Passan: Is Frye the Future?

Over this thirteen games, Charlie Frye has given Browns fans exhilarating moments as well as nervous stomachs. Rich looks at the "two" different versions of Charlie Frye that Browns fans have seen and offers his take on #9's future...

Sometime between now and the National Football League's college draft next April, Phil Savage and his brain trust must convene and have a very serious discussion about Charlie Frye.

They must make a command decision that will affect the immediate future of the Browns.

They must determine if Frye is the quarterback they want to lead this team to the next level. Is he capable of taking the Browns from the basement of the NFL to the steps of the penthouse and beyond?

They have to decide whether Frye is Dr. Henry Jekyll or Edward Hyde. The good quarterback who makes plays when you least expect him to? Or the awful quarterback who makes way too many head-scratching plays?

Is Frye the quarterback who lifts you up with his daring scrambles that make chicken salad out of chicken fecal matter? Or is he the quarterback who breaks your heart with some of the most idiotic plays seen in Cleveland since the departure of Tim Couch?

Which one is he?

Will the real Charlie Frye please stand up?

On the one hand, he has the ability to scramble to avoid the rush. On the other, he holds onto the ball too long, takes unnecessary sacks and locks in on primary targets.

On the plus side, he has shown the ability to play nearly flawless football like when he directed the drive that gave the Browns a halftime lead Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. On the minus side, there are the numerous fumbles and the mounting interceptions.

In Sunday's game, Frye threw another interception (although it wasn't his fault), but the Chargers dropped three others, two of which would have been certain touchdowns. Route-jumping was the exercise of the day for the San Diego defense.

Frye's decision-making is, at best, terrible.

Despite those who argue otherwise, Frye does not have "it," that special quality that sets one apart from the field. Bernie Kosar, who had "it," thought so when he first saw Frye. A few Frye fans who won't ever give up hope still think so. The tooth fairy thinks so.

Anyone else?

The list shrinks with every performance as an extremely tough second-half schedule lurks.

Savage, Romeo Crennel (assuming he's still around), Bill Rees and Randy Lerner had better take a long, hard look at the progress of Frye and decide, once and for all, whether they believe he is the man to handle the team's most important offensive position.

There have to be some serious doubts. And anyone who doesn't recognize them needs to remove the blinders.

It's been 13 games since Frye assumed control of the Browns' offense. He has been around long enough where the rookie card can no longer be used as an excuse.

There has been no perceptible progress. If anything, Frye seems to be regressing.

For every good play he makes, he comes back with three or four that alternately furrow and raise eyebrows. His consistency factor is non-existent.

You can blame the offensive line just so much for Frye's problems. It's reached the point where that excuse doesn't wash anymore. That line afforded him adequate time to throw early on in Sunday's loss.

Too often, he is given a comfortable pocket for four or five seconds and still has the ball in his hands. Either his receivers aren't getting open or he isn't making decisions quickly enough to make plays. The latter appears to be the culprit.

Injured thumb? That thumb didn't seem to hinder him on that 52-yard scrambling connection he made with Joe Jurevicius on third-and-long in the first quarter against the Chargers.

Frye keeps making the same mistakes: Delivering the ball late; badly overthrowing his intended target; making foolish throws into double and triple coverage.

Over and over and over they come spilling out. Game after game after game they stunt the growth of the offense.

Good quarterbacks don't repeat their mistakes. They learn from their mistakes. Based on what we've seen thus far, Frye appears to have a maddeningly slow learning curve.

It's a malady that has to worry the coaching staff, especially new offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson, whose faith in Frye is not at its highest level. How else can one explain running the ball three straight times from the Cleveland 2 late in the third quarter with a slim lead?

The only conclusion one can come to is that Davidson did not trust Frye to put the ball up at that time and chose to stick Reuben Droughns' nose into the line for what turned out to be three no-gainers.

That sequence turned the game around. One punt and one 41-yard touchdown run by LaDainian Tomlinson later, the Chargers took the lead and the game, for all practical purposes, was over.

In the long run, this offense cannot continue to misfire without serious consequences. Certainly not with receivers as good as Kellen Winslow Jr., Braylon Edwards and Jurevicius.

An argument can be made that Frye was force-fed before he was ready. If that's the case, he cannot be blamed. The blame must fall on the front office, which did nothing to help.

A veteran quarterback was a vital need in the offseason following the departure of Trent Dilfer. The front office turned a blind eye and gambled with Frye. In the end, he was hung out to dry.

Trial by fire? That's not what you do in the NFL unless you absolutely have to.

In Sunday's loss in San Diego, the injury-riddled defense came to Frye's rescue time and again. By the end of the third quarter, it was spent.

If it wasn't for the strong performance of the defense in the first-half, the Chargers' penalty-ridden, self-destructing ways on defense and the rather unusual play calling of San Diego offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, this one most likely would have been a Chargers rout.

For some reason, Cameron decided to limit the participation of the NFL's best running back in the first half. Tomlinson carried the ball only three more times in the first half after the Chargers' first possession of the game.

Instead of turning Tomlinson loose against one of the worst run defenses in the league, Cameron wanted to make this game a showcase for quarterback Philip Rivers, who was no more effective than Frye.

The only difference between the two is that Rivers, who has started a half dozen fewer games than Frye, has been a vital contributor to the Chargers' 6-2 start even though he sat on the bench and learned for the vast majority of his first two pro seasons.

Frye has been around long enough for some sort of judgment to be rendered by the front office. If it sees any progress in Frye, I'd like to know what it is.

Sure, he's a tough kid. No argument there. And yes, his ability to scramble is duly noted.

But what else is there? Enough to make him the linchpin for success in the future?

This team needs an offensive leader, one who can lead by example. Based on what we've seen thus far, Frye is not that leader.

And there's no reason to believe it's going to get any better.

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