Taylor: Circling The Browns

It's been rough sailing so far for the Browns, but what does that mean for head coach Romeo Crennel and quarterback Derek Anderson? Are they taking on water... or about to sink? John Taylor has the buzz from inside Berea...

After starting their much-hyped season with two straight losses, the Browns have answered very few questions since embarking on what seemed to be a promising 2008 campaign.  In fact, it's been quite the opposite as the number of questions has grown exponentially since the season began a mere nine days ago.

Chief among them are the winds of criticism buffeting and battering the S.S. Crennel, as well as the ongoing saga surrounding the quarterback position.

We'll tackle the head coaching issue first.

Based on conversations with multiple sources, Romeo Crennel is not in any real danger of losing his job.  At least not yet.

"Is (owner Randy Lerner) happy with the way the season's started?  Of course not.  Is he ready to jump out of a window, or throw Romeo out the window ahead of him?  No.  Not right now," a source told The Orange & Brown Report.

While the 0-2 record is not sitting well with the person signing the checks, the organization as a whole is confident the season is not in jeopardy and can be turned around.  Even given the confidence in a turn around, however, the organization is seemingly putting the onus squarely on its head coach to ensure the season doesn't spiral out of control.

"Even with the injuries, the talent is there.  It's up to (Crennel) and his staff to put them in the best positions to utilize the talent, eliminate the mistakes and get this team over the hump," a source said.

And what of the controversy swirling around the coaching staff's in-game decision-making process?  

"It's a topic that's come up in the last week.  We look at anything and everything that will help the Browns become a better football team and turn this thing around before it gets out of hand," a source said.

Should the season go south in a hurry -- as in debacles versus divisional foes Baltimore and Cincinnati -- it's been intimated that changes could be in the offing.  Nothing concrete, nothing set in stone.  But, it's been made clear that the owner will not stand for a 0-4 start and would barely tolerate, if at all, a 1-3 start.  Especially considering three of the games are versus AFC North foes.

So, does that make these next two must-wins?  Publicly, it would never be put that way.  Privately?  Sometimes, the "unspoken words deliver the strongest message." 

Now, as to the quarterback situation...

Derek Anderson is still the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.  Much like Crennel, however, that's as of right now and for the time being.

There is one constant theme woven into conversations with various people regarding Anderson: he must raise his level of play or the team will be left with no choice but to seriously consider making a change to Brady Quinn.

Simply put, Anderson has regressed as a quarterback since the win over Houston in Week 11 last season.  In the seven games since, Anderson has a QB rating of 62.27 with eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions.  The first ten starts of '07 resulted in a rating of 87.32 with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Perhaps most strikingly, Anderson threw a touchdown every 16.1 attempts and an interception every 25.9 attempts in his first ten starts last year.  In the seven since, those numbers are 27.3 and 19.8, respectively.  Coincidentally or not, the Browns were 7-3 following the season-opening loss to the Steelers, and are 3-4 since.

Of course, the last seven games have included particularly harsh weather challenges -- Buffalo and Cincinnati last year, Pittsburgh this year -- and a pre-season concussion -- in addition to injuries suffered by key members of the offense -- which limited both his game and practice reps.  Those factors could be used to explain away the precipitous drop in Anderson's level of play if one where inclined to do so.

But, therein lies the rub.

The thing with Anderson, according to one league source not in the Browns organization but who has an interest in the club's performance, is that everything must be perfect -- or damn-near close -- for him to succeed.  The slightest variance to the expected seems to throw him off his game.  "He needs to develop the ability to adapt" to whatever comes about during the course of a game, the source said.

While no one involved with the Browns would confirm or deny those sentiments about Anderson, one source did allow that Anderson is "somewhat of a high-maintenance player on the field".

The bottom line on Anderson is very simple: the Pro Bowl QB must play better.  There is no grey area as the Browns have enough confidence in Quinn to make a switch if DA's performance warrants such a move. 

And the higher level of play needs to start this coming Sunday afternoon at 4:15 EST.  For the sake of both the quarterback and the head coach. 

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