BEREA — The playoffs are out of reach, his interception total has climbed to 17, he has the league’s 32nd passer rating at 72.4 and critics are loudly questioning his ability to succeed in the NFL.
Quarterback Brandon Weeden isn’t ducking the responsibility for a rocky rookie season.
“I think I’ve played well at times and there have been times when I haven’t played real well, not nearly well enough for us to have a chance to win,” he said Wednesday. “I’m not going to stand here and blame it on being a rookie. That’s long gone. It’s on me. I’ve got to play better.
“Whatever it is, I need to find a way to give our team a chance to win week in and week out. Be more consistent. There’s no one to blame except myself. That’s one thing I’m going to have to dial in on this offseason and continue to learn this offense and bring these receivers around and get on the same page and get better.”
It hasn’t all been bad, as Weeden’s thrown for 3,281 yards, the seventh most by a rookie in NFL history. He started the first 14 games and believes there’s plenty left for him to accomplish in the final two.
“Going back to the way I played the previous three weeks leading up to last week, just taking care of the football, being smart, helping do my part, lead good drives,” he said. “And finish strong.
“Numbers are getting thrown out the window now that we’re obviously not in the playoff hunt anymore. Now it’s just going out, playing well, getting better. We have eight quarters of football to play and so it’s just finishing strong and leaving it all out on the line.”
The next two weeks could determine his role, and possibly his home, in 2013. Nothing is settled inside Browns headquarters, and that includes the quarterback position.
A rumor circulated out of New England that if Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner fire general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur … and if they hire Mike Lombardi as the head of personnel … and if they hire Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, he would try to trade for Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett to become his starter.
Weeden was asked how important a solid finish is considering the uncertain futures of the men who brought him to Cleveland. Banner said weeks ago he would spend the end of the season evaluating Weeden. There’s no promise he’ll return as the starter.
“I can’t think about that,” Weeden said. “I need to play well because I haven’t played well enough. For myself, for this team, that’s all I’m worried about.
“Me playing well for these guys in this locker room. Whatever happens, I have to put eight good quarters on tape.”
Weeden threw two interceptions Sunday in the third quarter that led to 14 Redskins points and turned a lead into a double-digit deficit. That was only part of the problem. He never looked comfortable and seemed hesitant to make some throws.
After the interceptions piled up in the first half of the season, Weeden concentrated more on avoiding them. The rate of the picks slowed down, but the change may have affected his overall game.
“I think you get in the mind-set where you’re thinking about being too cautious with throws, that’s when you’re not as accurate,” he said. “There’s times when you have to be smart, you’re in the red zone, or whether it’s after a big play or whatever it may be.
“At this point I just got to let it fly. From here on out, just let it rip and be aggressive, continue to take shots and see where it ends up.”
Weeden’s season has been one of highs and lows. After a deep valley Sunday against the Redskins, he hopes to rebound with a peak this week in the Rocky Mountains against the Broncos and Peyton Manning.
“He’s always been one of my favorite players in the league,” Weeden said. “Before I came into the league, I was a big fan.”
If Manning hadn’t picked Denver over the other suitors in free agency, the Broncos were interested in drafting Weeden. They had dinner with him in Stillwater, Okla.
“We wouldn’t have spent the time and money and effort evaluating him if it wasn’t a consideration,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “He was definitely on our radar and a guy we definitely liked.
“He’s a mature guy for a rookie in that he’s been around pro sports. I see that on film. The first go-round is always tough, in particular at quarterback, arguably the hardest position in professional sports. I think he’s done a fine job.”
Weeden was flattered to draw the interest of Broncos president John Elway, who happens to be a Hall of Fame quarterback.
“The moral of the story is I’m here and I’m very excited to be here and this is the organization I come to work for every day and I’m excited to come to work for every day,” Weeden said.