Don’t Laugh – Brandon Weeden could start for Dallas in 2015

brandon-weeden-brownsEarlier today, the Dallas Cowboys signed former Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Brandon Weeden to a two-year deal worth $1.23 million. This seems pretty insignificant in an offseason where players like Michael Johnson and Jairus Byrd have signed much larger and meaningful contracts. But when you look deeper into the matter, Weeden’s deal may have a greater impact on the Cowboys than what meets the eye.

Now, the obvious point to consider here is that Dallas still has Tony Romo, their starting QB for the past nine seasons. Critics love to point out Romo’s lack of success in winning big games and taking the Cowboys deep in the postseason. But you can’t argue with the guy’s career numbers: 29,565 passing yards, 64.6% completion rate, and 208 touchdown passes against just 101 interceptions. And Romo restructured his deal so that his signing bonus counts as most of this year’s salary, leaving Dallas to take just a $1 million cap hit. So there’s nothing changing under center for Dallas this season, but what about 2015…

The Cowboys are off to a very bad start in free agency this offseason after failing to re-sign DE Jason Hatcher. They also let DeMarcus Ware go because they didn’t want $16 million worth of cap space taken up by a guy who only managed six sacks last season. Given that they were already bad on defense, Dallas looks to be even worse in 2014. Throw in the bad contracts that Jerry Jones has been approving for the past several years and you have a team that doesn’t seem capable of filling too many defensive holes.

tony-romo-cowboysSo now we enter into the conversation of if Dallas is on the verge of a rebuilding phase. Sure, they’re not about to throw in the towel on 2014 already, especially with weapons like Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten on offense. But if America’s Team fails to make the postseason yet again, it’s a very realistic possibility that they’ll look to get younger and less expensive.

Romo is slated to make $27.7 million in 2015, which is a tremendous cap hit. He’s also coming off of his second back surgery in two years, so it’s not like he is getting any younger. Seeing as how Dallas wasn’t afraid to let Ware go this offseason, it’s not unfathomable to think that they’d release Romo and his massive contract.

Relating this all back to Weeden, he projects to be Romo’s immediate backup if Kyle Orton does indeed retire like he’s been discussing. Hopefully for the Cowboys, Romo makes it through this entire season without another major injury, leaving Weeden relegated to the bench. But there’s always the possibility that Tony could get hurt, leaving Weeden to play some snaps.

Next year is even more up in the air due to the contract issue that we discussed. And if the Cowboys ultimately decide that they can’t build a winning team around a 35-year-old quarterback who’s counting $27.7 million against the salary cap next year, Weeden might get his second chance to run a team.

This would no doubt leave some Dallas fans rolling their eyes. But Weeden may not be a total lost cause. Drafted 22nd overall out of Oklahoma State, the former minor league baseball player has all of the physical tools that you’d want from a pocket passer. However, he just never displayed the on-field results to convince Cleveland that he was their quarterback of the future.

In two seasons with the Browns, Weeden threw for 5,116 yards, 23 touchdowns, 26 interceptions and had just a 71.8 passer rating. Throw in his 5-15 record as a starter and it’s no wonder why Cleveland chose to start over at the position. Now, Weeden also gets a chance to start over, which could mean good things for him next season.

Why did the Cleveland Browns fire Rob Chudzinski?

rod-chudzinskiMost new NFL head coaches are given 2-3 years before an organization makes a decision on their job status. This being said, it was extremely puzzling when the Cleveland Browns decided to fire Rob Chudzinkski after just one season.

Chudzinski had just completed the first year of a four-year contract when he received news of the firing. So why was the former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator dumped after his lone season in Cleveland? Well there’s the organization’s stated reason, and also the reasons why many insiders thought Chud was axed. Let’s look at the team’s media statement first:

We needed to see progress with this football team. We needed to see development and improvement as the season evolved and, unfortunately, we took a concerning step backward in the second half of the year. Our fans deserve to see a consistently competitive team. We have high standards, and there’s an urgency for success. When we believed we were not positioned to achieve significant progress in 2014, we knew we had to admit that a change was needed, and move forward.

