It’s just one game! Whatever happened to giving guys a chance?
In the Cleveland Browns’ first game this season, rookie QB Brandon Weeden played terribly. He threw four interceptions, had a 34 percent completion percentage and a 5.1 passer rating.
Immediately after Weeden’s horrific performance, many Browns fans called for Weeden to be replaced by Colt McCoy, the 2011 starter and Weeden’s backup. However, the next week against the Cincinnati Bengals, Weeden threw 322 yards and two touchdowns.
This always happens. Every time Cleveland, or any other team, gets a new player, the majority of fans never give him a chance. At the first sight of incompetence, we’re on his case. It doesn’t matter whether he’s a first-round pick or an undrafted free agent; the minute he makes a mistake, we call for his replacement.
Not every rookie is going to be a superstar in his first, second or even third game. It takes time to adjust to the professional level, and all athletes get the jitters the first time they play. Quarterback is the toughest position in football. Sophomore JV quarterback Adin Leibovich said, “The game kind of depends on you…You’re either credited for the win or blamed for the loss.”
Before crediting or blaming a quarterback, let him gain experience, even if a few more losses ensue. If teams or fans don’t allow it, players will never become the superstars their teams drafted them to be.
Lions QB Matthew Stafford, the top pick in the 2009 NFL draft, threw three interceptions and had a 27.4 passer rating in his first game. Now he’s a perennial Pro-Bowler who throws 300 yards and three touchdowns a game.
It’s true that now-Broncos QB Peyton Manning threw 26 touchdowns as a rookie, but he also tossed 28 interceptions.
Weeden wasn’t the only rookie to falter during week one. Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill, number one and eight picks in this year’s draft, respectively, each threw three interceptions in their first games.
There’s a reason not everyone plays well their first game, or even their entire career. Professional football is tough, and it’s a whole different ball game than high school and college. Shaker offensive coordinator Darren Hudson said that rookie quarterbacks have “never seen defenses or speed like that in college.” He also said he believes professional football is so much faster because every NFL player was a college star.
That’s why we need to be more willing to give guys a chance. Most players are not going to be spectacular, let alone good, in their debut. Yes, there are a few special ones, such as Robert Griffin III or Cam Newton, but there are thousands of other Brandon Weeden’s who had a terrible first game.
So calm down, and give Brandon Weeden some time. Stop making the backup quarterback the most popular player in town.
A version of this article appeared in print on 3 October 2012, on page 10 of The Shakerite