A Position of Concern

Mark Leonard takes a look at the Browns' available options at quarterback...

Throughout this off-season, the thought had been that QB would probably remain the Cleveland Browns' foremost position of uncertainty. Vet acquisition Trent Dilfer had largely disappointed, seemingly wasting what figured to be his best and last significant opportunity to reclaim the promise his career once held. Rookie Charlie Frye flashed some enticing qualities, but not so many as to elevate himself beyond suspect. Kids need to learn, after all.

And the NFL does not readily make available alternative solutions of superior skill. In other words, a solution was not likely to materialize from outside the organization.

Fast forward a few more months and the position is suddenly even less secure. Dilfer has paved his way out of town, all the way back to his native California, where once he aligned beside a lefty named Todd Marinovich as the state's premier prep passing prospect.

In his place is former Miami Hurricane Ken Dorsey, a guy whose pro resume defines him as a third QB. Essentially, the Browns' QB position is less than it was, as dubious as that had been. In a word, it is now "scary."

Realistically, if Dorsey had magic to dispense, he'd have been the SF starter last autumn. Tim Rattay, a quality career backup, was instead, keeping warm the spot for 2005 #1 overall selection Alex Smith of Utah. Dorsey knew the front office, was more familiar with the personnel, was young enough to warrant a full audition, had the size for the role, was native to the area, had come from a high-profile collegiate program and had established himself as a bonafide winner, going 38-2 for the U. Yet Ken was scarcely above former rodeo rider Cody Pickett.

In brief, Ken Dorsey is not a viable starter in the NFL, not someone upon whom an organization's fortunes should rest were its starter to go down. He'd be wise to learn to hold for placements to perhaps attain some roster insurance.

But the Browns and GM Phil Savage were in an unenviable position with the unhappy Dilfer. Regardless of who was right or wrong between Trent and O-Coor Maurice Carthon, Dilfer had apparently poisoned the working relationship and had the GM over a barrel with the threat of a mid-summer retirement. Dilfer made himself into a situation which required quick resolution. Haste is not the best climate for equitable, enlightened exchange.

The timing of The Dilfer Situation suggested he might have been jockeying to beat Steve McNair to the Ravens' vacancy. Baltimore was the zenith of Dilfer's career, where he contributed to the winning of a Super Bowl championship. Perhaps he could go home again. Perhaps such an arrangement would result in a three-way delivering McNair to the North Coast. Perhaps the Titans would welcome an alternative placement for McNair, inasmuch as they are not an organization fond of the one in Baltimore.

None of that matters now. Dilfer is as near to his Aptos home as he could be as a professional quarterback. McNair's representation has negotiated agreeable terms with the Ravens. All that remains is for the Titans to pull the trigger on the exchange rate and the McNair era ends in Nashville and commences in Crab Cake City.

Unless the Titans can now persuade that Alcorn State product to reconsider his desire to depart and remain to tutor top-pick successor Vince Young---whose friendship McNair dates to when both were developing in Houston, Steve as an Oiler --- the Browns would be prevented access to whom might be their best remaining positional alternative: veteran reserve Billy Volek.

As accomplished a back-up as Volek has been---and he's had a number of outstanding individual performances when McNair's frequent injuries have forced him into the lineup---Billy is evidently not perceived by the Titans as a full-time starter. Were McNair to respond to the role of nurturing mentor for Young, the financial realities at the position might dictate Tennessee's finding a new residence for Volek, who ironically succeeded Dilfer as a Fresno State Bulldog. The combined salaries of McNair and Young would all but preclude Volek's retention and possibly permit Savage to secure in Volek an ideal substitute for Dorsey as Frye's caddie.

That would help convert what is now a serious concern into a comfortable position of strength. Surrounded by an enhanced roster without glaring holes, a Frye-Volek tandem offers assurances for years to come, consistent with the fortification Savage is assembling around his quarterbacks. What is more, whereas Dilfer blanched at the prospect of more bench time in Cleveland, Volek has constructed an admirable career out of occasional appearances.

So, while it is so an uncertainty has been temporarily worsened, it is possible the ultimate response may make it stronger. Much depends on what happens with McNair and the fallout of that decision. There may not be a better identifiable remedy to The Dilfer Situation than the acquisition of Titan Billy Volek.

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