After hearing this statement and looking at the Browns’ record over the past 11 games, there are some glaringly obvious reasons why Chud was fired. They began the year with some promise after starting off 3-2. However, they won just one out of their last 11 contests, including a seven-game losing streak to close out the season.

rob-chudzinskiThere were two weeks in a row that were particularly telling of this season, where the Browns lost to Jacksonville at home, then blew a 12-point lead against New England with three minutes left. Couple this with losses to the Bears, Jets and Steelers to close out the year, and you can definitely see how this year ended on a sour note.

Beyond the losing, the front office felt that Chudzinski’s players showed a lack of accountability and effort as the season wore on. They especially felt that Brandon Weeden and Greg Little weren’t held accountable for their poor play. One prevalent thought was that as the coaching staff spent more time with the players, the worse they were getting.

Another point worth making here is how the Browns organization sees a couple of talented coaches that they like. Penn State’s Bill O’Brien and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are rumored to be at the top of Cleveland’s list. Given Chud’s perceived shortcomings as the Browns coach, it seems like a perfect time for this team to chase another top-notch coaching prospect.

Of course, Chud didn’t leave this job without some public outcry – most notable from many of his players. D’Qwell Jackson was really critical of the move as he said, “After the Trent Richardson trade and our quarterback injuries, I thought for sure he’d get a pass. Not one year. Come on. One year? There’s no way. Chud was good for us, good for the team. He came in and did everything right, I thought.”

As Jackson referred to, the team lost Weeden to injury for an extended time period while Brian Hoyer suffered a season-ending knee injury. Plus the team traded Richardson just two games into the season and never truly replaced him with a decent starting running back. But despite all of this, management apparently felt that their team was talented enough to win more than four games.

NFL Power Rankings for Week 11 (Nov. 13th, 2013)

Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans SaintsThis past week was a big dividing line in the playoff hopes of many teams. The Chargers, Dolphins, Titans and Redskins all had realistic postseason chances going into last week’s games; but they all missed huge opportunities to legitimize their hopes of making the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals, Eagles, Lions, Panthers and Ravens all took big steps forward in trying to win a postseason bid. There’s still a lot of time left in the season, but keep an eye on these five teams as we move forward. Now let’s look at the Week 11 NFL power rankings.

1. Kansas City Chiefs (9-0); bye week, retains same ranking – Despite their undefeated ranking, many still question the Chiefs billing as the NFL’s top team. They have a huge opportunity to put these questions to rest as they travel to Mile High to face Denver.

2. Denver Broncos (8-1); beat San Diego 28-20, retains same ranking – The Broncos weren’t caught looking ahead as they were able to beat a tough San Diego team on the road. Peyton looks to be handling his ankle issues well after throwing for 330 yards and four TD’s. Now he faces KC in what will be a true test of offense vs. defense.

3. Seattle Seahawks (9-1); beat Atlanta 33-10, retains same ranking – After narrowly grabbing a win two weeks ago against Tampa Bay, the Seahawks looked themselves again in Atlanta. The offense really seems to be clicking, with Russell Wilson throwing for 287 yards and 2 TD’s, and Marshawn Lynch adding 145 yards and a score on the ground.

4. New Orleans Saints (7-2); beat Dallas 49-17, moves up two spots – New Orleans showed why nobody wants to play them in the Superdome after manhandling the Cowboys. Drew Brees (392PYDS, 4TD) looked like he was passing on a JV team, while Mark Ingram had his best game as a pro with 145 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries.

5. New England Patriots (7-2); bye week, moves up two spots – With a healthy team, improved passing game, and the two teams above them losing, New England moves up two spots. Now they travel to take on a red-hot Panthers team in Charlotte.

