Derry: A Matter of Hours

Veteran Browns writer Frank Derry says that following the Browns blow-out at home to the Steelers, it shouldn't take long for changes...

The timetable for Brady Quinn being handed the Browns' starting quarterback job should have sped up considerably Sunday afternoon during Cleveland's thoroughly embarrassing 34-7 loss to the visiting Steelers. Now, instead of it being a matter of weeks until the former Notre Dame star takes over, in reality it should be a matter of days. Maybe even hours.

It took less than two quarters for Charlie Frye to prove once again that he has no business being a starting quarterback in the NFL. Some might say he was put in a no-win situation against a fired-up Steelers defense, playing for the first time under rookie head coach Mike Tomlin.

But three things happened that convinced me Frye is not the answer:

  • On the Browns' second series, he stared down his receiver and had his pass intercepted. Strike one.
  • Several times he failed to read the defense quickly enough to realize where the blitz was coming from and got sacked. Strike two.
  • His release was very slow, resulting in at least two of the five sacks the offensive line allowed while he was in the game for the first 23 minutes. Strike three, and Frye was out!

Frye's replacement, Derek Anderson, showed the ability to get rid of the ball very quickly when given any time whatsoever. But his problem is that he has no mobility. He's a sitting duck when a defense pins its ears back and comes with an all-out blitz. Twice in the second quarter he took rib shots that left him wincing in pain. He is an injury waiting to happen.

Head coach Romeo Crennel might not think Quinn is ready to handle the challenge of leading an NFL team. And he might very well be right.

But at this point, it's already obvious that this team has nothing to lose by going with the guy whom the Browns mortgaged the future to trade up to draft this past April.

Frye or Anderson might give the Browns a little better chance in the next few weeks, based only upon the fact they do have a little experience. But the bottom line is this team is not going to the playoffs this year. The sooner the Browns start building for the future, the sooner Quinn will gain some all-important experience.

And, if you believe what general manager Phil Savage has been telling everyone the past couple of weeks, Crennel's job is not in jeopardy. There is no Crennel watch in Berea, Ohio, says the young GM. That should mean that Crennel need not fear that his job security will rest upon the performance of a rookie quarterback.

Many fans wanted to see Crennel insert Quinn as early as the first quarter. Calls for Frye's head came early and often. Those fans apparently did not realize Quinn was designated prior to the game as the third quarterback.

Quinn was not really an option for Crennel, at least not at that point in the game because had he been inserted, neither Frye nor Anderson would have been able to return for any reason.

The only chance the Browns had of ending their long North Division losing streak, which is now at seven, didn't rest upon who started at quarterback. It depended upon the entire team playing a near-perfect game against the team that has totally dominated the rivalry since the Browns returned in 1999.

The chances of that happening ended on their first series when punter Paul Ernster, signed less than 24 hours before the game to replace ailing Dave Zastudil, who suffered a back injury in practice last Monday, fumbled a perfect snap.

Ernster was able to recover his bobble and get off a short punt. But in the process, the Browns were whistled for an amazing four penalties on the play -- one for an illegal formation, two for holding and one for an illegal man downfield – ultimately giving the Steelers the ball on Cleveland's 22.

Suddenly, all of the momentum the Browns had brought into the game had been turned over to the Steelers, who quickly scored on a five-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger to Hines Ward.

It was all downhill from there.

The Steelers, playing with the poise of a playoff-caliber team, took advantage of every gift-wrapped opportunity. They turned turnovers into touchdowns and they effectively picked on rookies Eric Wright and Joe Thomas. Cornerback Wright was burned for the game's first touchdown, while left tackle Thomas was burned for at least one sack. A couple others came on blitzes from his side.

There was very little about the opener that could have pleased Crennel. Turnovers, penalties, two challenge losses, terrible tackling in the second half, poor play by safeties Sean Jones and Brodney Pool and poor protection by the offensive line all had to leave the third-year head coach questioning what his team was able to accomplish over the past seven weeks of practice and the previous six months of off-season preparation.

Those are all problems Crennel and his staff must find a way to fix in the coming weeks, but all are overshadowed by the quarterback situation.

It's interesting that Crennel didn't hesitate to start Thomas at left tackle and Wright at cornerback, even though they are two of the most critical positions on the team. The reason? There was really no one to compete with them for their jobs.

If he is honest with himself, Crennel can say the same thing about the quarterback position. The sooner he accepts that fact and inserts Quinn as his starter, the better off this team will be as it strives to become respectable. 

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