Reading and listening to the Cleveland media, Browns fans can't help but get the sense that another issue at the QB position is on the horizon.
Watching the same practice sessions I don't get it. Not today and not tomorrow.
There is no controversy.
Backup Brady Quinn may have looked better at times over the course of the practice sessions, but he has not laid the knockout punch on starter Derek Anderson. Not in the OTA's nor in the latest mini-camp which concluded last week.
I'd take Anderson's 1,000-plus snaps in regular season game action and head into training camp, and would want to see Quinn push the starter and perhaps mount a challenge.
But that's it. We've seen how questions about the team's offensive leader can hurt the franchise.
Cleveland Browns football has tasted the bitterness of a quarterback controversy far too often. While some of the battles were a necessity due to lackluster quality of play from the starters, cranking up another QB controversy in the wake of a successful season would be a recipe for disaster.
Browns quarterback controversies of the past aren't necessarily good memories. Frightening are the thoughts of Mike Phipps finally losing out to Brian Sipe, then in turn I think of Sipe having to fend off the next supposed savior at the position, Paul McDonald.
Times worsened when Bernie Kosar was jettisoned in the wake of Vinny Testaverde. Not that Testaverde couldn't play, but the team was left with zero depth, as evidenced by the infamous reign of Todd Philcox as Browns starting quarterback.
Of course, we still have fresh memories of the Tim Couch era where he battled Kelly Holcomb, the home fans, and head coach Butch Davis' gut to earn the starting role.
What is happening in Cleveland this year is very different, and should be.
A telling difference from those dark ages is that there is not even a hint of a quarterback controversy within the player roster. Nor is there a controversy within the coaching staff which makes the decisions, and certainly not in the Cleveland front office. This heady group of evaluators dissected every bit of film known to man, and walked away wanting to retain the services of Derek Anderson this off-season.
DA: Now. And the Future?
Derek Anderson may be the man in the eyes of the organization, but their commitment to him isn't open-ended. The structure of the three-year deal signed by the former Ravens sixth-round draft pick really only ties the Browns to the 2008 season. Under the structure of the current Anderson contract, the Browns simply can walk away early in the 2009 off-season and owe Anderson minimal compensation.
On the flip-side of the coin, the Browns have a very manageable deal in place with Brady Quinn and can afford to let the 2007 first-round draft pick play second fiddle another year and gain experience in the system. If Quinn does progress significantly, he will be a hero to many, as the backup generally is.
The problem is, that with every errant Anderson pass, boo-birds will be in full-force looking for a convenient train to toss the QB onto. Opportunities to boo should be plentiful, as Anderson is going to make mistakes, and he will force the ball into coverage at times.
Then, he'll hit the big-play and some will forget the errors of his ways.
This is who Derek Anderson is, get accustomed to that.
The Browns certainly have. The so-called controversy is not an issue within the cozy walls of the Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio, but rather exists solely outside the organization, with some help from outside influences.
This organization has game plan, they know and fully understand what Anderson is and has been as a player.
The Training Camp Battle
While there is not a real controversy brewing in Cleveland, I would be amiss to claim that there is not going to be a competition between the two QB's. Anderson comes in as the starter and will be groomed as such in training camp.
It will be up to the backup to make a legitimate battle out of the work conducted in training camp.
It's acknowledged within the organization that Anderson's play fell off in the second half of the season. The staff believes they could have done some things differently to help the QB and the offense, noting that Anderson was really in his first season under center.
Looking at this team in practice sessions this month, it's hard to see much of a gap in proficiency between Anderson and Quinn. Most players look athletic and at the top of the game in shorts during non-contact drills. If anything, inconsistency was an issue for both players.
What happens when the pads go on changes the dynamic. This is the time when a starter like Anderson knows he has to turn his game up a notch. This is a time when Brady Quinn will push Anderson, hopefully making both better players and boosting confidence of those players and this organization.
Heading into training camp, there is no controversy. The Browns have Anderson under center and are banking on his 1,000-plus snaps to make a difference in his second year as a starter. If he falters terribly, then the calls for Brady Quinn will be answered and he may hit the ground running and never look back.
This is only about winning, and Anderson deserves the opportunity to start as camp opens without a manufactured controversy hanging over his head.