6. San Francisco 49ers (6-3); lost to Carolina 10-9, drops one spot – Given how good Carolina is playing, it’s not a shame to lose to them. However, what is shameful is the way that the Niners offense played. Colin Kaepernick has got to get more going if this team is to make a deep postseason run.

 andrew-luck-rams7. Indianapolis Colts (6-3); lost to St. Louis 38-8, drops three spots – It’s still tough sorting out what happened with this game. A team with wins over Denver, San Francisco and Seattle loses to the Rams by 30 at home!? Andrew Luck had what may be his worst game ever after throwing for 353 yards, 1 TD and 3 INT’s. And the running game was absolutely nonexistent for the Colts.

8. Detroit Lions (6-3); beat Chicago 21-19, moves up one spot – Detroit took advantage of a hobbled Jay Cutler and grabbed a good road victory. Now in sole possession of first in the NFC North, the Lions are in great shape to win the division, given their closest competitors’ injury struggles.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4); lost to Baltimore 20-17 (OT), drops one spot – The Bengals looked pretty bad in this game, namely because of a ton of penalties. Even still, they got a second chance when Andy Dalton’s Hail Mary pass was tipped into the hands of AJ Green. Still, they couldn’t capitalize after failing to score in overtime and allowing Baltimore to drive down for a game-winning field goal.

10. Carolina Panthers (6-3); beat San Francisco 10-9, moves up four spots – Is it time to believe in the Panthers? Maybe so after Carolina’s defense pitched a second-half shutout and stopped San Francisco’s five-game winning streak. This team gets no time to celebrate, though, since they face New England at home.

11. Arizona Cardinals (5-4); beat Houston 27-24, moves up two spots – Few would’ve predicted that, with the season over halfway done, the Cardinals would be a game behind Seattle and San Francisco in the NFC West. Arizona has another very friendly matchup as they travel to Jacksonville this week.

12. Dallas Cowboys (5-5); lost to New Orleans 49-17, drops two spots – The Cowboys lived up to the “boys” part of their name after being dominated by the Saints. The big story following this game was how Jerry Jones publicly regretted getting rid of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who’s completely transformed New Orleans’ D.

jay-cutler-injury13. Chicago Bears (5-4); lost to Detroit 21-19, drops two spots – Marc Trestman rolled the dice on starting an iffy Jay Cutler and lost big-time. It was plain to see that Josh McCown would’ve been the better option after he came in for the limping Cutler and led a late-game scoring drive. However, a missed two-point conversion sealed this loss.

14. Green Bay Packers (5-4); lost to Philadelphia 27-13, drops two spots – The backup QB couldn’t even stay healthy as Seneca Wallace left early on with a groin injury. This meant Scott Tolzien was left trying to win this very important game. He performed fairly well with 280 yards, 1 TD and 2 INT’s, but it wasn’t enough as Green Bay falls into a tie with Chicago for second in the division.

15. New York Jets (5-4); bye week, moves up one spot – The Jets actually have a solid shot to win a Wild Card berth if they take care of business the rest of the way. But this playoff push starts with a tricky road game against division rival Buffalo.

16. San Diego Chargers (4-5); lost to Denver 28-20, drops one spot – San Diego played well against a superior Denver team, but not good enough. We said it before: their loss last week to Washington probably killed their playoff chances. After all, a road game at Mile High and two contests against the Chiefs still await.

17. Cleveland Browns (4-5); bye week, moves up two spots – The Browns’ season has been a true odyssey, with Brandon Weeden starting at QB, then Brian Hoyer, then back to Weeden, and now Jason Campbell. The latter has definitely provided the best results for Cleveland recently.

18. Baltimore Ravens (4-5); beat Cincinnati 20-17, moves up two spots – Baltimore isn’t totally dead yet this year. Sure the running game is still busted, with Ray Rice gaining just 30 yards on 18 carries. However, the Ravens still have a strong defense, and decent passing game behind Joe Flacco. The next few games are all winnable too, assuming Baltimore plays up to their potential.

nick-foles-eagles19. Philadelphia Eagles (5-5); beat Green Bay 27-13, moves up three spots – Give this team credit for winning two straight games behind Nick Foles and climbing into a first-place tie with Dallas in the NFC East. Many think that Foles has played well enough to keep the starting job, even when Michael Vick does get healthy.

