Browns Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown, now back with his old team as executive advisor, once called quarterback Derek Anderson "a hippie" for his laid-back approach to things.
But if he wants to win the open competition with Brady Quinn for the starting job, then he has to make sure that "peace, love and togetherness" keeps resonating through his helmet microphone when he gets a chance to play in the preseason, beginning with Saturday night's opener against the host Green Bay Packers.
For when Anderson is a hippie – when he throws caution to the wind and just lets ‘er rip without a care in the world – then he's at his best. He said as much after Wednesday's training camp practice.
"I was pressing in the spring for a lot of different reasons," Anderson pointed out. "But now I've figured out that I've got to look at it as whatever happens, happens. I'm just going to put my best foot forward and not get caught up in everything.
"When I take myself too seriously, things don't go too well."
Anderson admitted that laissez-faire attitude was his approach when he took over as the starter from Charlie Frye in the second game of the 2007 season and was an immediate hit, throwing for 328 yards and five touchdowns against the Cincinnati Bengals en route to having one of the best passing seasons in club history and becoming the first Browns quarterback in 20 years to make the Pro Bowl.
Anderson didn't say it, but that was obviously not his approach when he struggled down the stretch in 2007. After throwing for 20 TDs with just nine interceptions through the first nine games, he had only nine TDs with 10 picks the rest of the year. He came particularly unglued at the worst possible time, throwing for two TDs with a season-high four interceptions at Cincinnati as the Browns were upset on a day when they could have clinched a playoff spot with a win.
It was certainly not Anderson's approach, either, last season when his production fell like a rock, to nine TDs with eight picks in 10 games before a knee injury shelved him. His quarterback rating plummeted to 66.5 from 82.5 in 2007, and his completion percentage went to 50.2 from 56.5.
And it was also not Anderson's approach in the 2007 training camp when he and Frye were in an open competition for the job. Neither one played well. They performed at a level far less than what Anderson and Quinn have been playing at in this camp. At the end, then head coach Romeo Crennel picked Frye, not because he had been so good but because he hadn't been as bad. Plus Frye had much more starting experience than Anderson.
That – the experience – is the big edge Anderson has now over Quinn. Anderson has played in 31 games in his career with 27 starts. Quinn has played in four games with three starts.
Anderson needs to use that to his advantage, and that can happen only if he takes a deep breath and slows down, with a smile on his face all the while. If he gets too wired up, then he will be in trouble.
Just as this is the third straight year that Anderson has either had the job going into camp (2008) or was in a two-man open competition for it (2007 and ‘09), Quinn has never been in this position before. In 2007, when he was selected by the Browns at No. 22 overall in the NFL Draft, he reported to camp late because of a contract holdout and never got into the mix with Anderson and Frye. Last year, the job was Anderson's from the start unless something catastrophic happened, and nothing catastrophic happened. So Quinn had to stand idly by once again, on the outside looking in. It wasn't until Anderson and the team had been really struggling for an extended period that Quinn was given a chance.
Now that chance has arrived from the get-go – finally. This is what Quinn has been waiting for. When the rust has started to gather on him because of weeks and weeks of inactivity over the previous two seasons, the hope that such a time would someday arrive is what gave him the inspiration to shake it off and stay well-oiled.
"Even when I wasn't starting, I kept preparing as if I were the starter so I would stay ready," Quinn said a few minutes after Anderson had talked.
Because of that, Quinn says he won't have to make a conscious effort to keep from getting too excited, too ready.
He may say that, but come on, he has to be a little edgy. After all, he's only human and this will be a defining moment for him, and also for Anderson. The winner will have a chance to launch his career – for the first time for Quinn, and again for Anderson. The loser may have to leave Cleveland to get a fresh start. It would be three straight years on the bench for Quinn, something he couldn't tolerate, and for Anderson, he would look at it simply as having lost to the people's choice, something he probably will never be for whatever reason.
Crennel said Anderson's sudden rise to stardom in 2007 was jump-started when the Browns traded Frye, the local favorite from Willard, Ohio and the University of Akron and a third-round draft pick, and gave the job to Anderson ahead of Quinn, the other local favorite from Dublin, Ohio and a first-round draft choice. That freed Anderson to be himself and just play. Before that, Anderson, a lowly sixth-round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2005, felt constricted being sandwiched between those two high-profile players.
Quinn still remains, and now he's looking Anderson eye to eye, with as much – or maybe more – of a chance to win the job than the incumbent. But Anderson was never supposed to be in this position when he entered the league. He seemed destined to be what he was in 2005 in his first year with the Browns, a season-long No. 3 quarterback. So from that standpoint, he has nothing to lose.
On the other hand, this is what Quinn has been groomed for all his life. So from that standpoint, he has everything to lose.
But through it all, keep this in mind: While the two quarterbacks are different in a lot of ways, both will have to be calm, cool and collected in order to be successful.
Peace, love and togetherness, y'all.