BEREA – Coach Rob Chudzinski didn’t need to be asked again.
He opened his news conference Tuesday by naming Brandon Weeden the starting quarterback for the regular season, removing the little suspense left in the situation. Chudzinski didn’t just make an announcement, he gave an endorsement.
“Brandon has earned this job,” he said. “That’s extremely important to me that he did. He has gained my complete trust. He has gained his teammates’ complete trust and this organization’s trust.
“We are all behind him and we will all be there to support him.”
The support from the new front office hasn’t always been evident. CEO Joe Banner took a wait-and-see approach and said Weeden needed to prove his commitment, general manager Michael Lombardi refused to offer praise and owner Jimmy Haslam vowed at the end of last season to have a quarterback competition.
“They are 100 percent behind it,” Chudzinski said. “It was completely my decision. They are supportive of that and excited about getting going with that.”
Weeden understood where he stood following a rocky rookie season and sweeping changes from the owner to the coaching staff.
“I knew I had to impress the people that ultimately make the decisions,” Weeden said. “My mind-set didn’t change. My mind-set was just doing the things that I need to do to become a better player. I feel support throughout from everybody, from players on up.
“I knew I was going to work hard. I wasn’t worried about my end of the stick. I knew I was going to do what it took for me to get better in the offseason to do the things that I needed to do. I wasn’t concerned about me. It was just proving to those guys that that hard work did pay off.”
Weeden was always headed down the road to be the starter, as he took all the first-team repetitions throughout the offseason and training camp and has the greatest upside compared with backup Jason Campbell and third-stringer Brian Hoyer. But Chudzinski was committed to going through his “process,” which included evaluating the quarterbacks through camp, the first two preseason games and in the situations that arose. Last week he said he wasn’t ready to name a starter and called the competition “still close.”
Weeden responded with a strong outing Thursday against Detroit and is 18-for-25 for 229 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, no sacks and a 139.8 rating through two preseason games. The first-team offense has scored on five of its six possessions, including three touchdowns.
“I felt like the timing was right in this process as we broke camp the other day,” Chudzinski said of naming Weeden the starter. “Now, we are looking forward and really getting more into preparation for the season.
“Everything about this process is wanting to see how he reacted and how all of the quarterbacks reacted. I firmly believe that that separates the great quarterbacks from the average quarterbacks in how they react to different situations, whether it’s the game, whether it’s adversity during the season, whatever it may be.”
Weeden expressed relief over the end of the questions about the competition, but said he was always confident the job would be his. He got the official word from Chudzinski on Monday.
“Yeah, it’s exciting,” Weeden said. “You know I feel like I’ve worked my tail off from during the offseason, this spring, throughout OTAs and up until this point, so, yeah, it’s rewarding. Now my main focus is going out and winning as many games and helping this offense do as much as we can.
“I’m not satisfied. I feel like I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Chudzinski said he plans to keep all three quarterbacks on the regular-season roster and said all have shown “significant improvement” under coordinator Norv Turner and he’s become “very comfortable with them all.” As for Weeden, he answered the necessary questions.
“He has really gained a good grasp of what we are trying to do,” Chudzinski said. “He has been able to manage the games and go out and make good decisions, lead his teammates and, obviously, succeed. He has made the personal-technique improvements that he has needed to make to improve himself. He has responded very well.
“He has taken the opportunity, seized the opportunity and produced. He has garnered a lot of respect from, not only me, not only the coaching staff and the organization but from his teammates, as well.”
Weeden is in line to be the first Browns quarterback to start back-to-back openers since Charlie Frye in 2006-07. Of course, Frye was traded after Week 1 in 2007. Weeden joins Tim Couch (2000-01), Kelly Holcomb (2002-03) and Frye as the only repeat starters since 1999.
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas appreciates the stability, and believes Weeden was the right choice.
“I see that he’s made great growth this year, and I think a big part of that is just the confidence that he has going into his second year,” Thomas said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we can definitely win with Brandon. He’s shown that he can be our guy for sure.”
Thomas and many of his teammates never questioned whether Weeden would get the nod.
“It seems as though he’s the guy who’s been here, he’s shown improvement ever since he got here, every day, every week, his commitment and work ethic,” receiver Josh Gordon said. “He’s definitely stepped up into that leadership role that everybody expects him to be. He’s doing a great job and we’re glad to have him.
“I’ve got 100 percent faith in him.”
Weeden said he never doubted he would in the huddle Sept. 8 when the Dolphins visit.
“I’ve always put the pressure on myself that I was going to be the guy,” he said. “I was going to do everything I could to be the guy. I can’t say that I ever doubted it.
“My mentality was that I was again going to take the bull by the horns and be the guy and do everything in my power to make it where they had no choice but to name me the guy.”
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