Les: Smart Fans, Short Memories?

Les Levine offers some thoughts on Charlie Frye, and some other tidbits you probably haven't heard...

I know it is fashionable to say that the Cleveland Browns fans are the ‘best and most knowledgeable' fans in the NFL, although I'm not sure what that is based on. If that is the case, some of those fans who showed up at Cleveland Browns Stadium and booed backup Quarterback Doug Johnson don't belong as part of that select group.

It is clear that a love affair is beginning with the fans and local favorite Charlie Frye, as evidenced by the booing of Johnson and the chants of ‘Charlie, Charlie, Charlie' during the second half of the exhibition game against the Carolina Panthers. If the fans are, in fact, knowledgeable, then they would have understood that Coach Romeo Crennel must find out if Johnson can be Trent Dilfer's backup, or if he can go against his instinct that tells him that Frye should carry a clipboard around for most of this season. Very few QBs are able to start every game in the NFL, and Dilfer probably won't be an exception. Fans have to know that Frye, despite some flashes of brilliance in the exhibition season, isn't ready to take over yet.

These fans have short memories. The number one choice of the expansion Cleveland Browns was Tim Couch. No matter how you feel about Couch during his days here, everyone would have to admit he was put into action way too early---in Game 2 of the return of the franchise after a disastrous opener against Pittsburgh, when the Browns were shut out 43-0. When it was all said and done, Couch was sacked 166 times with the Browns, and he was booed when he suffered a concussion.

Charlie Frye has enough pressure on him already. He is a local kid; a childhood fan of the Browns; and the MAC, while a terrific conference (especially for quarterbacks) is a long way from the NFL. And Crennel has enough pressure on him for a lot of reasons. There will be plenty of opportunities for the fans to get on Romeo's case this season --- but pressuring him to put Frye in too early isn't fair to the coach, Dilfer, Johnson, or, most importantly, Frye himself.

The Browns can't stray far from their plan of rebuilding. Part of that plan is to have Dilfer as the starting quarterback, with a veteran pick-up (in this case Doug Johnson) to back him, with both of them teach Frye the ropes. If the ‘best and most knowledgeable' fans in the NFL don't understand that, it is time they learned.

I was not surprised by last week's release of linebacker Brant Boyer or punter Derrick Frost. Boyer was one of the real good guys on the team, but Romeo Crennel didn't think he fit into the new system that is being installed. I thought Boyer got a raw deal last year, when he was put on the injured list for the remainder of the season, when it appeared that he would have been able to return with several games left.

Frost, on the other hand, had to know the hand-writing was on the wall when veteran Kyle Richardson was signed. Most fans will probably remember Frost for his unbelievable seven-yard punt last year---in his defense, nobody was able to return it---but his teammates and coaches will probably will remember him for seemingly going into a trance-like state during games, and, according to sources on the team, rambling on about political and religious themes.

As training camp has come to an end, the regular season is ready to begin, here's a personal observation about Romeo Crennel.

I know it won't make any difference in the win-loss column, and I know that the pressure of the season hasn't gotten to him, but most members of the media will probably agree that he has been the most refreshing head coach to deal with (not counting last year's interim-coach Terry Robiskie) since Sam Rutigliano.

Not that it matters in the long run, but coaches like Bill Belichick (when he was here) and Butch Davis had such disdain for the media, that, when things turned against them, they had no one to ‘watch their backs'. Perhaps they could have staved off some of the criticism from the fans if they treated the media differently, although inevitably it wouldn't have helped.

At least at this point, Romeo seems to enjoy the give-and-take with the media, which seems to be the way to approach this necessary evil.

‘More Sports & Les Levine' can be seen M-F from 6-7 with replays at 11pm on Adelphia Channel 15 in northeast Ohio. E-mail msandll@aol.com or www.leslevine.com

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