Weeden’s release needs to improve against Detroit


Brandon Weeden gets the start at quarterback Sunday for the Browns, while in Buffalo Thad Lewis will start for the Bills.

Brady Quinn is a backup for the New York Jets, and Colt McCoy fills the same role for the San Francisco 49ers. Derek Anderson, meanwhile, is backing up Cam Newton for the Carolina Panthers.

Maybe it’s time to start referring to Cleveland as the cradle of quarterbacks. The only problem is that the aforementioned former Browns quarterbacks, along with Weeden, couldn’t start on many of the NFL’s 32 teams.

When you look at the list of bad quarterbacks who have played for the Browns since 1999, one wonders why their expansion season couldn’t have been a year earlier and why in the world did they win more than one game in 2011?

Had the Browns returned to the NFL in 1998 instead of ’99, they would have had the first pick in the draft, which would have given them the opportunity to select Peyton Manning. Of course, they probably would have chosen Ryan Leaf instead, or Archie Manning, Peyton’s father, might have demanded a trade out of Cleveland for his son, as he did with San Diego when the Chargers picked Eli Manning first overall in 2004.

In 2011, the Browns were actually too good, if it’s possible for a 4-12 team to be labeled in that manner. That record gave them the fourth pick in the draft, which meant they had no chance of landing Andrew Luck, arguably the best quarterback prospect since John Elway came out of Stanford in 1983.

Can you imagine Luck on the current Browns’ roster? At 3-2 and tied with the Ravens and Bengals for first place in the AFC North, it’s likely the Browns would be favored to win the division.

No one is saying that now that Weeden has returned as the starter after Brian Hoyer captivated the interest of fans with better-than-expected play. Perhaps the flaws that prevented Weeden from having back-to-back games like Hoyer put together against the Vikings and Bengals will disappear, but I don’t sense a lot of confidence among the fan base.

The first test will reveal a lot about where Weeden is in his development. The Detroit Lions, who are at First Energy Stadium on Sunday, have an impressive defensive line led by the intimidating Ndamukong Suh.

If Weeden doesn’t improve his release time, he’ll continue to give the offensive line fits. He can also expect to be hit numerous times, unless he learned something about escaping the pocket by watching Russell Wilson last Sunday.

“They’re a concern,” coach Rob Chudzinski said of the 16 sacks defenses have registered with Weeden on the field. “I think we’ve been taking steps in improving in that area. Brandon will be, with a week of work, more comfortable. Hopefully, all of those things will factor in. This certainly is a tough team that we’re playing and a team with a great defensive front and a great pass rush.”

Perhaps it was wishful thinking when Chudzinski said he thought Weeden’s release quickened as play progressed in the Browns’ win over the Bills last Thursday.

“I think the last game – again Brandon coming in without a lot of work in practice – you could see a little bit of rustiness,” Chudzinski said. “The encouraging thing from my standpoint is that when we needed plays, he was able to make those plays and make good throws and get the ball out on time.”

If Weeden struggles, Chudzinski can always turn to backup Jason Campbell. Then again, he might bypass Campbell, as he did when going with Hoyer, and call on third-stringer MarQueis Gray.

I’ll believe anything these days.