Derry: The Smartest Move

Frank Derry has covered the Browns through the arrivals of both Bernie Kosar and Tim Couch. The veteran analyst looks at the Browns decisions-to-come at quarterback, as well as the team's progress to date.

Brady Quinn turned in another impressive performance Saturday night's 17-16 victory over the Broncos. Even more impressive, however, was general manager Phil Savage's declaration soon thereafter that Quinn will not be in the mix to start against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season-opener.

I'm sure that many Browns fans would love to see Quinn get the start, just as they wanted Tim Couch to start when he was the team's first-round draft choice in 1999. It didn't happen then and it shouldn't happen now no matter how much the dawg pound howls.

The reality of the matter is that Quinn, while definitely effective in his first two preseason appearances, would have his hands full against a Steelers defense that would like nothing better than to knock the stuffing out of the youngster from Notre Dame.

With at least one offensive line starter – right tackle Ryan Tucker – definitely out for that game due to his drug suspension, and another – left guard Eric Steinbach - questionable with his right knee injury, the Steelers would have their ears pinned back ready to blitz coming off the team bus.

That could be disastrous for a young quarterback still learning to read NFL defenses. What Quinn has seen so far has been pure vanilla even when he faced the Broncos' No. 1 unit for one series Saturday night.

The Broncos' defenders are just now learning new coordinator Jim Bates's schemes and have pretty much been ripped apart throughout the preseason. That takes a little bit away from what the Browns did Saturday night, but there's no debating the fact the offense was vastly improved from the first two weeks.

Both Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson looked like they belonged in the NFL, something that was not always the case in losses to Detroit and Kansas City.

It's best that Frye gets the nod against the Steelers while Quinn watches from the sideline.  Sometimes it is said that you learn a lot more by being in the heat of the battle on the field, but the reality of the matter is you don't learn a thing if you are laying flat on your back as the result of a relentless rush.

At least Frye is familiar with the Steelers' defense and should be able to react to the blitzes a little better. Frye, if he stays healthy and is playing relatively well, should get the call for the entire month of September. Probably even for the first two games in October.

After the Browns take their break following Week Six, it's anyone's guess as to what will happen.

If Frye has played well and the team is at .500 or better, then it would be tough to replace him. But in order for him to do that, Frye will have to do something he hasn't done since the final game of the 2005 season and only once in his NFL career … beat an AFC North opponent.

The Browns downed Baltimore, 20-16, in the 2005 finale with Frye at the helm. Since then, head coach Romeo Crennel's team is 0-6 against division foes, dropping his overall mark against the North to 1-11 With three of their first four games this year against division foes, and all at home, the Browns must come out of the starting blocks strong. Otherwise, a couple of heads could end up on the chopping block.

One would be that of Crennel, who has had two losing seasons and knows that his best chance of victory this year will come with the more experienced Frye at quarterback.

The other person in the frying pan would be Frye, whose future not only as the starter but also with the organization will likely rest upon how well the team does during the first six weeks.

Anything less than 2-4 could turn the final 10 weeks into an early training camp for Quinn and Company.

Of course, most eyes will be focused upon the passing game, but the bottom line is that it will likely be the running game that will determine how well the team does over the first six weeks.

I definitely like what I've seen from veteran running back Jamal Lewis, who thus far very much looks like the guy who made a habit of tearing apart the Browns' defense over the years.  Lewis looks to be hungry. He either wants to prove the Ravens were wrong in not bringing him back, or he's looking for a multi-year contract. Maybe both.

Whatever his incentive, Lewis could prove to be a huge factor as to whether the Browns can start to turn things around in 2007.

Obviously, the better he does, the less pressure the quarterback will be under, both in terms of what opposing defenses can do and how much of the load Frye or Anderson or Quinn will have upon his shoulders.

The quarterbacks also look to have a solid supporting cast in Kellen Winslow Jr., Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius, but the guy who might prove to be the biggest surprise of the season is Josh Cribbs, who not only has developed into an outstanding kickoff return man, but appears to be making major strides as an elusive wide receiver.

Cribbs can quickly turn a short pass into a long gain, which could prove to be a very big weapon in the Browns' offensive arsenal.   

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