Browns bench Weeden; Campbell to start
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Jason Campbell didn’t get passed over a second time. He’s all Cleveland has left.
Campbell is finally getting a chance to start at quarterback for the reeling Browns, who are turning to the veteran to settle things down and save a season that’s beginning to spin out of control.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski benched ineffective starter Brandon Weeden and will go with Campbell on Sunday against the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs. Campbell is the third QB to start for Cleveland already this season and the 20th — the most in the NFL — since 1999 for the Browns, who have spent their entire expansion era searching for an on-field leader.
Campbell started just one game last season and knows he may have some rust to knock off.
“Go get some 40-W, EW-40 or something like that,” Campbell joked, searching for the name of the well-known lubricant. “I just want to go have fun and play, and we’ll see what happens.”
With Weeden coming off poor performances in losses to Detroit and Green Bay, Chudzinski decided to switch to Campbell, who was leapfrogged earlier this season by Brian Hoyer. When Weeden sprained his right thumb in Week 2 against Baltimore, Chudzinski picked Hoyer, who was No. 3 on Cleveland’s depth chart, over Campbell to start against Minnesota.
Hoyer led the Browns (3-4) to wins over the Vikings and Cincinnati Bengals before his season ended in the first quarter Oct. 3 against Buffalo. But Weeden’s struggles, coupled with a perceptible loss of faith by Cleveland’s offensive players, left Chudzinski with little choice but to start Campbell.
“It’s a tough decision,” Chudzinski said. “I believe that this is in the best interest of the team, ultimately, and gives us the best chance to win. I’m excited to see what Jason will do with this opportunity.”
Campbell is pumped, too.
But talk about a brutal assignment.
The undefeated Chiefs not only have one of the NFL’s top defenses — they lead the league with 35 sacks — but play in rowdy Arrowhead Stadium.
“They are No. 1 in third down, No. 1 in the red zone and No. 1 in points allowed, so it is definitely a challenge,” said Campbell, who signed with the Browns as a free agent in March. “Arrowhead is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, and that means even more we need to be on the same page.”
Weeden’s fate was sealed after Sunday’s 31-13 loss against the Packers. He completed just 17 of 42 passes for 149 yards with one touchdown and one interception, a 48.6 rating. He dropped to 0-4 as a starter. His 66.5 rating is 30th overall, and he’s 32nd in completion percentage.
The second-year QB, who must have known his demotion was coming after Chudzinski failed to offer his support Monday, politely declined to speak with reporters at his locker.
“I’m not going today, guys,” he said.
Now, the question is whether Weeden, barring an injury, will ever play for Cleveland again.
Chudzinski said his decision to switch to Campbell was based on “consistency and production.” The nine-year veteran has made 71 career starts.
The coach would not commit to the 31-year-old Campbell beyond this week.
“I think that looking at Jason and the things that he brings to the table, leadership, his experience, he’s been productive and he’s been successful in the league,” Chudzinski said. “I think when you look at his arm strength and you look at his mobility and some of those things, and tie it into as far as a game plan standpoint, it’s what we feel like we need for this game and gives us the best chance.”
Cleveland fans have been clamoring for Weeden to be pushed aside, but Chudzinski said the lack of support was not a factor in making another change.
While Weeden’s demotion didn’t surprise many Browns players, wide receiver Davone Bess said blaming him for the team’s struggles isn’t fair.
“That’s the easiest thing to say, that something had to be done and we had to pretty much make a switch,” he said. “We know we’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s not just one person, starting with Brandon. We all have some accountability to own up to, and that’s the nature of this business.”
NOTES: According to STATS, the Packers and Patriots have had a league-low three starting QBs since ’99. The league average is 11.3. ... WR Josh Gordon has grown tired of trade rumors. With the deadline set for 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Gordon wishes it was past. “I honestly wish if it was going to happen, I wish it would happen already instead of dragging on,” he said. “If a trade offer came in and that’s what the Browns want to do, so be it. If not, then let it be known this is where I’m going to be.” ... Browns S Tashaun Gipson said he texted Packers TE Jermichael Finley, who suffered a bruised spinal cord in Sunday’s game on a hit by Gipson. “I just wanted to keep him in high spirits, wish him well, wish him a speedy recovery,” Gipson said.
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