Can Brandon Weeden walk 'fine line,' be more like Tony Romo?

As we do every week, let's take a swing around the NFL and have a look at a bunch of stories that have grabbed my attention...

So, what's been up?

1. The Cleveland Browns are in Dallas on Sunday, gearing up to play the Cowboys. Among other things -- including being a possibly huge springboard for the Cowboys to leap back into the playoff race -- it's also a battle of two of the most interception-happy QBs. Tony Romo leads the NFL with 13, while Brandon Weeden is next with 12. Yikes.

There has been plenty of focus on both taking care of the football. Romo has a resume, so no one is shaken when he vows to keep "cutting it loose" because that's what makes his team better. He trusts his guys. But what about Weeden? A risk-taker by nature, he's been battling how to walk the line between taking care of the ball and helping his skill guys. As one scout was telling me this week, he's only realized the Browns actually do have some skill position talent because Weeden allows them to go get the football. And yet, coach Pat Shurmur threw it down this week, telling Weeden, "Don't throw interceptions. Done."

End of story? Eh, not really. I talked to Weeden on the phone this week, and he mentioned how four picks came in his first game. And how he's only thrown two in the last three games. And while people know he's on the older side, Weeden emphasizes that he's still a rookie, still learning. I asked him how he walks the line.

"I know I need to take care of the football, but I'm an aggressive thrower," Weeden told me this week. "Always have been and always will be. When you have confidence in your guys to make plays, you're going to take some shots and allow them to try to make a play. We're in the NFL. The guys on defense are really, really good, too. And sometimes, they're going to make their share.

"So, when you're an aggressive thrower and you throw the ball downfield and you have confidence in the guys around you -- I know that's the way Tony (Romo) is. He's aggressive, he likes to fit balls into tight windows, that's just part of playing in this league. At the end of the day, it's our job to make plays. So if we're checking the ball down all the time and we're so cautious about throwing interceptions, we're not scoring any touchdowns, we're not moving the football, we're just being ultra conservative, people are asking the opposite question. 'Why aren't you taking shots, why aren't you doing this?' There's a fine line."

2. There was some talk last week about former NFL coach and more recently former Browns President Mike Holmgren and his interest in the Cowboys' coaching job.

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Nevermind that the job isn't open. Nevermind my belief that the only way Jason Garrett isn't the head coach in 2013 would be if New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton replaced him. Nevermind that plenty of unemployed coaches would like to coach in Dallas.

Yes, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Holmgren have known each other for years, thanks to the NFL's Competition Committee. But Jones knows everyone, and so does Holmgren.

Instead of Dallas, which seems to be a long-shot for Holmgren, if you wanted to find a fit, focus your eyes elsewhere. Where? San Diego.

If Norv Turner does get fired, don't be surprised to see talk of Holmgren's possible return to the West Coast, where he grew up, attended college, and still has a home (and he still has a home in Arizona, too, which isn't that far).

Why Holmgren with the Chargers? Think about what he'd want: a quarterback; strong ownership with a successor in place; a place with talent where he wouldn't have to rebuild. Plus, Holmgren has known the Spanos family for years.

Holmgren is in a position where he wouldn't need to take a job without all the right ingredients. For my bet, San Diego is one spot with everything right there for Holmgren if Turner is out.

Two things to watch? The job status of general manager A.J. Smith and possible interest from Andy Reid, should his tenure in Philly end.

3. It would be tough to disrespect anything Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers does on the field. The dude has it all. By all accounts, he's a good guy who has the respect of his teammates and is one of the best photobombers I've ever seen.

So, let me get that out of the way. Rodgers is great. But he was quite wrong this week with how he handled a "60 Minutes" feature on him. Rodgers was miffed at the way he was portrayed.

He was shown to be a little touchy, and Rodgers also didn't like how the respected magazine show didn't show his charity work. That's one reason he told Detroit reporters it was made for "their agenda" and that he "wouldn't put a lot of weight into that story."

