Browns want Weeden to cut down on picks
BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- The numbers aren't good, at least not good enough. Brandon Weeden doesn't need anyone to tell him that.
The Browns rookie quarterback doesn't have to scan his statistics to know he has to play better. He's well aware that he's thrown too many interceptions, won too few games and has yet to convince Cleveland owner Jimmy Haslam and new CEO Joe Banner that he's the franchise's future.
Weeden understands he must improve. Just don't bother bringing it up.
"I'm not a moron," he said.
Following a bye week to rest his arm, relax his body and mentally block out the bad stuff from the season's first nine games, Weeden said Wednesday that he's determined to play at a higher level and lead the Browns to some victories in their last seven games.
Maybe because he's 29, Weeden isn't always viewed as a rookie, which may explain some of the criticism about his game.
"I think lost in all of this is that I'm a rookie," he said. "I'm still playing teams for the first time. I'm still seeing things for the first time. I'm making a lot of mistakes that I'm making for the first time. I'm trying not to repeat them. But I'm not a nine or 10-year veteran.
"Some people might lose track of that sometimes. But it is what it is. I've got to play better. I've got to do my part to help this team win."
And taking better care of the football should be his top priority.
Before practice, Browns coach Pat Shurmur made it clear there is one aspect of Weeden's game that needs immediate attention.
"Don't throw interceptions," he said. "Done. End story. I want to be right to the point."
Weeden has thrown 12 interceptions, tied for the NFL's second-highest total. The only QB to throw more picks is Dallas' Tony Romo, who will match up against Weeden on Sunday when the Browns (2-7) visit the Cowboys (4-5) looking to end an 11-game road losing streak.
Weeden concurred with Shurmur's candid and curt assessment that he needs to be smart with the football.
"That's kind of been my priority since I played Pee-Wee football," Weeden said. "We never want to throw interceptions. My aggressive manor and mindset sometimes gets me in trouble. I'm not going to take that away from myself.
"I have to take care of the football. I have to cut down on them. I think guys that are aggressive like that, sometimes that's one category they unfortunately may have a couple more than they'd like. It's not good, but we're just being aggressive. Sometimes, making that aggressive throw, sometimes it catapults you and gets you momentum. You get a big throw and kind of spark a drive or something. I agree with him."
The Browns' game before their bye was testament to Shurmur's evaluation of Weeden, who has completed 185 of 336 passes (55 percent) for 2,088 yards and nine touchdowns.
Weeden threw two interceptions during a 25-15 loss to Baltimore. Those miscues weren't particularly costly, but he failed to get the Browns into the end zone despite five possessions inside the Ravens' 20-yard line. There were some who theorized that Weeden played too cautiously in the red zone, perhaps because he was afraid to throw a pick with Ravens safety Ed Reed lurking.
Did the gunslinger get gun shy?
Weeden said he took what the Ravens gave him.
"If you go watch the tape, no one was open," he said. "I made smart decisions down there. We were in the red zone and the balls I did throw, I did check down. Windows were small, but if I throw a pick there, you guys are asking me the same questions.
Weeden and Shurmur have discussed his decision making and interceptions, but it hasn't been a major point of emphasis during their talks.
"It's just common knowledge between the both of us, we know you can't turn the ball over," he said. "It's in my forefront, but I don't let it get to the front of my mind, where I'm so paranoid about throwing interceptions that I don't take shots."
Unable to work out a trade to move up and draft Robert Griffin III, the Browns selected Weeden with the No. 22 overall pick in April's draft. They ignored his age, dismissed the fact that he rarely took a snap under center in college and banked on him filling a position that has been unresolved for years.
Shurmur believes Weeden can become an "outstanding player" and to do that he needs "to lead us to victories and don't throw interceptions."
That will happen once Weeden starts making better choices.
"I've looked at all of those interceptions and there are times when he could've made better decisions," Shurmur said. "There's, of course, things that have happened where a ball bounces off a guy's chest. So you look at all of those things. You don't want to play anxious football, but you also have to be smart."
Last week, Banner said he and Haslam will use the rest of the season to decide if Weeden is indeed Cleveland's long-term answer at quarterback. If there wasn't enough pressure on Weeden already, Banner raised the heat level a few degrees.
Weeden, though, isn't sweating it. He's doesn't feel as if he's under fire.
"I would've expected him to say that," he said. "They're taking over this organization and they're going to do the moves to help this team win and I obviously want to be the guy that they have a lot of confidence in going forward and I've got to play like it.
"I've got to go play well and keep the team growing and keep the team making better plays and let the rest kind of take care of itself."