Before this year's NFL draft, ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said the Cleveland Browns didn't have to take another quarterback. As the regular season is about to begin, Gruden continues to believe Brandon Weeden can become a legitimate starting quarterback.
“I think they have to try to build around Weeden, maybe improving the receiving corps, let him work himself through this new offense," Gruden said in a conference call with reporters. "I'm confident he’s going to be a good pro quarterback. But if it doesn't work out, coaches and quarterbacks don’t last long. I know that.”
Weeden was the No. 22 overall pick in last year's draft. But he was selected by the Browns' old regime, not the new one of CEO Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi.
Does Gruden think it's a make-or-break season for Weeden?
“Well, that’s a tough one there. I don't know what direction Cleveland would go," Gruden said. "It’s easy to say it’s make or break, but who are you going with next year? I mean, they’ve changed quarterbacks more than any team in NFL history in the last 20 years since they've been back in Cleveland. What’s the alternative?"
Weeden finished the preseason with a 99.9 passer rating, which ranked 10th among projected starters. He started off the preseason strong, completing 18 of 25 passes (72 percent) in his first two preseason games for 229 yards and three touchdowns. In his third preseason game, he was 12-of-25 for 105 yards and nearly had two passes picked off.
What impresses Gruden the most is Weeden's strong arm and his ability to throw in tight windows. But he believes Weeden is limited in his current situation.
"I think he’s on a football team that doesn’t have tremendous skill around him," Gruden said. "I don’t think that his wide receiving corps is a polished group yet."
Weeden does have one advantage this year, according to Gruden. That's working with Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator.
"You’d be lucky to have him running your offense if you ask me, because he’s gotten it done wherever he’s been," Gruden said. "He’s developed quarterbacks, and he just has a very good temperament, a vast amount of knowledge, creativity, and I think he has guts to call plays in certain situations on game day that most people don’t."