CLEVELAND – With Cleveland Browns training camp one week away, perhaps the most Browns’ most important off-season acquisition may be Norv Turner.
Turner, 61, would be fired as head coach of the San Diego Chargers after the 2012-13 season before being hired as by former protégé Rob Chudzinski as offensive coordinator.
With a career record of 118-126-1, including a 4-4 post-season record, Turner may not be considered among the best in coaching circles, but has helped develop Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman into a three-time Super Bowl champion and San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers into one of the best signal-callers in the NFL.
Under his watch, Rivers would pass for 24,355 yards and 166 touchdowns in 116 career games.
Much like Weeden, Rivers has a strong arm capable of attacking any point of the football field in Turner’s vertical passing attack in San Diego.
Also like Weeden, Rivers also struggled in his first year in Turner’s offense as he would pass for 3,388 yards, 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions and a passer rating of 82.4, only to have a breakout year in the 2008-09 season by passing for 4,009 yards, 34 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and a passer rating of 105.5, while Weeden passed for 3,385 yards, 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in Pat Shurmur’s inept version of the West Coast offense.
What this writer is trying to say is that with Turner calling the plays for Weeden in 2013-14, it would not surprise me if Weeden has a breakout year and throws for over 4,000 yards, due to Rivers’ similar success in the same system and having similar weapons on offense.
Rivers—like Weeden at Oklahoma State, and this coming season—took the majority of his snaps in the shotgun formation, which would play to his strengths of arm strength, accuracy and timing.
In his six years in Turner’s offense, Rivers averaged over 4,000 yards passing (4,059), 27 touchdowns, 14 touchdowns and a passer rating of 95.2.
Rivers would also post career highs in passer rating in ‘08 (105.5), touchdowns (34) and yards passing (4,710) in ‘10.
There are still a small and loyal legion of Browns fans that are not sold on Weeden and felt that former quarterback Colt McCoy—now with the San Francisco 49ers—got a fair shot under the Chudzinski/Turner coaching regime, while McCoy offers more mobility and accuracy, Weeden is a better fit due to his arm strength and durability, which cannot be said for McCoy.
Some may snicker at the possibility of Weeden morphing into the likes of Rivers due to their bias—and lingering bitterness—towards McCoy being cut, but allow me to shut down that argument with by saying that Weeden has the exact same weapons in Cleveland that Rivers had in San Diego.
In the backfield, Rivers had the luxury of handing the ball off to All-Pro running back—and future first-ballot Hall-Of-Famer—LaDainlian Tomlinson and Michael Turner, in Cleveland, Weeden has Trent Richardson, who has the receiving abilities of Tomlinson and the physical inside running abilities of Turner.
On passing downs, Rivers had third-down scat back Darren Sproles to dump the ball off to on screens and use as a safety valve, In Cleveland, Weeden has Chris Ogbonnaya to use as an outlet receiver out of the backfield.
At wide receiver, Rivers had the likes of Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd as deep threats to throw downfield too, In Cleveland, Weeden has Greg Little and Josh Gordon.
At tight end, Rivers had All-Pro Antonio Gates to throw to, In Cleveland, Weeden has Jordan Cameron, who like Gates is a converted basketball player.
The similarities between Rivers and Weeden are eerily similar, while Rivers has thrown a combined 35 interceptions the last two years (20 in ‘11 and 15 in ‘12), any smart football fan would blame San Diego’s former ego-maniacal general manager, A.J. Smith for allowing Sproles(New Orleans), Turner(Atlanta), Jackson(Tampa Bay) and Tomlinson(New York Jets) to walk in free agency.
While Weeden still has to show that he can prove it, based on the fact Rivers has developed into one of the premier quarterbacks in the NFL, then why not Weeden?
With Turner calling the plays and his track record of past success, don’t be too shocked to see Weeden channel his inner Rivers and take a big step forward this coming season.