10. Mighty Casey Buries The Tigers 9. Cavs Clinch The #2 Seed8. Trot Haunts BoSox in ALCS Thriller7. Dawson's Lucky Bounce
6. Frye trade, Anderson promotion turn the Browns around
We didn't know it at the time, but the Browns' season was a week late in starting.
Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson spent the entire preseason underwhelming everyone in sight. Both would have been cast aside for Brady Quinn by the second game of the exhibition schedule had the Browns' first-round pick made it to camp on time.
Alas, Quinn held out and the net result was the status quo maintained. Frye was named the Browns opening day starter against the Steelers, and promptly racked up just 34 yards passing and an interception in less than a half before being benched in favor of Anderson, who did little more in a relief role. The Steelers trounced the Browns 34-7 and it looked like everyone's worst-cast-scenario, interim-coach-by-the-bye-week predictions would be laser-accurate.
The Tuesday after the opening day debacle, GM Phil Savage decided it was time for drastic action. In an unprecedented move since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, he traded his opening-day starting quarterback to the Seahawks for a sixth-round draft pick. Anderson was named the full-time starter, and we hunkered down for what appeared to be another death march of a season.
Then, as if the fates had been waiting for this moment, the clouds suddenly lifted. Like a newborn colt, the new-look Browns were full of energy but lacking balance at first. Anderson burned the Bengals for 328 yards and five touchdown passes in a 51-45 outlasting of the Bengals the following week. In Week 3, the Browns were up to their old sorry-luck tricks in Oakland as a last-instant timeout by the Raiders negated what would have been a game-winning field goal by Phil Dawson. His second attempt was blocked, and the Browns lost 26-24.
But Anderson, with his numerous physical gifts, slowly started to assert himself as not just an adequate stopgap, but the potential future of the franchise. The offense, supposedly the side of the ball on which the Browns were lagging, suddenly turned into a team strength as Anderson, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow and Jamal Lewis emerged as Pro Bowl candidates. The 8-0, snow-choked win over Buffalo snapped a string of eight straight games in which the Browns scored at least 21 points.
Other than that game, the only other game in which the Browns failed to register at least 20 points since Anderson was named the starter was a 34-17 loss to the Patriots in Week 5.
Four months later, Savage's September act of desperation not only saved the 2007 season, it might have changed the course of the future for the Browns franchise.