Blame it on the Kansas City Chiefs, who host the Browns on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Go ahead, you may as well, for they are as responsible as anyone for the uncertainty the Browns have at quarterback right now.
The Chiefs being to blame for the uncertainty the Browns have at quarterback?
OK, the Chiefs and the Browns. We need to explain.
Let's go back to Dec. 3, 2006 when the teams met at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Chiefs, who had won two in a row, five of six and seven of nine, looked to be on the verge of moving to 8-4 after going ahead of the Browns 28-14 with 12:19 left in the fourth quarter when Trent Green threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez to complete a grueling 14-play, 99-yard drive that took 7:41 off the clock.
As for the Browns, they appeared ready to lose their second straight, and for the third time in four games, en route to dropping to 3-9.
Forget that the teams had been tied 14-14 at halftime. The Chiefs hadn't given up more than 13 points in the last three games, or more than 17 in four contests. And the Browns hadn't scored more than 25 points all season.
So the chances of the Browns being able to score enough points to catch up, and/or the Chiefs giving up enough points to lose the lead, seemed to be nil – about as much chance as the 71,927 fans in attendance getting a sun tan on a cloudy, cold day where the temperature was 31 degrees with a wind-chill factor of between 15 and 20.
But that's exactly what did happen. The Chiefs blew the lead, or the Browns caught up, however you want to term it. Anyway, the teams beat the long odds.
And it happened in the most unlikely of circumstances, with Cleveland starting quarterback Charlie Frye, whom the Browns may see again in a week and a half when they host the Oakland Raiders, out of the game with a hand injury. Derek Anderson, who replaced him at the start of third quarter, had not played at all in his rookie season of 2005 with the Browns after he had been claimed off waivers from Baltimore at the start of that season. The fact he sat the bench all that first year, and for basically the opening 11 games of 2006 as well, failing to throw a single pass, was not surprising. He had been a lowly sixth-round choice in the 2005 NFL Draft, at No. 213 overall, by the Ravens. Those types of guys aren't supposed to be starters.
Upon replacing Frye, Anderson had done nothing against the Chiefs by the time the Browns took over at their 19 with 12:12 remaining following the TD reception by Gonzalez. And the fact he misfired to tight end Kellen Winslow on first down did not give Browns fans much hope that anything would change.
But then things did indeed change – dramatically so.
Facing a third-and-5 from the 24, Anderson made his first big throw in the NFL by going to wide receiver Joe Jurevicius for 10 yards and a first down. He flipped a six-yarder to running back Reuben Droughns on the next play, and two plays later, made his first long throw when he went to a running back again, this time Jason Wright, for 54 yards to the Kansas City 6. His six-yard toss to tight end Steve Heiden for a touchdown two plays later cut the deficit to 28-21.
The Browns got the ball back at their 30 with 5:17 left, and Anderson, by scrambling 11 yards and then completing two straight passes for a combined total of 25 yards, helped lead them to the tying touchdown on another pass to Heiden, this one covering three yards, with just 35 seconds left.
The Browns actually got the ball back again before the end of regulation when defensive end Simon Fraser's sack of Green jarred the ball loose and he recovered at the Kansas City 42 with 15 seconds remaining. But in a foreshadowing of the future, Anderson was intercepted on the first play, and the game went to overtime.
The Chiefs got the ball first in OT, but the Browns forced them to punt and took over at the Cleveland 22. Then Anderson really went to work, throwing 26 yards to Winslow on the first play and eight yards to Droughns two plays later.
But the biggest play of the game occurred not on an Anderson pass but on an Anderson run – again – on a second-and-15 play from the Kansas City 45. That 33-yard, tiptoeing-down-the-sideline scramble took it to the 12, and after losing three yards on two straight Wright carries to put the ball in the middle of the field, Phil Dawson drilled a 33-yard field goal to provide the dramatic 31-28 win over a Herman Edwards-coached Chiefs team that would finish 9-7 and make the AFC playoffs as a wild card.
Although Anderson started the next three games and did not play that well, the Browns were intrigued by what he had done against the Chiefs. That, and the fact they were not sold at all on Frye as their starting quarterback – he was not very good all year in a not-very-good 4-12 finish – led Browns head coach Romeo Crennel to conduct an open competition for the starting job between the two in the 2007 training camp.
Neither Anderson nor Frye performed well in camp and the preseason. It wasn't a case of who was better, but actually who was not as bad. The thing that could have happened – and should have happened – was for Brady Quinn, picked at No. 22 overall in 2007 after the Browns made a blockbuster draft-day trade with the Dallas Cowboys to move back up into the first round to get him, to be the starter. But Quinn held out at the start of camp and never really got into the mix.
That came back to really haunt the Browns, and is still doing so to this day.
Frye won the job based only on the fact he had more experience than Anderson, but when Frye struggled mightily against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the season opener, he was lifted for Anderson after just 1½ quarters and unceremoniously dealt to Mike Holmgren's Seattle Seahawks two days later. Anderson was given the job and had a Pro Bowl season, but in the biggest game of the year, at Cincinnati in what could have been a playoff-clincher, he was intercepted four times in a stunning 19-14 upset loss. The Browns failed to make the postseason.
Anderson was given the job at the start of the 2008 camp without a competition, but he struggled and ended up losing it. Quinn played well for the brief time he was in there but then was shelved for the season after breaking a finger. Anderson got the job back by default but lost it when he, too, got shelved for the year with a knee injury.
Quinn beat out Anderson in an open competition in camp this year, lost the job for a while and now has it back. But with the offense in such a mess in so many ways, and with a whole new corps of receivers, most of whom are young and learning on the job, it's impossible to tell just how much progress is being made by Quinn, who, because of his lack of playing time over these three years, is also learning on the job.
But if he had been playing from the start in 2007, as he should have, then so much about him and the Browns might be different now. The fact that is not the case can be traced directly to that Chiefs game three years ago, a victory that ended up costing the Browns dearly in the long run in terms of the overall state of the team.
Just as in 2006, a victory over the Chiefs on Sunday once again won't mean anything team-wise, but it could help Quinn establish himself further as the team's quarterback, something that the Browns' deep thinkers at the time mistakenly thought Anderson had done in that contest three seasons back.