Passan: Stick with Dilfer

As he has all year, Rich Passan maintains that the Browns should not leap to start Charlie Frye...

It would be so easy to rip on the Browns after that disaster Sunday at CBS against the Detroit Lions. Too easy.

So many things went wrong against the Lions, it would be futile to dwell on them. From the quarterbacking of Trent Dilfer to the punting of Kyle Richardson to the play calling of Maurice Carthon (a reverse on first-and-10 at the Detroit 12 on the opening drive?) to the red-zone blues to the defense's inability to nail Jeff Garcia to another late-in-the-game brain cramp by Romeo Crennel (punting with 90 seconds left in the game and down by three points) to a total meltdown by the offense.

It would be way too easy to say something like "this was a winnable game." Of course, it was. Only problem is the Browns just might not be good enough to win those kinds of games.

If the Lions walk away from this repulsive and malodorous facsimile of a National Football League game with a sense of accomplishment, they are in for a rude awakening. They weren't that much better than the Browns.

In retrospect, how the Browns beat Green Bay and Chicago is somewhat mind-boggling given what has transpired since then.

Maybe the rest of the league has caught up with them and knows how to shut down their offense. Maybe, just maybe, this team is worse than some of us thought on that side of the ball.

Instead of dwelling on the abysmal offensive performance against Detroit, let us focus on the one issue that smolders inside the minds of Browns fans everywhere: Who should quarterback the Browns this Sunday in Houston.

It had better be Dilfer.

If he is not the quarterback against the Texans – and every other game so long as he remains vertical – then Crennel is making a big mistake.

Why make the change? What good would it do?

Many of you cry out for Charlie Frye. Most likely cried out – and in some cases screamed – for Frye during the second half of the Lions game. No doubt a few started even earlier than that.

Putting a raw rookie in now would be disastrous. If Crennel does that, he will repeat history. He will make the same mistake Chris Palmer made when he hoisted Tim Couch into the spotlight after the first game of the 1999 season. What a colossal error that was.

Crennel risks doing the same thing. There is no need – barring a Dilfer injury – to thrust Frye into the fire. No one expected this team to do well this season.

And if Randy Lerner or Phil Savage or Bill Rees thought the turnaround would come so quickly, shame on them. This team, despite protestations to the contrary by the players, is no better than last year's.

Placing Frye in that scenario would be harmful. The game played in the regular season differs greatly than the one played during the exhibition season when Frye looked decent.

Ask Crennel what he would do as a defensive coordinator against a rookie quarterback. He might tell you he would blitz the kid into next week. Throw every blitz package in the playbook at him. Then he would try to confuse him with multiple coverages and disguised coverages.

We all saw last season what happened to Luke McCown when that rookie quarterback got his first taste of NFL action. What makes you think it will be any different for Frye?

Ben Roethlisberger, you say? C'mon, now, you're smarter than that.

Do the Browns have a defense that chokes opponents? Or one of the best offensive lines in the league? Or a running game that ranks among the best?

No, no and no. The Steelers do. And that's why Roethlisberger was able to do what he did last season as a rookie. Clearly the exception to the rule.

Dilfer needs to be the quarterback from here on out. He's the guy Savage brought in here to shepherd Frye through the baby-steps stage of his career. Most applauded the move when it was made.

Live with it. The future is not now.

Dilfer's performance should not come as a surprise to those who are devoted followers of the NFL. His history suggests he throws more interceptions than touchdown passes, is as mobile as a slug and has met more with failure than success.

It also suggests he talks a very good game, but does not back it up. Where are all those "best receivers I ever worked with" now? Looking to get open?

Savage had the opportunity to bring in a Drew Bledsoe (who was released by Buffalo) or a Vinny Testaverde (a free agent), but opted for Dilfer. Perhaps thoughts of their 2000 season together in Baltimore danced in his head. Super Bowl titles can cloud good judgment.

He might not like it, but Crennel has to stay with Dilfer. He and Carthon must find a way to get the overrated offensive line to pass block better for him (15 sacks in the last four games) and give him better opportunities to make plays. If that means maximum protection on every passing play, so be it.

Just keep Frye on the sideline with a clipboard in his hand. This ain't Akron anymore, Dorothy.


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