Derry: Prepare for the Inevitable

Frank Derry feels that some things are inevitable. No matter how much he tries to avoid it, Romeo Crennel cannot avoid what awaits him, unless....

Let me begin by making one thing perfectly clear: For the first time since their return, I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Cleveland Browns play football in 2007. They made virtually every regular-season game thrilling and showed tremendous progress as they worked to correct the many errors of the previous regimes.

General manager Phil Savage, head coach Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski deserve a great deal of credit for a job well done. Sunday's 20-7 victory over the San Francisco 49ers gave the Browns their best regular season record (10-6) since the 11-5 mark under Bill Belichick in 1994.

But Romeo, your thinking in regards to playing Derek Anderson for virtually the entire meaningless game against the 49ers defies logic. I felt that way when you announced your decision in the days leading up to the game. I felt that way when Anderson was taken to the locker room for X-rays on his right wrist and right pinkie finger late in the first half. And I felt that way when you put him back in the game for the second half.

For a while, I wondered why you would risk serious injury to the only guy who had a legitimate chance to help your team win a playoff game.

By keeping Anderson in the game, you also exposed your starting offensive linemen, who had to remain on the field for as long as Anderson was in the game.

The bottom line is that you seemed afraid to give Brady Quinn a chance to succeed. You obviously didn't want to give Quinn an opportunity to upstage Anderson. You seemed to fear a quarterback controversy the way I fear being locked in a small room filled with rattle snakes.

I know that history shows that a quarterback controversy more often than not comes back to bite the head coach.

But I've got news for you, Romeo.

Unless you can convince Savage to trade either Anderson or Quinn in the coming months, you are going to have a quarterback controversy on your hands next season no matter what you say or do.

Come the 2008 season, the fans will no longer look upon Quinn as a rookie, even though for all intents and purposes he will be one because you gave him virtually no opportunity to show what he could do during the regular season.

The fans aren't going to care about the fact he had the best seat in the house for the entire season. They'll look at Quinn as a guy who had an entire year to learn the system and as a guy who can step right in if Anderson struggles or is injured.

But will he truly be ready? Absolutely not. You can study all you want and go through the motions in practice, but until you see live action in the regular season, there is no way you can possibly get used to the speed of an NFL game.

In some ways, your reluctance to play Quinn was akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face.

You knew that if Quinn did well in a mop up role or when Anderson was struggling the way he did a week ago against the Bengals, then fans would start clamoring for the Notre Dame product to start.

But if you don't give Quinn an opportunity to prove himself, how in the world are you ever going to know if he can handle the job? How are you going to get him the vital game experience?

That's why it seemed like a no-brainer to have him either start or at least play a sizeable amount against the 49ers.

I know that your not wanting any type of controversy was the main reason, but was keeping Quinn on the bench your way of telling future draft picks that they had best not hold out? There's no doubt you and your GM weren't the least bit happy about the fact Quinn missed the first two weeks of camp.

Was keeping Quinn on the bench a result of Derek Anderson's putrid performance against the Bengals a week ago? The hot-and-cold Anderson undoubtedly needed a confidence boost after throwing four interceptions and costing the Browns a chance to lock up a playoff berth.

I'm sure Quinn has too much class to publicly question Crennel's decision. But deep down inside you have to know that the former Notre Dame star was aching for an opportunity to see his first extensive regular-season action. That was evident when he came off the field after his only series. He had a huge smile on his face even though Kellen Winslow Jr., had just dropped an easy touchdown pass.

Since finally reporting to camp in early August, Quinn has been, from all accounts, a model citizen off the field and a hard worker on the practice field and in the classroom.

There's no doubt that at some point in the very near future, barring a trade, you will have to give Quinn a chance to win the starting job. Savage didn't mortgage the future to bring in a bench-warmer.

One also has to wonder if there's any chance you'll do what head coach Marvin Lewis did in Cincinnati a few years ago.

In 2003, the year the Bengals took Carson Palmer with the first overall pick, veteran Jon Kitna took every snap from center despite the fact Palmer signed two days before the draft and was the Bengals' most efficient quarterback during the preseason.

Palmer was actually the third quarterback most of the year, on the depth chart behind Kitna and the forgettable Shane Matthews.

Kitna put up very impressive statistics in 2003, throwing for 3,591 yards and 26 touchdowns while tossing just 15 interceptions. He had an impressive 87.4 quarterback rating.

Despite those numbers and the fact Anderson had the Bengals in playoff contention until the final two weeks of the season after going 2-14 in 2002, Lewis didn't hesitate to name Palmer the starting quarterback to begin the 2004 season.

Anderson's numbers in 2007 were very comparable to those put up by Kitna in 2003. Anderson finished with 3,787 yards, 29 touchdowns, 19 interceptions and a quarterback rating in the low 80s.

The biggest differences in the two scenarios are that Anderson is still a very young quarterback while Kitna was a grizzled veteran, and that Palmer was the first overall choice while Quinn lasted until the 22nd pick even though many believe he should have been a Top 10 pick.

There are also many who are convinced Quinn has a much brighter future than does Anderson, who came into the league as a sixth-round draft choice of the Ravens in 2005.

Like it or not, you don't need a crystal ball to see that a quarterback controversy is in Romeo Crennel's future despite his season-long efforts to avoid one.

The OBR Top Stories