Green Bay’s Rodgers sympathizes with Weeden

CLEVELAND – If there were ever a time when Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden needed a friend, it’s now.

The interception he threw that cost the Browns a chance to tie the score late in the fourth quarter of a loss to the Detroit Lions instantly turned Weeden from sympathetic, struggling quarterback to sports villain. Cold looks from waiters may have greeted him as he went about his non-football activities this week.

At least Weeden can take comfort in knowing he’s not alone in the department of “boneheaded” plays. His counterpart this week – Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers – admits to a few ill-advised throws in his nine-year NFL career.

“It’s in times like that when your mental toughness is tested and your character comes out,” Rodgers said. “You learn how to move forward from those things. It’s a learning process that we all have to go through. Anybody who’s played this position has made throws like that. I did my fair share last week as well.

“You have to be critical of yourself every week and realize criticism is part of the territory. You have to be able to learn from those experiences.”

Few positions in sports are in the spotlight more than quarterback. They’re always one bad throw away from being the most disliked person in town, no matter how much success they may have had in the past.

Fans, as we’ve discovered of late, can be an unforgiving and at times mean group of people. Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, who has the dubious distinction of being the only NFL quarterback ever to throw a pick-six in four straight games, was recently confronted by an angry fan in front of his home.

Sometimes there’s nowhere to hide, but there are ways to find escape from the craziness. Weeden and his wife Melanie have made the decision to cancel their social media accounts to avoid the onslaught of criticism directed his way.

“I’m not going to let a 7-year-old tell me how to play quarterback,” Weeden said.

Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner has undoubtedly been part coach and part best friend to Weeden this week. He realizes these are difficult times for Weeden, but he puts things into perspective.

“He’s not the first guy to throw a ball like that,” Turner said. “Obviously when it happens he feels worse than anybody. I equate it to being very similar to what we did in the Minnesota game. Brian (Hoyer) really played a good game, but he threw three interceptions, and a couple of them weren’t very good interceptions.”

The difference was that Hoyer also threw three touchdown passes and led the Browns to a 31-27 win. Weeden is now 0-3 in his starts this season and 5-13 since arriving last year.

Weeden’s lack of success highlights a common problem in the NFL – rushing rookie quarterbacks into action. Rodgers took the opposite path, riding the bench behind Brett Favre for three seasons before moving in as the starter in 2008.

“Every situation is a little different, but I think there was a lot of merit to the way I was able to do it,” Rodgers said. “Those are special circumstances where you’re picked behind a legend and you get to sit. It’s difficult to play right away, but it’s difficult to sit when you’ve been a starter your entire life.

“That being said, sitting for me was the best thing that ever happened. It is difficult to put so many expectations on a quarterback to account for any shortcomings at different positions.”

It all makes so much sense when spoken by Rodgers, who’s working on a Hall of Fame career. No one envisions the same path being followed by Weeden.