BEREA, Ohio – The disgust came quickly, boos raining down from every corner of the stadium on Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden before he had barely broken a sweat.
Forced into last week’s game against Buffalo after Brian Hoyer went out with a season-ending knee injury, Weeden, who began the year as Cleveland’s starter only to lose his job to injury and be demoted, threw a couple incompletions and then felt the enormous pressure of more than 70,000 demanding fans breathing down his neck.
He could have cracked or crumbled.
Instead, Weeden conquered. He turned the game — and perhaps his career — around.
“Facing adversity, it makes you stronger as a person,” Weeden said. “That’s life.”
Weeden’s season has turned 360 degrees in just five weeks. After spraining his right thumb in Cleveland’s second game, Weeden sat for two weeks while Hoyer, the lifelong Browns fan who dreamed of leading his hometown team, led Cleveland to consecutive wins. Weeden recovered but Coach Rob Chudzinksi decided to stick with Hoyer, dropping Weeden to a backup role.
He went into Thursday’s game against the Bills as Cleveland’s No. 2 quarterback but was thrust into action when Hoyer tore his ACL. Weeden came in rusty, missed on his first two passes and then jogged to the sideline amid jeers.
Weeden, though, rallied himself along with the Browns (3-2), leading them to a 37-24 win that put them in first place after five games for the first time since 1995.
Chudzinski said Weeden grew from all that he has experienced already this season.
“I think that’s growth, and I think that he has a sense of confidence of what he’s been able to do,” the coach said.
Weeden, who will start this week as the Browns host the Detroit Lions (3-2), said the time spent off the field was invaluable to his development.
“You dig deep and you try to find yourself and you do a lot of soul searching,” he said. “You’ve just got to find a way to take the positives and build on them.”
Weeden heads into this new beginning looking to fix some of his issues. He knows he must get rid of the ball more quickly, and said the play often dictates when he can let it go.
“There are times you’re going to have to sit back and hold it because you might have a double move or you might have a deeper progression route,” he said. “That goes to the confidence I have in the guys up front and go from there.”