20. Tennessee Titans (4-5); lost to Jacksonville 29-27, drops three spots – Not only did Tennessee lose to the worst football team in the NFL, but they also lost Jake Locker for the rest of the season. A fairly capable Ryan Fitzpatrick will start the rest of the way.

21. Miami Dolphins (4-5); lost to Tampa Bay 22-19, drops three spots – It wasn’t a good day for 4-4 teams since Miami also lost to a winless team. You have to wonder if the bullying scandal has dismantled a once-promising season.

22. New York Giants (3-6); beat Oakland 24-20, moves up two spots – Eli Manning (140PYDS, 1TD, 1INT) still looked bad with a soft matchup staring him in the face. But Andre Brown gave the Giants a big boost in his first game of the season after rushing for 115 yards and a touchdown.

23. Washington Redskins (3-6); lost to Minnesota 34-27, drops two spots – With Washington, it’s just a case of a team that can’t get over the hump. Every time they look ready to jump into the NFC East race, they drop a winnable game.

24. Oakland Raiders (3-6); lost to New York Giants 24-20, drops one spot – The excitement that Terrelle Pryor brought earlier has now been deflated. He had his most anemic game of the season after throwing for just 122 yards and an interception.

25. St. Louis Rams (4-6); beat Indianapolis 38-8, moves up four spots – ‘Wow’ is the only word that describes this one. Tavon Austin emerged as a star in this game after returning a punt for 98 yards, then adding two long touchdown catches for a combined total of 138 yards.

26. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-6); beat Buffalo 23-10, moves up two spots – All the talk about CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson taking advantage of the Steelers weak run defense meant nothing. Pittsburgh looked like their old selves with a dominant defensive performance.

27. Atlanta Falcons (2-7); lost to Seattle 33-10, drops two spots – It’s pretty clear that this has been a busted, injury-plagued year for Atlanta. Maybe they can get a spark going and win a few games to build momentum for next season.

28. Houston Texans (2-7); lost to Arizona 27-24, drops two spots – Give Houston credit for playing hard a week after their coach was hospitalized. Much like Atlanta, Houston has just suffered too many injuries to play at the level they were at last year.

29. Buffalo Bills (3-7); lost to Pittsburgh 23-10, drops two spots – EJ Manuel’s return meant very little as Buffalo managed just 227 total yards. The Bills’ biggest mistake this season has been letting CJ Spiller play game after game with a high ankle sprain.

30. Minnesota Vikings (2-7); beat Washington 34-27, retains same ranking – It was a good day for the bottom of the league. Minnesota grabbed their second win on the strength of John Carlson’s breakout performance (98YDS, 1TD).

31. Tampa Bay (1-8); beat Miami 22-19, retains same ranking – While Tampa Bay lost another running back for the season in Mike James, they did pick up their first win. However, it’s still surprising that it took this long to win for a team that spent so much offseason money.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8); beat Tennessee 29-27, retains same ranking – The Jaguars took advantage of four Tennessee turnovers, and turned these into 17 points. They thankfully avoided the embarrassing 0-16 mark that many thought they were headed for.

Brian Hoyer to start Third Straight Game for Cleveland Browns

brian-hoyer-clevelandTheir opening day quarterback Brandon Weeden goes down with an injury. They trade away franchise running back Trent Richardson after a dismal 0-2 start. And yet, the Cleveland Browns are now tied for the AFC North division lead with the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals.

And a large part of Cleveland’s success is due to the emergence of backup QB Brian Hoyer. In all actuality though, Hoyer may have earned himself the permanent starting role. He’s been named the starter for a third straight week, while the status of Weeden and his injured thumb are unknown.