CBS News chairman Jeff Fager responded in a statement in a similarly petty way, calling the story fair and adding, "It's obvious we got it right when we reported that he tends to be overly sensitive." Zing! Very childish, all of it.

But specific to Rodgers (since we don't cover Fager's football career), has he never read a story? Or watched a TV feature? Athletes don't get to choose what quotes appear. They don't get to write the stories. Every time you are quoted, they take part of what you say. Space isn't endless.

If you wanted a PR feature, hire a PR firm. It's OK to be real. To show weakness. To be portrayed as who you are. It's part of being a superstar. It's why Tom Brady laughs off pictures of him on waterslides, rather than fighting paparazzi.

Rodgers is human. It's OK if fans see him that way. And the fact that they overlooked his charity? Fortunately, a football player doing charitable work isn't news anymore. Everyone does it. It's a good thing. If you're going to give the access, which the stars should, you gotta live with being shown as an actual person. It's who you are.

4. New Orleans Saints fans, it's safe to say, are crazy. That's why they are great. It would be difficult to imagine a fan base more galvanized. Even when I'm critical of the team, and there have been reasons to be this year, I still get a kick out of the intense reaction. That's one reason why players love playing there.

How dedicated are the fans? How much do they care? They are obsessed with uniforms combinations. They go nuts for them. And my buddy Bradley Handwerger of does a service, reporting every week what they'll be wearing.

Oh, he keeps track from a historical sense, too. This is how you serve a fanbase. Want some details from Handwerger's math? In black jerseys and gold pants, the Saints have won 70 percent in the Drew Brees Era. In white jerseys and gold pants, they have won 62.5 percent.

Their worst combo is the white jerseys and black pants, having won just 56.51 percent, while they have 61 percent wins in black and black.

Want more detail? On Sunday, New Orleans will rock white jerseys and black pants for the eighth time for a November game in the Brees Era. The previous seven were also the road and the Saints went 5-2. Of the 13 consecutive games they've won in November, Handwerger figures they are 6-0 with black and black.

Why does he tweet this every week? For the people. "It's always one of my most retweeted tweets and I get way more questions about it than anything else," Handwerger said in an email. "I find it hysterical, quite frankly. But hey, if the fans believe it helps, why not keep a tally of it? It's become somewhat of an obsession for me and I'm always finding new things that I can keep tally of when I have time."

5. I totally get where Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Philips is coming from. He lost starting inside linebacker Brian Cushing to a nasty cut block that ended his season, and saw his perpetrator fined $10,000. Then, Phillips saw his guy LB Tim Dobbins hit with a $30,000 fine for drilling Bears QB Jay Cutler in the head.

In Phillips' mind, it's not fair. "I'm just saying I don't understand the fine system because it was on national TV and it was a quarterback and they said the Chicago quarterback got a concussion," Phillips said. "Now it's a big fine."

Well, yes and no. I sympathize with the thought process. I've heard the arguments that you should suspend a player the same length of time the guy he injured is out.

But let's be real. The hit on Cutler was way different than the hit on Cushing. For one, cut blocks aren't illegal. They should be, but they aren't. Cushing was hit at a bad angle, but it wasn't, by nature, illegal. Hitting a QB in the head is. Plus, the goal for the NFL -- I believe -- is to limit the instincts of defensive players to strike in the head.

What better way to do so than to make an example out of Dobbins. Yes, he's appealing, and yes it's slightly unfair to make an example out of him. But he did hit the QB in the head, whether he was past the line of scrimmage or not. And everyone noticed.

The NFL had to fine him. Dobbins is, essentially, collateral damage. He took one for the team.

Like it or not, QBs are more important to this league than linebackers. And national TV games are more important than those that, say, are shown to 13 percent of the country.

People need to notice when a QB gets hit in the head. It's just too bad for Dobbins that he got caught up in it. But for the greater good, he has to pay.

6. The New York Daily News published a lightning rod of a story this week, with several named and unnamed players offering views on Tim Tebow. As you can imagine, it wasn't pretty. One anonymous teammate told Daily News reporter Manish Mehta that Tebow is "terrible." Yeah, he probably is, at least in practice.

