Owl: Now is the Time

The Owl has consistently argued, all season long, that the Browns need to get Charlie Frye into game situations this year to properly evaluate him. The Owl looks at Romeo Crennel's statements on the matter and offers his take on whether the Browns are headed in the right direction...

Well, we've been waiting for this moment for about eight weeks now, and it looks like it's finally here. Unless Trent Dilfer's right knee gets better in a hurry, Charlie Frye is going to make his first NFL start Sunday against the Jaguars.

For a couple months now The Owl has said the Browns have to play Frye at some point to learn whether he has what it takes to make it as a quarterback in this league. I know my colleague on these pages, Rich Passan, disagrees, but he decided to leave Cleveland winters to retire in sunny Arizona, so how smart can he be?

Frye has not distinguished himself in the very brief time he has had. Dilfer complained his rhythm was disrupted when Coach Romeo Crennel used Frye temporarily against the Dolphins. Frye has not had the chance to develop any rhythm at all.

Currently, Frye's passer rating is a Kyle Boller-like 24.3 - not what you want in your starter of the future. Of course, it is totally unfair and ridiculous to judge Frye on what he has done so far.

"I have not lost any confidence in Charlie Frye," Crennel said. "I think that Charlie is a good, young kid with ability. I think he will be able to help this team. By the end of the year, we'll know what kind of quarterback we have in Charlie."

That last sentence is the key as far as I'm concerned. I am more interested in 2006 and beyond. At 4-7 the Browns are mathematically alive in the playoff hunt, but realistically they have about as much chance of reaching the post-season as I do of dating Jennifer Aniston.

There are two schools of thought on playing Frye. What if Crennel deep in his heart believes Frye is not ready and Charlie plays poorly? Do the Browns automatically write him off and go get another quarterback in the draft? Trust me - if they do get another quarterback it has to be in the draft, because the list of free agent quarterbacks for 2006 is not worth taking the time to peruse.

On the other hand, what if they wait until next year to play him and things do not go well? "Oops" from Crennel or Phil Savage wouldn't cut it.

The Browns haven't had a quarterback fans have warmed up to since Bernie Kosar. They should not be told in 2006 they'll have to wait until 2008, assuming 2007 would be the development year for the rookie they get in that draft.

Frye needs to play more than a series here and there. He does not have to win a game, but he needs to show improvement from his first major playing time to his last this season.

"I think there are enough games left that we can have a pretty decent idea what he can do in a game," Crennel said. "If we leave out of here this year not knowing what he could do, it would hurt us going into the draft and free agency on whether we need to use (scouting and meeting) time or a pick on a quarterback.

"The danger of not getting him playing time is you might have to get him in in preseason and get him in games next year. If you find out then he's not the answer and you don't have anybody else in place, you take a couple steps back."

It does not matter that Frye is from Willard, Ohio or that he went to the University of Akron. The Local Kid Makes Good angle is nice, but only if he has a successful career.

This much we know. The Browns cannot go into next season with Trent Dilfer has the starter, because Dilfer in Year 13 will be the same Dilfer of years 1 through 12.

I say let Frye work the bugs out now, and let him keep playing after Dilfer recovers from his sprained knee, or whatever it is that is really bothering him. Romeo says it's tendonitis, but Dilfer mysteriously says it's more than that.

And Rich, I'll buy another snow shovel. You buy some more sunscreen.

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