When it comes to the quarterback position, the Cleveland Browns are doing their best Ted the Bellboy impersonation. They’ve got (expletive) problems- plural.
Charlie Frye occasionally made big plays, and more occasionally turned his back to the line of scrimmage, scrambled himself into trouble, or went slowly through his progressions, brow furrowed, as the pocket crumbled around him. The ideal quarterback stands tall, goes through his reads quickly, and hits his man, open, on time, and in stride. That pretty much sounds like the antithesis of the Frye Guy at this point. One of these days, he might be a serviceable starter. But by all appearances he has a very long and very shallow learning curve. He didn’t exactly improve by leaps and bounds over the course of the 2006 season.
Derek Anderson is what he is- a rocket-armed interception machine. If you liked Scott Mitchell, you’ll love D.A. Want to start him? You’d better hope for 4,000 yards, because you’re almost certain to get 25 picks to go with them. It stands to reason that a guy who threw 41 interceptions in his last two years at Oregon State will throw plenty of them at the pro level as well.
Currently we have one guy who might be as good as Raider-era Rich Gannon in fifteen years, and another guy with the ceiling of Lynn Dickey. We might just need a new quarterback.
There are Browns fans (*strawman alert!*) who want to see the team built around dominant defense, a strong running game, and a quarterback who simply manages the game and doesn’t screw anything up. It’s an admirable goal. The problem is that game-management isn’t in the cards when your quarterbacks are constantly putting the ball on the ground and throwing it to the wrong team. Cleveland signal-callers committed 28 turnovers in 2006. Frye and Anderson may improve (I personally don’t think either is starter material in ’07, no matter what), but they will probably still be good for a turnover number that is altogether too high for a supposedly conservative, defense-oriented team. And although there are some nice young pieces in place on defense, the last time I checked, Dent, Singetary, and the Danimal weren’t lining up out there. This defense may very well be better in 2007, but it probably won’t be good enough to carry a team without a starter-quality QB.
Not to mention this team’s two best offensive playmakers- by far- are receivers. It might be a good idea to put a priority on finding someone who can get the football into the hands of these two men accurately and often.
Possible veteran pickups like Trent Green and Drew Bledsoe would arrive bearing more risk than reward. Green has been injured- not unusual for a middle-aged guy who can’t move. Bledsoe, who is also old and slow and has a propensity for drama queen-ism, was benched for Tony Romo (Charlie Frye with three years of bench time) before the Cowboys made their run at the playoffs. Neither is the long-term answer, and there’s a more-than-passing chance neither is the short-term answer as well. Trent Green can probably be had for a second-day draft pick. (The Chiefs seem to think they can get a second-round pick, a proposal that should come with a built-in laugh track.) But when it comes to talent acquisition in the NFL, more often than not, you get what you pay for.
And with the singular- emphasis on singular- counter-example being franchise poster boy Tim “Sofa”, the Browns have gotten exactly what they’ve paid for at quarterback.
The solution; that is, the suggestion? Draft Brady Quinn and install him as the starter on the first day of training camp. No bench-time. No faint stabs at “letting the kid sit and learn”. No false starts, a la “Sofa” in ‘99. Right from the get, he’s the Guy, no mistake about it.
There is no point to sitting Mr. Quinn behind CF and DA and “letting him learn” for two reasons:
-Anyone who has followed football in this town for any length of time knows how the old “sit the rookie” experiment works around here. The rookie, whether it’s Couch, or Frye, or Luke McCown, or Spurgeon Wynn, gets thrown in there sooner or later, all best intentions to the contrary. We might as well dispense altogether with the charade that the rookie is going to sit for a year a la Carson Palmer. It ain’t happenin’ in Cleveland.
-It is entirely possible that the Quinnster is already a better pro quarterback than Charlie Frye or Derek Anderson and that he represents not just a future but an immediate upgrade to the position. Whether it’s because Brady is that good, or the other two are that bad almost doesn’t matter. It makes sense to sit a rookie first-round pick behind, say, Kurt Warner, or Jon Kitna. Fitting one for a Zubaz hat for an entire season while the likes of Frye and Anderson “lead” this offense makes exactly none.
You don’t draft a starter to sit him behind a backup. Brady Quinn will most likely be a starting quarterback in this league. Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson are most likely second-stringers for the foreseeable future. Deal one of the pair- whichever gets you the most value in a trade- install the other as the number-two, and go from there.
This team cannot go into 2007 with the same quarterback situation it dealt with in 2006. While the offensive line has long been a convenient scapegoat, at some point we have to face the fact that we’ve had inadequate talent at the quarterback position since we came back into the league. You could have put Munoz and Montoya in their primes on the line last season and the offense would have had problems, in part because of the struggles of the running game, in part because of the turmoil at center, and in part because the upheaval in the coaching staff- but also due the dismal quarterback play. The Browns have tried to fix the position on the cheap. They’ve tried half-measures. Enough is enough. If Phil Savage has an opportunity to bring talent and stability to this most important position on the field, he shouldn’t hesitate.