After Brandon Weeden was supplanted by Jason Campbell as the starter in Cleveland last season, I wrote a column about how Weeden simply needed a better environment than what he was drafted into in Cleveland in order to have a realistic chance to prove himself. Unfortunately, that's the luck of the draw in sports sometimes. Had Weeden gone to a better team right out of college, the degree to which his legend reverberates around Stillwater could be infinitely higher. Instead, he landed with a downtrodden team with little to no help around him.
Luckily, the Browns let him go this summer to pursue other options, allowing Weeden to finally have the freedom to make a decision of his own. In that piece from October, the Dallas Cowboys were one of the teams I mentioned as a good fit for Weeden, and it appears Weeden and the Cowboys agree. Weeden signed with Dallas in March, and now that Kyle Orton has been released, Weeden is now slated to be the second string quarterback in Dallas, which is probably just a tiny notch below being the starter in Cleveland when it comes to name recognition.
Weeden may never see the field for the Cowboys. Ideally, the backup quarterback is supposed to be anonymous. But Tony Romo has struggled with injuries almost annually, so there's hope for Weeden to be a difference maker, even if it's just for a game or two. Just last season, Orton had a chance to get the Cowboys to the playoffs as a Week 16 injury for Romo kept him out of the decisive season finale. Although we wish that Romo remains in good health, if anything is to happen to him, Weeden will step into a pretty good situation.
The Cowboys are not exactly elite schematically on offense, but they are a pass-happy team that runs a ton of plays from the shotgun and they have a pretty talented supporting cast. Dez Bryant is a dynamic game-changer on the outside, DeMarco Murray is an explosive back when healthy, Jason Witten is a quarterback's best friend as a safety blanket up the seams and after years of ignoring its importance, the Cowboys finally have a solid offensive line.
Dallas is basically the polar opposite of Cleveland when it comes to making things easier on the quarterback, and the offensive talent they have can help bring out the best in Weeden. He has an incredibly strong arm, he knows where to place the ball and he's accurate. When Weeden has time in the pocket he can deliver some real strikes, and the Cowboys have the playmakers to collaborate with him on big plays.
He's obviously got some flaws; he needs to work on making quicker and better decisions, especially when pressured, and he can be better at making reads. But the physical tools necessary to be a good quarterback have always been there. His skillset enabled him to be a superstar in college and I believe that he can be a competent contributor in the pros. Of course, in today's NFL, competency isn't enough from the quarterback; most need to be able to carry their teams to glory.
I don't think any of us ever truly expected that Weeden would be able to lift a team the way he did the Oklahoma State program during his time here. But we certainly know that he was far better than what he had a chance to show in Cleveland. He may never find a consistent starting job again, but his stint in Dallas may just enable him to leave a better taste in our mouths regarding his NFL career. And seeing Weeden live up to his potential is all we could ever ask of him.