BEREA, Ohio — Brandon Weeden had a lot to prove. Before his second NFL season began, he had to convince some teammates, a new coaching staff and front office, and many skeptical Cleveland fans he deserved to start.
He desperately wanted to be their quarterback, the guy.
On Tuesday, Weeden’s efforts were rewarded.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski named Weeden his starter, an announcement that erased any uncertainty — and there wasn’t much — that the second-year QB would be behind center for the Sept. 8 season opener against Miami. Weeden has spent the past few months doing everything he possibly could to win the job, and he did — fair and square.
“Brandon has earned this,” Chudzinski said, “and 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’re all behind him, and we’ll all be behind him to support him.”
Weeden, who survived a bumpy rookie season, took the news that he had beaten out veteran Jason Campbell in typical stride.
Unlike a year ago, when he was essentially anointed as Cleveland’s No. 1 from the moment he was selected in the first round of the draft, Weeden had to fight for this. He immersed himself in the playbook to learn the Browns’ new system and performed at a high level during spring practices and summer training camp.
If there was any doubt, Weeden removed it by completing 18 of 25 passes for 229 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in two preseason games.
“I’ve taken the steps that I needed to take to better myself,” Weeden said. “But I have to keep continuing to work, keep continuing to do the things that I’ve done all along up until this point to become that player that I want to be. I’m not satisfied. I feel like I have a lot of work to do, and that’s kind of my mindset moving forward.”
While there was widespread speculation outside of Cleveland’s locker room about whether Weeden should remain the starter, the Browns were certain he was up to the challenge.
“I can’t really say I had any doubt,” wide receiver Josh Gordon said. “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. 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.”
Chudzinski does as well.
The 29-year-old Weeden has impressed his coach with every aspect of his game — on and off the field.
“I have been very pleased with how he has gone out,” Chudzinski said. “He has taken the opportunity, seized the opportunity and produced. So I have been pleased from that stand point, and I think that 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 just the fourth Browns quarterback — and first since Charlie Frye in 2007 — to open consecutive seasons as the starter. Tim Couch (2000-01) and Kelly Holcomb (02-03) are the others.
“I knew I had to impress the people that ultimately make the decisions,” Weeden said. “That’s all 90 of us that are out here. My mindset didn’t change. My mindset was getting better focus, just doing the things that I need to do to become a better player.”
Weeden now believes everyone within the Browns’ organization has his back.
“I do. Absolutely,” he said. “I feel like I have the support from players on up.”
While others wondered if he would succeed, Weeden said self-doubt was never a factor.
“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.”
He’s the guy.
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