Passan: Dump DA? Are You Crazy?

It's been rumored that OBR columnist Rich Passan is a man with strong opinions. We, you know, hadn't really noticed, but that could be the case, I guess. Today, Rich argues that getting rid of the Browns starting quarterback would be sheer folly.

I have just one question for the growing number of fans who want to see Derek Anderson in another uniform next season.

Are you crazy?

For the first time in too long a time, the Browns finally have a quarterback who can actually win games. They have a quarterback who can keep them in games. They have a quarterback who makes things happen.

And you all want to get rid of him?

I know there are just as many fans out there who like Derek Anderson and want to see him in a Browns uniform for many seasons. This is not meant for you.

This is for the fickle-minded who don't recognize talent when they see it. This is for those fans who turn a blind eye to an ingredient that has helped pull the Browns out of the National Football League mire in which they've wallowed since the return in 1999.

This past season saw the Browns win 10 games in a season for only the second time since the days of Marty Schottenheimer. That's 20 years ago for the uninitiated.

They hobbled along before and after The Move and fans complained in a variety of ways about how bad they were, how inept they were, how pathetic they were, how embarrassing they were.

A vast majority of those fans were prepared, emotionally and psychologically, for another dismal season in 2007. No way would the Browns come even close to being representative.

Sure the defense improved, but the offense was still a disaster area. And when Romeo Crennel flipped a coin to see who would start at quarterback in the opening exhibition game, Browns Nation rolled its collective eyes and sighed.

It got worse following the season-opening demolition by the Pittsburgh Steelers. The season, in just one game, took on an ominous look that many believed would ultimately cause the team to finally reach its nadir.

How low can you go? Watch and find out.

Then something happened. Something quite surprising; something quite stunning, in fact. It caused a tremor around the NFL. Not right away. It took several weeks, but the league slowly began to take notice of the Cleveland Browns because they were actually more than representative.

They had taken the big leap from doormats to serious contenders, becoming in the process one of the great stories of the 2007 season. The laughing died down and the plaudits began to pile up.

The media loves underdog teams. Fans love underdog teams. And the Browns fit the profile of an underdog team probably as well as, if not better than, any NFL team in the last 10 years.

The reason wasn't the defense as most people had anticipated. It was an offense that began scoring touchdowns with amazing ease and regularity. The defense couldn't stop opponents, but the offense more than made up for it.

It was a confluence of the many talents at the disposal of rookie offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, whose flair for the creative and imaginative blossomed.

The markedly improved offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. Receivers Kellen Winslow Jr., Braylon Edwards and Joe Jurevicius elevated their games. And running back Jamal Lewis chugged from the Fountain of Youth.

But the young man who pulled it all together and made it work was the loser of that Crennel coin flip back in August. He was just a sixth-round draft pick picked up on waivers. What did anyone expect? He was supposed to be the link between Charlie Frye and Brady Quinn, the guy holding the position until the rookie could develop. Who knew?

The main reason the Browns notched double digits in victories was the play at quarterback of Derek Anderson. Without him, they don't come even close to challenging for the playoffs.

His teammates made him better and he made them better. Their mutual working relationship made them special. After the first game against the Steelers, no one shut down the Browns completely this season as they had done in seasons past. No one.

And this is the guy many of you want to get rid of? The guy who gave you a good reason to walk around on 10 Mondays this season feeling giddy about your team? The guy who has given the Browns their best quarterbacking since the days of Bernie Kosar? That guy?

Yeah, he was the main culprit in the loss that eventually cost the Browns the postseason. Tough loss that Cincinnati loss. But he was also the guy mainly responsible for his team being in that position in the first place.

This is the guy you want to ship out of town? And for what? The possibility of a two high draft choices that might or might not help? Free agency and the college draft, if utilized intelligently by Phil Savage, should be more than enough to repair the defense.

Look at it this way: The Browns got their 2008 first-round pick a year early when they traded up to get Quinn.

Gambling on the possibility of Quinn becoming a good NFL quarterback is just that . . . gambling. Sure his pedigree is better than Anderson's coming out of college. And Quinn would have had a better chance of becoming the starter had his agent gotten him into training camp on time. His holdout caused him to fall behind and he never caught up. We'll never know whether he would have beaten out Frye and Anderson because he never got the chance.

But there's just as great a chance he won't work out as there is he will. With Anderson, there is no gamble. He has proved it.

When you've got a sure thing, you hold onto it. You don't get rid of it.

First-year starters who throw for 29 touchdowns (more than anyone not named Tom Brady, Tony Romo, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger) and nearly 3,800 yards are not a dime a dozen. They just don't fall off the quarterback tree.

Browns fans have craved a solid starting quarterback for so long that when one finally comes along, they don't know how to react. They take leave of their senses.

It is time to take a step back, allow yourselves to think clearly and see the big picture. Don't focus on Anderson's four interceptions in the second Cincinnati game. Nor his five touchdown passes in the first Cincinnati game. Check out the big picture. His complete body of work – 10-5 in 15 starts.

When Brian Sipe went from the NFL's most valuable player in 1980 to a 17-touchdown, 25-interception quarterback for the Browns the next season, no one wanted his butt on the next plane out of town. What makes Anderson any different?

He's just 24 years old, has a terrific throwing arm, is still learning his craft and his ceiling, as coaches and personnel people like to say about young players, is extremely high. We haven't come even close to seeing the best of Derek Anderson.

Can you imagine how good the Browns will be when they fix their defense as quickly as they fixed their offense? Scary.

That's because they finally have a quarterback on whom they can hang their hat and hopes. And I'm not talking about Brady Quinn.

They have outstanding momentum heading into next season. No good reason to disturb that momentum. No good reason at all.

Savage needs to send a message to his fellow general managers: Go ahead, sign Derek Anderson. But be warned; we'll match any deal you put out there. Go get your franchise quarterback somewhere else.

So once again, for those fans who want Anderson gone, I ask: Are you crazy?


The OBR Top Stories