The article has resulted in several reactions. General manager Mike Tannenbaum said on WFAN Radio he believes a few plays here or there and the Jets are right back on track (Pul-lease). Owner Woody Johnson said he didn't sign up for a 3-6 season, flashing the anger that makes me think if this thing really derails, everyone is in trouble.

And it seems, the general public is attacking the use of unnamed sources. Reporters even went up players and asked them if they were the unnamed sources, which was absurd.

My take? The goal is to get players' comments on the record, as guard Matt Slauson's were. But the ultimate goal is to write truth. To illuminate. To get the real story.

If players think Tebow -- the quarterback fans are clamoring for -- is terrible, that's important. They see him on a daily basis in practice. If they have no confidence in him as their QB, that's essential to know, regardless of who puts their name on a quote.

Players are scared of retribution from coaches, so they'd rather be anonymous. Unfortunately, that's sometimes the only way to get what's really going on. Also keep in mind reporters don't know the answers before they ask. You ask, players answer, you write it down. If players had said, "Yes, we love Tebow," that would've been the article. But they didn't say that.

Why did the newspaper run articles in consecutive seasons about how bad the QBs are? Because they've been bad. The focus should be on the root of the issue.

7. Ben Roethlisberger is out this week, and from what it sounds like the Pittsburgh Steelers QB may be out a while. He separated his shoulder, he dislocated his rib, and it's poking into the aorta.

Why am I mentioning this? Because this is usually the time when we say things like, "Roethlisberger is tough, he'll be back sooner." It's when we need to remind ourselves, no one's aorta is tougher than another. Whether Big Ben comes back in two weeks or six weeks won't have to do with how tough he is. It'll be simply because he's healthy enough to return without injuring himself further.

Oh, he'll try to hurry back. But I'm just saying, it's important to remember that you can't grit your teeth through some things.

Also, this is bad for the Steelers. But the reason why teams like them are good year-in and year-out is because they have a strong core: A solid backup QB; a sound middle class.

It'll be tough to beat the Baltimore Ravens. But I really think they can do it. Teams aren't built on one player, not even one as talented as Roethlisberger. It's a situation I believe they can overcome.

  1. Whoever is advising Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe did a really nice job this week. Or, I guess I shouldn't be cynical, Bowe did a nice job himself.

In an interview with the Kansas City Star, Bowe disputed the notion that he wanted out of KC really badly.

There had been talk that he'd been pushing for a trade, but he said nope. "Why wouldn't I want to stay here?" Bowe told the paper. "It's a no-brainer for me. I never said I didn't want to be here. I never said that. This is where it started for me."

Now, that the thinking is on the record, the onus is on the Chiefs to get something done. Obviously, it won't be this season. But after being the franchise player, Bowe is on pace for a record statistical year. He has 49 catches for 626 yards and three scores. He's put himself in position to get paid.

Will he if Scott Pioli is the GM? I doubt it. But everything is up in the air next year in KC. We just don't know how it'll turn out. So, what Bowe has done is put it back on the team and go, "I want to stay. If I don't, it's on you." Perhaps, public opinion will work in his favor. Nice job.

9. I know the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins game won't matter in the standings, with both teams solidly staring at a non-playoff-filled offseason. But the drama is only beginning.

Nick Foles will get the start, a bright young QB who impressed everyone in the preseason. Count Cowboys DC Rob Ryan among those whose eyes were opened. Meanwhile, Michael Vick's concussion is serious, and there is no telling when he'll be back.

When I was there on Monday, coach Andy Reid wouldn't say if Foles would get to audition for Vick's job like Vick won it over Kevin Kolb a few years back. But that's what this is.

Here's where it gets interesting. Reid is a master at developing QBs. He's great with young ones. He fixes things. What if the team misses the playoffs, but Foles is great.

Is that enough to allow owner Jeffrey Lurie to want to keep Reid to develop Foles?

Mind-blowing, but that very decision could be one that's debated. Shoot, the guy hasn't won for more than a decade for nothing.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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