Regardless of whether or not Weeden is healthy enough to play, it doesn’t appear that Cleveland is overly concerned about him. Instead, they’re embracing Hoyer and looking to forward to seeing if he can lead them to the playoffs.

brian-hoyer-cleveland-1Now this may all sound quite unrealistic, given that many people thought the Browns were mailing it in following the Richardson trade. But as previously stated, Cleveland is tied atop a mediocre division and faces Buffalo this week. The Bills are also 2-2, but the Browns will be at home and should be favored in this contest.

Basically, Hoyer has provided new life to a team that was previously looking to fight with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the league’s top pick next season. Through two games, he’s racked up 590 passing yards, 5 TD’s, 3 INT’s and a 59.8% completion rate.

Of course, it’s important not to look too far ahead because all of this hype has been created in two games. And the NFL season is a long grind with 12 games left to go. But if Cleveland can beat Buffalo on Thursday and remain on top of the AFC North, it will bring Brian Hoyer hysteria to an all-time high.

Why did the Cleveland Browns trade Trent Richardson?

trent-richardsonYesterday the Cleveland Browns pulled off the biggest trade of the 2013 NFL season when they sent Trent Richardson to Indianapolis for a first-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Following this transaction, Ahmad Bradshaw fantasy owners cringed, casual league fans were puzzled, and Browns fans were like “What the f**k!?”

After all, Richardson was the third overall pick of the 2012 Draft, an every-down back, and somebody who was generally expected to be a franchise player. So why did the Cleveland Browns trade their most precious commodity? Especially when the Colts’ top pick only projects to be a middle-first rounder?

Well the simple answer is that they’re trying to tank the season following an 0-2 start. So why not get rid of their injury-plagued running back while they still can and stockpile another first-round pick in the process.

Basically, the Browns found the perfect taker for Richardson because Indianapolis is desperate to solve their running back situation and make the playoffs for a second consecutive year. They thought that Bradshaw could be this guy when they signed him to a one-year deal in the offseason, or at least a combination of him and Vick Ballard.

trent-richardsonBut Ballard exited in the first week with a season-ending knee injury while Bradshaw has been nothing more than steady with 91 rushing yards, 26 receiving yards and a touchdown (in 2 games). Plus, given his constant foot injuries, the Colts felt that adding a potential star player like Richardson could boost their postseason chances in a crowded AFC East division.

And make no mistake about it, Richardson is a top-notch talent who’s capable of great things. In his rookie season with Cleveland, the Alabama product rushed for 950 yards, added 367 receiving yards, and scored 12 TD’s, despite playing through injuries. So just imagine what he could do on a team where opposing defenses need to worry about the pass.

Unfortunately, this team wasn’t the Browns and opponents were stacking the box with seven and eight defenders on every play, just daring Brandon Weeden to throw. The way Cleveland sees it, why keep running Richardson into a brick wall this season while losing games when he’s got major trade value.

Let’s face it…the Weeden experiment has failed after 18 games, the offensive line is still bad, and there are no huge play-making threats on this club. These are all things that management feared going into the 2013 season, but there was also a glimmer of hope if Weeden could’ve developed.

teddy-bridgewater-draftThat hope is gone, and now, like 50% of the league, Cleveland is trying to find a reliable quarterback. With an extra first-rounder, they now have the chance to trade up for Teddy Bridgewater, if the Jacksonville Jaguars (who are definitely going to finish dead last) feel like making a deal. If this doesn’t work out, Cleveland is likely to finish with the league’s second worst record, which would probably land them UCLA QB Brett Hundley.

Some say South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in the most talented player in the draft. However, it’s unlikely that the Browns would pass up the chance at getting a signal caller in a class that’s loaded with QB talent.

But for now, Cleveland will pretend to focus on this season by bringing veteran Willis McGahee into the fold and trying to win a game or two. But as the Richardson trade indicates, they are really only thinking about 2014 and beyond.