Owl: No Big Ben in Cleveland

The Owl looks at the Browns quarterback situation...

Charlie Frye is the backup quarterback and good for him. He clearly outplayed Doug Johnson in preseason. The other two at the position, Josh Harris and Lang Campbell, weren't even factors.

If Browns fans are as smart as they have shown themselves to be, they will be content with Trent Dilfer and resist drawing comparisons to Frye and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. It would be like saying because John Glenn is from Ohio we can all be astronauts.

Roethlisberger played in the Mid-American Conference and Frye played in the Mid-American Conference. That's about where the similarity ends at this point of their careers. Roethlisberger was a first-round choice and Frye a third-round choice.

Roethlisberger was the quarterback when the Steelers piled up a 15-1 record last season. He was the unanimous Rookie of the Year and deserved every honor he got. But he had his success with the Steelers.

It is easy to be a good quarterback with the best defense in the league and the run offense ranked second in league. Roethlisberger's main job last season was to hand the ball to Jerome Bettis, Duce Staley or whoever happened to be behind him.

Roethlisberger was very good when he had to be. He won the Jacksonville game with a late drive and finished the season with a 98.1 passer rating. He threw 17 touchdowns and six interceptions, a ratio any quarterback can live with.

The point is he did not have to win games by himself all the time because the players around him were so good. The quarterback of this Browns team is not in the same situation.

For that reason, Romeo Crennel should resist an urge to yank Dilfer if the Browns do not get off to a good start. He would have to determine whether losing scores are the fault of Dilfer or collective failure caused by inferior talent.

Following the loss to the Bengals, Crennel gave less than glowing reviews to Trent Dilfer, but said he did not "seriously" entertain notions of inserting Frye.

Crennel knows the chants for Frye will start if the Browns stumble. They are underdogs in their next two games, which means the Browns will come back from the bye 0-3 unless they upset the Packers or Colts.

"I think both guys understand it's a coaching decision and they have nothing to do but go play the game," Crennel said. "I'll decide if I take a guy out or put a guy in."

Crennel said a young quarterback without a good supporting cast could be scarred by playing too early. That arguably is what happened to Tim Couch in 1999. Frye seems to be made of sterner stuff, but it is difficult for a quarterback who has known success to all of a sudden be thrown into a mess.

Crennel cannot say now when he would make a switch if the Browns are unsuccessful with Dilfer as starter, but it is safe to say Dilfer won't get the hook as quickly as Ty Detmer did. The Browns first coach of the new era, Chris Palmer, deep-sixed Detmer after the Browns lost their first game 43-0 to the Steelers.

"Initially my thought is you have to give your system a chance and you have to give it time," Crennel said. "I think it's the same thing with players. If I have a proven vet who has been to the Pro Bowl and been to the Super Bowl, I'm not going to pull him after the first interception. Why would I do that?

"I'm going to give him time to lead this offense and lead this team. Then, at whatever point I decide it's not where we want it to be or it's counterproductive, then we'll put somebody else in and give them a chance."

Frye completed 34 of 50 preseason passes for 348 yards and two touchdowns. He threw one interception and finished the summer with a 92.8 quarterback rating.

Dilfer's rating wasn't far off at 85.4. He deserves a chance to show what he can do with the starters for four quarters over a number of games.

Frye could learn more watching than he might by being thrown into the fire. Remember, General Manager Phil Savage is asking fans to be patient as the team grows. Fans should be patient with the quarterback situation, too.


The OBR Top Stories