Rich's Rant: The Summertime Mirage

Rich Passan has seen a training camp season or two. Or thirty. He's seen quarterback battles and flashes in the pan. And he has suggestions for how you should take your summertime Kool-Aid...

It's somewhat amusing how much importance fans lend to the daily workouts of the Browns at training camp.

Based on what they see, they draw conclusions that are nowhere close to being even close to where they'll wind up in the regular season.

So much significance awarded a good run or a nice pass play. So much weight given to an interception or a dropped pass.

First team one day; second team the next.

Oh look at Jerome Harrison busting through the line in 11-on-11 and running for a touchdown. About time a Browns head coach paid attention to him.

And didn't James Davis look terrific on that 50-yard run. Doesn't look like a rookie struggling for a roster spot.

Hey, look at Braylon Edwards outjumping a defensive back in the corner of the end zone to snag a Derek Anderson fade. And then . . .

Edwards drops a pass right in his hands. Where have we seen that before? Time to get rid of him.

Damn, why didn't Anderson look off that linebacker before throwing that interception? And why does Brady Quinn throw the ball so quickly? Why doesn't he just let the play develop?

One day, Anderson looks like a Pro Bowler. The next day, he looks like he just graduated from rookie quarterback school.

Such are the vagaries of training camp.

Never mind that the Browns are playing against each other. That doesn't count.

And never mind that some guys look much better in practice than they do in games. That doesn't count, either.

Some players are, indeed, much better gamers than practice players. There's something about the speed of the game that helps them ramp up to the level at which they play their best.

In Browns camp, every little move is scrutinized by the coaching staff, but they have plenty of company in that regard.

Fans peruse just as closely, but have a tendency to over-evaluate what the players do, figuring if they do it in practice, chances are pretty good they'll do it in games.

They couldn't be more incorrect. It just doesn't work that way. And no one knows that better than Eric Mangini.

He's been around long enough as an assistant coach, defensive coordinator and head coach to know the only stage that counts is the regular season.

Training camp is for getting in shape, learning the system, getting out the kinks of the offseason and sharpening the skills with which you are blessed.

Exhibition games are nice if only to help coaches shape the roster. They are not to be taken seriously because they are not played at the same speed as regular-season games.

You often hear Mangini say so and so is having a good camp. What does that mean? He listens well? He does as he's told? He hasn't run punishment laps? What constitutes a good camp?

What can anyone tell when teammates go up against each other, more often than not at a speed that is nowhere near game speed, and expect to come up with anything definitive about how well they are playing?

It's damn near impossible.

The over-analyzing of the quarterback situation is a perfect example of how much a battle can be blown out of proportion.

A scorecard is kept by the media on how Quinn and Anderson fare each day. Touchdowns (that's a joke) and interceptions are noted and taken ultra seriously by the media and fans.

The unfairness of that competition – playing against your teammates is not a strong barometer of anyone's success – serves only to heighten the growing divide among the fans as to who is the better quarterback.

Just because he played better than Quinn and Anderson in the intrasquad scrimmage over the weekend doesn't make Brett Ratliff the favorite to start under center in the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings.

As previously stated, Quinn will have to make mistakes of egregious proportions in the exhibition season to end up watching Anderson against the Vikings. That's just not going to happen.

And no matter how well Harrison or Davis plays in the exhibitions, Jamal Lewis is your starting running back. Until, that is, he proves otherwise.

Edwards and Brian Robiskie, unless the rookie stumbles badly in the exhibitions, will be Quinn's primary targets.

Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach will anchor the left side of the offensive line and rookie Alex Mack is your center. Training camp and exhibition performances will yield the rest of the line.

So after watching the Browns practice, enjoy, take a deep breath, then tell yourself, "It's only practice."

Repeat it over and over until they start playing games that count against teams that experienced the same success in their own training camps. It's not just Cleveland where that happens.

Sip the Kool-Aid if you must. But make certain this time it's the sugar-free variety.

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