Derry: Big Deal about the Third QB

It's rare that there is as much discussion about third-string players. But, when the team is the Cleveland Browns, and the position is quarterback, nothing escapes the attention of the fans. Frank Derry takes a look at Saturday's decision to keep Derek Anderson over Ken Dorsey.

Rarely if ever in the history of the Cleveland Browns has such a big deal been made out of who would be the team's No. 3 quarterback. Normally, the third guy is simply the emergency quarterback, the clipboard holder who spends the entire season getting paid to run the scout team during the week and standing silently on the sideline on Sunday afternoon.

But this year the decision was a bit more complicated.

Should the Browns stick with the guy, Derek Anderson, who went into camp favored by many to win the starting job? Or should they opt to keep a veteran quarterback, Ken Dorsey, who has been quarterback-of-the-future Brady Quinn's personal tutor?

The initial decision announced by general manager Phil Savage on Sept. 1  was to keep Anderson, based strictly  upon the fact the coaches believe he gives the team a better chance to than Dorsey if forced to actually do more than stand on the sideline.

That's not to say Anderson has gotten a firm grasp on the new offense instituted this year. And that's certainly not to say Anderson will ever get another opportunity to play for the Browns.

The belief here is that sometime in the future, possibly the very near future, Anderson will be packing his bags and heading out of town. That in turn will open the door for Dorsey to return to fill a role the Browns, for some unknown reason, have never considered important.

Over the years, it has been proven that having a veteran quarterback to help teach a young, blue-chip signal-caller, is of utmost importance. Just ask Bernie Kosar how much Gary Danielson meant to him during his first couple of seasons.

But Savage and current Browns coach Romeo Crennel don't seem to subscribe to that theory. They proved that by bowing to veteran Trent Dilfer's request to get traded after he lost his starting job to Frye prior to the 2006 season.

Now, everyone in San Francisco, where Dilfer landed, is raving about how important Dilfer has been in the development of Alex Smith.

Having just spent two weeks in the Bay Area, I personally heard and read all of the rave reviews given to Dilfer and his unselfish ways in helping to make Smith a better quarterback.

Quite frankly, I couldn't believe my ears, considering how much Dilfer didn't want to be No. 2 to Frye. But then I began thinking that Dilfer must see something in Smith that he never saw in Frye … namely, talent capable of taking a team to a Super Bowl crown.

Maybe Dilfer saw what the Browns coaches apparently needed two years to realize … that Frye is not the guy to get the job done. They may not have said that in so many words, but they didn't need to. Mortgaging the future to draft Quinn said it all.

Dilfer, if he was happy and saw potential in Quinn, would make the ideal veteran backup. But since there is no chance of his being let loose by the 49ers, the Browns should go with their next-best option, which is to bring back Dorsey.

If indeed the Browns hierarchy is thinking along the same lines, look for Savage to be burning up the phone lines in the next few days trying to find a team interested in acquiring Anderson, a young quarterback with a strong arm and limited mobility.

Anderson proved last year that in the right situation, one where he doesn't need to run for his life, he can be effective. And he can win.

But for whatever reason, he has yet to get a firm grasp on Browns offensive coordinator Ron Chudzinski's new system. That was evident both during training camp and in his limited preseason action.

Dorsey, meanwhile, knows the offense like the back of his hand, having played under Chudzinski during their days together at the University of Miami.

While Dorsey may not have the physical attributes to carry out the offensive game plan on the NFL level, he does have the knowledge to help Quinn familiarize himself with the intricacies necessary to get the job done.

Quinn made no secret of the fact Dorsey helped him a great deal after getting a late start due to his contract holdout. It's hard to say exactly how much Dorsey has helped Quinn, but let's just say that his preseason performance likely wouldn't have been nearly as impressive without Dorsey explaining things while both were on the sideline.

The same could happen in the upcoming weeks while Frye handles the starting duties. Dorsey could definitely help analyze the situation as he and Quinn watched from the sideline.  Dorsey could prove to be an invaluable teaching aide for Quinn, but only if the Browns come to their senses and find a way to get him back on the 53-man roster.

It also could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Anderson, who, much like Frye, has to know the only way to be a long-term starting quarterback in the NFL is to land with a team that doesn't have Brady Quinn waiting in the wings.

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