Cowboys’ QB Brandon Weeden “Most Improved”, But Not Good Enough


Cowboys’ QB coach, Wade Wilson, recently had some nice things to say about back-up QB, Brandon Weeden, calling him “probably the most improved player”. That’s nice to hear but here’s why that’s just not good enough.

Brandon Weeden was a special kind of terrible last season. It’s hard to spin anything positive about what we saw from the veteran back-up, and to sugarcoat the situation would be a disservice.

Jon Machota recently reported the conversation he had with the Cowboys’ longtime QB coach, Wade Wilson:

"“I think he’s probably the most improved player,” Wilson said of Weeden. “He has a greater understanding of the concepts, the protections, calling plays, all those kinds of things. He’s made a big jump this year. His confidence and his demeanor, his complete understanding and grasping exactly where he’s supposed to go with the ball, handling blitzes and things like that, he’s been very improved.”"

So Brandon Weeden is “most improved”, huh? Forgive me if I don’t backflip with joy, but logic tells us he really couldn’t get much worse, so he MUST be better.  And just being better, isn’t nearly good enough should the unthinkable happen.

Last season Brandon Weeden made one start, the memories of which send goosebumps down the collective spine of Cowboys Nation. In week 9 against the Arizona Cardinals, Weeden led the Cowboys in one of the most offensively futile efforts of the season, losing 28-17 (with just one offensive TD).

At that time, the Cards were the #1 defense in the NFL, so they were certainly nothing to scoff at, but it was Brandon Weeden’s personal performance that was noteworthy – not the stifling defense.

My friends at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) were kind enough to break down the plays and evaluate his performance that day, and the results left something (everything) to be desired…

Technically, Brandon Weeden was 18 for 33, giving him a paltry 55% completion percentage. But in all fairness, 2 passes happened while getting hit, and one was an obvious “throw away”, so I prefer not to hold these against him, resulting in 18 for 30 and a 60% completion rating.

60% is perfectly acceptable but it’s also a little misleading, since it was so heavily propped up by check-downs for minimal yardage. In that Cardinals’ game, Weeden consistently missed wide-open receivers. The Cards single-covered receivers all day, daring Brandon Weeden’s Cowboys to beat them, and he never got close.

Of the 33 attempts, 24 of the drop-backs were without any noticeable pressure to speak of. And of those pressure-free 24, Weeden only managed to complete 12 passes. Multiple times, under these perfect conditions, receivers ran open but Weeden failed to connect. Over and over again, Weeden saw the open receiver, with coverage trailing, and missed his target.

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When facing no pressure, Weeden collected 159 of his yards, threw 2 interceptions, and earned a 38.1 QBR. It’s extremely noteworthy to point out, Weeden didn’t even look to the left side of the field. Weeden only threw to the left twice all game. This is a sign that, even when he had time in the pocket, he wasn’t looking through progressions and was fixating on one or two targets. College QBs can’t even get away with that.

While it might be nice to hear positive statements made about the oft-criticized back-up, it really just reminds us how extremely important (and irreplaceable)Tony Romo is to this team, and how this season hinges on Romo’s health more than anything else.

Third string QB Dustin Vaughn remains an interesting project, but that’s exactly what he is at this point, a project. The Cowboys do not want to rush Vaughn into any action before he’s ready. They like how they developed Romo so many years back, and want to take the time to do it the same way with Vaughn.

Make no mistake, Brandon Weeden is the back-up QB next season, and he’s going to have to be a hellova lot better than last year if the Cowboys hope to survive a Tony Romo injury in 2015.

"“I think I came off the bench and played well,” Weeden said. “I did do well, but at the same time, we’d like to have a little different result in the Arizona game.”"

It’s clear Weeden doesn’t even get it, and that’s probably the most concerning.

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