Derry: Can't Hurry Frye

As the boos rained down on Doug Johnson, it appeared as if Charlie Frye's time was coming sooner rather than later. Frank Derry explains the case for waiting and giving Frye some more time to grow into the role of quarterback, or even back-up quarterback...

The boos were so loud and so long that you would have sworn Tim Couch was back at Cleveland Stadium Friday night.

But in reality, "Deuce" had left the house … for good … more than a year ago.

This time, the boos were directed at another quarterback, a guy who doesn't deserve the "bad guy" role in which the fans have cast him. Doug Johnson's only crime is that he has found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Browns fans have fallen in love with Akron University product Charlie Frye, and for good reason. Every time he gets a chance to play, he seems to make something positive happen on the field.

But that's no reason to boo Johnson, who was brought in as a veteran insurance policy to back up starter Trent Dilfer until Frye proves himself worthy of the No. 2 role. Two or three good exhibition games do not qualify as sufficient proof that Frye is ready to take over the controls if Dilfer happens to go down.

Johnson, who missed the second exhibition game with what he called a "dead arm," needed to get some playing time against the Panthers. What he didn't need were the Bronx cheers that greeted his every move. Head coach Romeo Crennel, after allowing Dilfer to play for three nearly three full quarters, gave Johnson an opportunity for two drives after Dilfer departed.

It was not a pleasant sight … or sound. Johnson went 2-for-5 for 17 yards

Every time Johnson would throw an incompletion, the fans unleashed a chorus of boos normally reserved for opponents and Couch. And after each boo came a chant of "Charlie, Charlie, Charlie." It was their way of saying they wanted Frye as their guy.

That may very well have been the reason Crennel played Johnson for only two brief series, but I hope not. I hope his decision to get Frye into the game was pre-planned and not a reaction to the boos.

There was no reason for any fans, especially hometown fans, to treat Johnson that way. What do you think that does for his confidence? What kind of impression does that leave on him in regards to his desire to perform for Cleveland fans?

And if the fans are booing Johnson, what are they going to do when Dilfer has a bad game? Will they boo him and start chanting "Charlie, Charlie, Charlie," if the team loses two straight games?

I hate to say it, but I think that's a distinct possibility. And that can only lead to a problem, which is something Crennel doesn't need right now. He has plenty of more important problems that he must address.

If he ends up having to deal with a quarterback debate, that will undoubtedly take some of his attention off things like how to convince his players to stay in their lanes, not only on the defensive side of the ball, but also on special teams.

And there are also those dreaded penalties that continue to plague the team. The number has gone down from 13 to 12 to eight, but stupid penalties played a huge role in the 23-20 loss to the Panthers.

Crennel also has to be concerned about the injuries that have left him very thin at cornerback. And he also has to figure out why punter Kyle Richardson's first punt in all three exhibition games has been lousy.

He shouldn't have to worry about the fans turning on Dilfer.

Hopefully, Crennel will bring Frye along slowly. Hopefully, he'll have an opportunity to learn from both Dilfer and Johnson. Hopefully, he won't find himself a situation similar to the one in which Couch found himself in 1999.

Couch was ill-prepared to be the starter as a rookie, and the fact he had a Swiss cheese offensive line made the situation even more difficult. And yet someone, be it then-head coach Chris Palmer or team president Carmen Policy, decided the team needed go with their No. 1 draft pick, even though Ty Detmer was supposed to be the man.

Whether or not that season had a negative impact on Couch's career is open to debate. Personally, I think Couch was neither mentally nor physically the same after that season. The fact he never did have a strong supporting cast so we'll never know for sure just how good he might have become had he not been rushed into action.

What we do know is that Frye has a chance to learn from a very good, very smart quarterback in Dilfer.

I believe it's vital he be bought along slowly, even though I've been nothing but impressed with everything Frye has done to this point in his pro career. He has a talented arm, plenty of smarts and leadership ability that can't be taught. And he definitely has impressed no less an authority than the greatest Browns player of all time, Jim Brown.

"This guy is special," said Brown, who served as a guest analyst for the Panthers game. Asked about the fact Frye is doing things a rookie shouldn't be doing, Brown said, "When special people come along, they break all the rules."

Brown says he understands why the fans have taken to him so quickly. "He represents the future and people recognize it," said the Hall of Famer.

Frye hasn't allowed himself to get caught up in all the adoration coming his way. "I don't pay attention to it (the chants of "Charlie, Charlie, Charlie.").

And as long as Frye remains a backup, he will also remain the most popular player on the team. And that's not a bad way to spend your rookie season, even if he doesn't get to play more than just a few snaps.

His time will come. And when it does, he could very well end up reminding a lot of people of Bernie Kosar and/or Brian Sipe. Both of them were known for their brains; their ability to maximize their talent, and for their leadership ability.

In addition, they also were fan favorites.

Right now, Frye shows the potential to achieve the first three. And if he does, then his status as fan favorite won't fade once he puts down the clipboard.

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