Cleveland at Colts
Kickoff: 1 p.m. Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium
TV: WANE, Ch. 15
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
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INDIANAPOLIS – The statistic in the Cleveland Browns media packet might surprise those who haven't been playing attention to the Browns, which is probably most everyone outside of Cleveland.
The stat: Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden leads NFL rookie quarterbacks in total yards passing with 1,519 yards.
That's more than the Indianapolis Colts' Andrew Luck (1,488), the Washington Redskins' Robert Griffin III (1,343), the Miami Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill (1,454) and the Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson (1,230). In other words, the least publicized has produced the most.
There's a catch. Raw yardage is a meaningless bragging point.
Weeden and the Browns have played six games to the Colts' five and he leads Luck by only 31 yards. Given the same amount of attempts (Weeden has thrown 10 more passes), Luck would be the leader. Weeden has also thrown 10 interceptions to seven touchdowns, has a passer rating of 68.1 and his team is 1-5.
Weeden, like all rookie quarterbacks with the possible exception of Griffin (so far), has had his ups and downs.
He and the Browns travel to Indianapolis to play the Colts on Sunday.
“He's had pockets of good play and then he's made some mistakes,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “I'm probably going to be more critical about our guy than the Colts quarterback. I feel like he's grinding through this rookie year. He's making improvements in every game and every practice and I anticipate that he will continually improve throughout the season.”
Weeden had the worst debut of any rookie quarterback, completing only 12 of 35 passes and throwing four picks in an opening-day loss to the Eagles. Since then, he's had more TDs than picks, two 300-yard games and one 291-yard game.
He turned 29 last Sunday, making him an awfully old rookie – his previous sports life, of course, included a stint pursuing a pro baseball career – but a rookie nonetheless.
Shurmur agreed with the theory that every rookie quarterback, regardless of college pedigree, is going to have some ups and downs in his first NFL season.
The Browns have stuck with Weeden, despite five straight losses before a win over the Bengals last week.
“Even though they are very distinguished college players (Weeden and Luck), there are things that you see in the NFL for the very first time,” Shurmur said. “As you go through it, every once in a while, you're going to make a mistake.
“The key to the drill then is to admit that you made it and correct it, and then move on. I think I've seen that type of behavior from Brandon and I'm sure that's the case with Andrew.”
Luck and Weeden met in their final college games, with Weeden's Oklahoma State team beating Stanford 41-38. Weeden threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns, Luck for 347 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was not so much fun watching him live at the Fiesta Bowl,” Luck said. “It would be great if it was a shootout offensively, but a win would be nice.”
Luck said he became friends with Weeden during the buildup to the NFL Draft and has talked to him occasionally since.
This will mark the first time Luck has gone up against a team with another rookie at the quarterback spot.
While Weeden is coming off a win and one of his best performances, Luck enters off his worst after a 35-9 loss to the New York Jets.
“You have to be consistent in this league if you want to be successful,” Luck said. “You can't take a play off and miss a wide-open guy in the end zone or have a decent drive and have it be third-and-one and miss an open guy.”
You can't judge progression simply by statistics, either. In the NFL, the bottom line for quarterbacks remains wins and losses. One rookie will take a step forward in Indianapolis on Sunday.