This guy is the real deal. He has become a legitimate force on offense for the Browns. Never mind that mind-numbing second-half performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday. Anderson is the man to lead the Browns to where they ultimately want to wind up.
Open negotiations with his agent pronto. Don't wait until the end of the season, when he becomes a restricted free agent. Might as well get him now while there is still some sanity as to how much he can earn. Wait until after the season and the fight to sign him will put the Browns in an untenable position.
Anderson's startling performance this season has put him on the radar of several teams. He's no longer a secret. You can bet teams will scramble to sign him. And that's where the danger lies. The suitors are lining up. It's time to disappoint them and send them in another direction. Unless the Browns sit down and hammer out a new contract with him now, they risk losing him after this season.
Don't think the Minnesota Vikings wouldn't love to add to balance their attack with Anderson throwing the ball and Adrian Peterson running it? And the way the offense operates in Baltimore these days, the Ravens are wiping drool at the thought of getting Anderson back.
There are too many compelling reasons not to get this young man's autograph on a five- or six-year deal that would elevate him to the lofty status he deserves.
Forget the Pittsburgh collapse. The Steelers made several halftime adjustments and played brilliantly and flawlessly on defense in the second half. That's not the best defense in the National Football League by accident. It just took them 30 minutes to prove it.
Anderson is still the same guy who boiled the Pittsburgh secondary for three touchdowns in the first half. He's still the same guy who brought the Browns back from a huge deficit to win against Seattle. He's still the same guy who threw five touchdowns passes against Cincinnati. And he's the guy mainly responsible for the club's 5-4 record. I can just about guarantee you the Steelers no longer regard the Browns as pushovers. Anderson is the reason.
If it wasn't for Anderson and Joshua Cribbs, the Browns would never have come close to winning this one.
The Browns didn't lose this game as much as the Steelers won it with great second-half defense and the playmaking ability of Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers confused and suffocated Anderson & Co. in the second half. They had the correct answer to every one of offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's moves.
Had that been any other NFL defense, except maybe New England's, the Browns would have won the game handily. As it was, their 21-9 halftime lead was as shocking as Illinois' upset of Ohio State last Saturday. It stunned the Steelers into kicking it up another notch on both sides of the ball and the Browns, not experienced enough, couldn't keep pace.
Blame this loss almost solely on a defense that couldn't get off the field in the second half. Blame it on allowing a 30-yard touchdown scramble by a lumbering quarterback. Blame it on permitting that quarterback to complete three third-and-long passes in the game-winning drive, including a third-and-18. Inexcusable.
The defense, on the field for 38 minutes, just couldn't stop the arms and legs of Roethlisberger in the second half. When you score 28 points, you should win.
Even with that, the Browns would have had a chance to tie if they had one more timeout. (Memo to Romeo Crennel: If you want to challenge a call, don't call a timeout then throw the red flag. Just throw the damn flag. That was embarrassingly ignorant. You wasted a valuable timeout. Think for a change.)
If the Browns are smart and lock up Anderson, the Browns-Steelers rivalry changes dramatically and the Roethlisberger-Anderson hookups should be extremely entertaining for a long time.
This is a franchise that has made its share of personnel mistakes over the years, particularly the last nine years. There's a correct personnel decision regarding the most important position on offense staring them between the eyes. This should be a no-brainer.
What more does Anderson have to do? He's thrown 20 touchdown passes in eight-plus games this season, has shown remarkable poise in the pocket for someone so young and relatively inexperienced and has given Browns fans hope every time the club goes on offense. We've come to expect success from him and become spoiled as a result. Sometimes, it's not going to happen.
One more factor: There is no guarantee Brady Quinn can step in and do the job without the offense missing a beat. There's a much greater guarantee that Anderson will prove this season is not a fluke, an aberration, and continue to grow. Besides, there's nothing wrong with keeping two good young quarterbacks.
The Pittsburgh game was a blip on the screen. Anderson will learn from this. The fact the Browns came so close to beating the Steelers, especially in Pittsburgh, is meaningful. It was clearly an improvement over that debacle in the season opener and definitely moved the Browns competitively much closer to the Steelers, at least on offense, than they've been in years.
Phil Savage's track record in evaluating quarterbacks is suspect at best. Now he's finally got a very good one. He doesn't know what Quinn can give him. It's not worth the gamble to find out. Young quarterbacks like Anderson don't come along all the time. Sign him now and get to work on fixing the defense.
Is Anderson worthy of a Tony Romo-type contract? Why not? Who was Tony Romo before Dallas gave him a chance? A benchwarmer for his first three seasons before the Cowboys woke up and "discovered" him. Then the Cowboys wisely signed him to a six-year, $67 million deal.
Romo had just 18 starts on his resume when the Cowboys lavished all that money on him. Granted, he was 13-5 in that time, but he had the luxury of watching a solid defense when he's on the bench. Anderson has a 5-6 record (one can argue 7-4 if Phil Dawson makes that field goal in Denver and the defense doesn't collapse against the Steelers), and that is certain to improve by the end of this season.
The quarterbacks' 11-start statistics are remarkably similar. Romo was 7-4 with 20 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. In his 11, Anderson has 23 TD tosses and 16 picks, seven of them in three games last season.
The Browns are where they are now because of Anderson. Yes, the offensive line has been nothing short of spectacular in keeping him clean. And yes, the receiving corps has been nothing short of amazing.
But the guy who pulls it all together is Anderson. Don't let what happened in the second half Sunday cloud that notion. Savage should not blow this golden opportunity to secure the club's offense for the next five years at least.
Don't wait until Anderson becomes a free agent and some team comes along and sticks a poison pill or two in an offer sheet, making it impossible for the Browns to match. Strike now before it's too late.
Give him a Romo-type contract and be done with it.
Timing is everything. It's time.