Browns Have Four Quarterbacks, but No Starter
Berea, Ohio — The Browns’ muddled quarterback situation has gotten messier.
They have four quarterbacks. No starter.
With Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell both recovering from concussions, and two new quarterbacks on the roster, Browns coach Rob Chudzinski will wait until later this week — and maybe until game time — to name his starter for Sunday’s game at New England. Chudzinski doesn’t know if or when Weeden and Campbell will be medically cleared to practice, so there’s nothing he can do but be patient.
Even for the Browns, who have had three different quarterbacks start games this season and used an NFL-high 20 starters since 1999, this is new territory. Unwelcome territory.
For once, the Browns’ quarterback carousel isn’t spinning. It’s stalled.
“It’s a very fluid situation, unique, one that I haven’t necessarily been around,” said Chudzinski, who had the Browns at 3-2 in his first season before they dropped six of seven and out of playoff contention.
Free agent Caleb Hanie, signed by the Browns on Tuesday, struggled to describe Cleveland’s strange dilemma.
“It’s a little, I don’t know what the word would be for it,” said Hanie, who started four games for Chicago in 2011. “It’s part of this league. It’s a crazy league. One week you’re sitting at home eating Thanksgiving with your family and the next week you could be playing for the Browns.”
With Campbell out last week, the Browns signed Alex Tanney off Dallas’ practice squad. And when Weeden was diagnosed with a concussion following Sunday’s loss to Jacksonville, the Browns brought in Hanie, who has been out of the league since he was released by Baltimore in August.
Hanie had been staying sharp by throwing to a friend on his high school’s field in Forney, Texas. That’s a long way from facing the Patriots and their defensive-minded coach ,Bill Belichick, in Foxborough, Mass.
Hanie worked out for the Browns last week, but the team decided instead to sign Tanney.
Chudzinski planned to have Hanie and Tanney divide the plays with Cleveland’s first-team offense in Wednesday’s practice. That’s about as strategic Chudzinski could get until he knows whether Campbell or Weeden will be in the mix to face Belichick, who promised his team will be prepared for any Browns quarterback.
“We’ll be ready for all four of them,” Belichick said on a conference call.
Chudzinski couldn’t even commit to who he would start if all four quarterbacks are available. Weeden and Campbell must be granted permission to return to the field by an independent neurologist, the final step in the NFL’s protocol on head injuries. Chudzinski did not indicate if one of his two starting QBs was closer to coming back than the other or timing for a return.
Weeden was injured at some point in Sunday’s 32-28 loss to the Jaguars. The second-year pro, who has benched twice this season for inconsistent play, passed for a career-high 370 yards and threw three TD passes and two interceptions — both in the final three minutes of the first half. Weeden didn’t complain of any symptoms until after the game when he was diagnosed with the injury.
Tanney served as Weeden’s backup last week and was ready to play.
Cleveland’s coaching staff had given him a package of plays, and Tanney said he has progressed enough with the Browns’ system that he could handle much more this week if chosen to make his first career start.
He’s been cramming like a college student preparing for finals to learn the Browns’ offense.
“I’m definitely growing in this system,” he said. “If I was called upon, I’m sure the game plan would be a little more extensive, just picking out the favorite plays that I feel comfortable with and able to execute them.”
Tanney hasn’t started a game since his senior season at Monmouth (Ill.) College, a Division III program. He’s perhaps best known for a YouTube video, on which he performs trick shots. If he gets the starting nod form Chudzinski, Tanney will find himself matched up against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a player he has long admired.
“It would be something pretty special,” he said. “Growing up he was one of my favorite players. If I do get called, it will definitely be exciting.”
Browns wide receiver Davone Bess said there’s no sense in worrying about the Browns’ QB quandary.
“We have no choice,” he said. “It’s easy to go south and be sour about it. But we’ve still got the game to play. Guys in this locker room still got character, and we want to get after it.”