As training camp winds down, the pressure turns on. Players either have to perform or face the Grim Reaper. The same type of pressure seeps into the souls of the coaches, as making tough decisions can wear on these far from ordinary individuals.
For a team coming off a disastrous 4-12 season, any semblance of hope should be a welcome sight. Rather than dwelling on the failure of past seasons, the 2007 version of the Browns should be a portrait of progress and stability.
Until you look at the quarterback situation.
Then you can suddenly forget the inspiring, confident words of inspiration we've heard this off-season. Hope springs eternal, I guess, but the Magic Bus left Cleveland a long time ago and hasn't been seen since.
Who is kidding who here? Derek Anderson and Charlie Frye are not the future of the Cleveland Browns. Both players have been on an extended audition since last season. The results have been mixed, mostly negative.
Not taking anything away from these two hard working athletes, but neither player looks like the guy this year or beyond. Cleveland, team and fans alike, seek a light in the darkness - a leader who shows emotion and character.
It's a difficult situation for both. Perhaps if this organization had a lot of success and stability in the recent past, Anderson and Frye would be sufficient. But it hasn't, and they're not.
The attention is focused. This is Cleveland. These are the Browns. Not since Bernie Kosar walked on the field, replacing an injured Gary Danielson in the 1985 season, have the fans anticipated the arrival of a player that could fill the huge void at quarterback.
On the day rookie Brady Quinn signed his rookie contract with the Browns, hope for the future was instantly instilled into this organization.
It looked like the organization would have time to let him learn on the sidelines. During spring camp and mini-camp, Quinn didn't look close to being ready. The Notre Dame rookie struggled in practice sessions, while the other players at the position were clearly ahead of him.
Throughout the early days of camp, Frye and Anderson battled, Dorsey hung quietly in the background, and Quinn was working in Arizona. Browns watchers lost hope during his holdout that Quinn would make an impact early in his rookie campaign.
Flash forward a few short weeks. Frye has clearly been the better quarterback. Anderson has the look of a player lacking confidence, and his play has regressed since his impressive spring showings. Dorsey lingers, doing nothing spectacular, but produces when called upon.
Meanwhile, Quinn has progressed well in camp practices, sneaking up on the leaders.
The Rookie Mucks Things Up
Times are supposed to be changing for the Cleveland Browns. Just ask general manager Phil Savage. Everything is rosy, the foundation has been laid, and the team is half-way through the process and improving.
On the other hand, ask head coach Romeo Crennel how things are going and we may hear stories about competition, evaluation, and doing what we think is right to win games.
He's got the right idea. Competition is the age-old method to bring the best and worst out of an individual.
Since early spring, Crennel has stuck to his plan and kept the Browns' quarterback position open to competition, which has turned to be anti-climactic to date.
Frye, Anderson and Quinn have conspired to create a mess for the team, however. Now that Quinn has forced his way into the competition at a late stage, how the quarterback situation is handled form here on out could make or break this team, its head coach, and possibly the general manager.
Business as Usual? Fuhgeddaboudit
The game of football is big business, not a local card game in the backroom of a bingo-hall. Fans spend enormous amounts of money, hard-earned wages to see a product. They buy the jerseys, the Orange and Brown Report, and endure the endless promotion the NFL mashes into the games.
They're smart, they track the team. And they don't expect to be misled, which they could be when listening to the inconclusive ramblings of the team's head coach.
They know, and even the media knows, that the two potential starters identified by the team just don't have much promise.
It isn't that Frye and Anderson are bad football players, they really are not. Maybe the impatience of the Cleveland media, the fans, and the organization itself has driven the stakes to the height they are today.
In actuality, this quarterback race has become a farce in actuality. The winner is merely going to hold down the fort until Quinn is ready to play.
The problem here is Quinn needs to get playing time with the players who will be on the roster after the turk visits next week. He needs to get experience with those he will hopefully someday lead into battle.
This Ain't Complicated
Listen, I'm not advocating Quinn's immediate promotion into the starting role. But I do question the process and what this means to a locker room filled with young players. The players see what transpires in practice and on game-day, they feel the energy, and have their own opinions as to which leader provides them the greatest opportunity to succeed.
After sitting through the Browns' second preseason game against the Detroit Lions, little is left to wonder in regards to who brings the team leadership, ability, and confidence. Mr. Brady Quinn fills the void at this position on this roster.
But would rookie mistakes early on this season derail the team or Quinn himself? Sure, he will make mistakes, none any greater than those ahead of him on the depth chart. Is Quinn good enough at this time to step in and lead this team? With two preseason games remaining on the schedule, there is no better time than the present to evaluate the young man and determine is progress.
Simply put, the Browns organization did not expect or want Quinn to be as commanding as he was on Saturday, especially in front of the home crowd. The team had hoped to bring Quinn along at a reasonable pace and there was no desire to rush the rookie into action.
Hopes were placed on Frye or Anderson to keep the seat warm until this rookie was ready to step in. One nine-plus minute stretch of a preseason game changed all that.
Considering that the charted course hasn't been overly productive the past few years with this organization, maybe a detour is the best path to follow.
If Quinn is not an immediate hit, there is nothing really lost in a pre-season contest. But, coming off his performance against the Lions, this organization would be foolish not to get him on the field when he could face some of the best talent in the league and let the cards fall where they may.
Let's see what Brady can do.
Now. Not later. Now.
Until next time,