By Chris Burke
August 14, 2013

New coach Rob Chudzinski says the quarterback competition in Cleveland is 'still close.' New coach Rob Chudzinski says the quarterback competition in Cleveland is 'still close.' (Cliff Welch/Icon SMI)

What exactly could compel new Cleveland Browns head coach Rob Chudzinski to opt for Jason Campbell over Brandon Weeden as his starting quarterback?

Hold on, I'm thinking ...

Say what you will about Weeden's downside -- he'll turn 30 in October, threw more interceptions than touchdowns last season and was drafted by the Browns' previous regime -- but turning the offense over to Campbell in Week 1 would be both a damning indictment of Weeden and a sign that the team's hopes for the upcoming season are limited to staying competitive and getting a QB next draft.

"I think it's still close," Chudzinski said of the quarterback competition, according to The Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot, "and we're finding out every game, and these games are important opportunities for guys to show what they can do. ...

"There’s a point where I will name a starting quarterback, [but] not yet. That plan is to find the right guy. At whatever point is the right time to do that, we'll name a starter."

Cabot astutely wondered if Chudzinski might simply be fueling the fire under Weeden, using the lingering presence of Campbell (and third-stringer Brian Hoyer) to try to spark Weeden through August. If that's not the case, and Chudzinski really does have an internal Weeden-vs.-Campbell-vs.-Hoyer debate brewing, it does not bode well for the Browns' 2013 chances.

Sticking with Weeden may not be a home run either. The MMQB's Peter King left Cleveland's training camp underwhelmed by Weeden's progress from last year to this year (his postcard video title, "Weeden's Not the Guy," which is below, pretty much speaks for itself).

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The Browns need to find out whether that's true, once and for all. Weeden's age makes it impossible for Cleveland to wait for him to develop, so a nod for Campbell would not be a case of trying to buy time for a young quarterback. It would be Cleveland giving up on its 2012 first-round pick.

Campbell, 31, has peaked and valleyed in his seven-year NFL career. He was a draft bust in his own right, you might remember, going 20-32 over four years with Washington after being selected No. 25 overall. Campbell then turned in two decent, if extremely unspectacular, seasons with Oakland, before settling in as Jay Cutler's backup in Chicago last year. His one 2012 start, behind a porous Bears line in San Francisco, was a nightmare.

The league knows what Campbell is at this point in his career: a veteran presence with a strong arm and a decent understanding of NFL defenses. Even though he's a fit in the vertical passing attack ushered in by Chudzinski and offensive coordinator Norv Turner, odds are against Campbell suddenly flipping the switch and becoming a Pro Bowler.

Weeden's bar remains higher, even if he is a longshot threat to ever reach it. But if the Browns are really serious about contending in 2013 -- and why wouldn't they be, after a busy offseason -- then it would be hard to justify turning to Campbell, an average QB at best; or to Hoyer, a career backup with one start in his four seasons.

Let's not forget, Weeden is a pretty cushy fit, on paper, for this new offense. He faltered in the old offense last season, en route to a 5-10 mark as a starter and a dreadful 72.6 passer rating. On top of being able to turn it loose downfield under Turner, Weeden should be more familiar and comfortable with NFL defenses in his sophomore season.

I say "should" because, really, who knows? Getting a second year as a starter hardly guarantees success, and Weeden had plenty of detractors even before he arrived in the NFL. He has more upside than either Campbell or Hoyer, though. Chudzinski's continuing claim of a QB competition should put a little chip on Weeden's shoulder, too.

Maybe that's what the Cleveland coach had in mind all along, because Chudzinski surely knows that his team likely would not be better off in Campbell's hands.

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