not play out well (and by the looks of it, it likely will not), then there is no reason that the Browns should hold back and not do everything in their power to grab Barkley.
They had their chance to trade up for Robert Griffin III and refused to do so. If the time comes to get their man, they need to do whatever it takes, however. We will see how this season goes, but it will take a big step up from rookie Brandon Weeden if this team wants to even sniff five wins.
The good news is that Weeden does not have the worst QB rating by a Cleveland Brown in the history of the franchise. That feat belongs to Jeff Garcia in 2004 when Garcia completed just 8 of 27 passes for 71 yards and three interceptions, for a whopping 0.0 rating.
Keet Bailey heads the NFL Draft division of NFL Soup. Bailey's 2012 NFL Mock Draft scored 12th overall among 112 participants according to The Huddle Report's Annual Mock Draft scoring contest. An avid Cleveland Browns fan, Keet hails from and resides in Ohio. Follow Keet on Twitter @NFLSoupKeet