The notion last August of Derek Anderson winning the Browns most valuable player award in 2007 would have seemed absurd.
After all, he wasn't even the starting quarterback at the time.
No, Anderson had lost out to Charlie Frye, who was equally unimpressive during training camp. But there was Anderson at the podium Monday night, accepting the honor from the Cleveland Chapter of the Pro Football Writer's Association.
The award was presented at the annual Akron Browns Backers Banquet at Tangier's restaurant. Browns quarterback coach Rip Scherer, who served as presenter, spoke of the dedication Anderson has displayed in elevating his status from backup to Pro Bowler in just a few months.
"I just told my wife that a year ago Derek could have walked in here and nobody would have known who he was," Scherer said. "It's a credit to him and the work that he's done. He's worked his tail off."
Anderson indeed blossomed in 2007 after a losing battle with Frye in training camp for a job that neither appeared to want. In the first half of the season opener against Pittsburgh, he replaced the embattled Frye, who was shipped off to Seattle after the game. Anderson grabbed the position and ran with it all the way to the Pro Bowl.
Though he struggled during the second half of the year, particularly during a critical loss to Cincinnati on a blustery day in late December in which he threw four interceptions, Anderson registered the most impressive statistics from a Browns quarterback since the team returned in 1999. He completed 298 of 527 passes 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns.
It was a tale of two seasons for Anderson, however. In his first 10 games after taking over as the starter, the Browns averaged 30.8 points as he threw for 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. In the five games thereafter, the team averaged 17.4 points while he fired seven touchdown passes and eight interceptions.
Still, Anderson was rightfully considered a bit of a hero after leading the Browns to a 10-6 record, which is why he received a lucrative new contract during the offseason for his efforts. The only problem is that he's quite unaccustomed to such celebrity, as he expressed after receiving his award Monday night.
"I should have just worn my jeans and t-shirt and tired to slide right in," he joked. "I tried to sneak in but it didn't work."
Now he can prepare to help the Browns sneak into the playoffs. A far more taxing schedule will make it difficult, but then the rival Pittsburgh Steelers are facing the toughest schedule in the NFL in 2008 based on last year's records. An identical record could give the Browns a North Division title.
"Derek came in and won 10 for us," said Browns coach Romeo Crennel. "Hopefully he can continue to do that. If he can win 10 this year, I think we have a pretty good chance."
The folks who packed the house at Tangier's Monday night certainly hope so.