After watching rookie Charlie Frye and second-year player
Josh Harris in passing camp and minicamp, Coach Romeo Crennel and General
Manager Phil Savage became convinced the Browns needed an experienced
quarterback behind Trent Dilfer. They settled on Doug Johnson, a former backup
with the Atlanta Falcons and Tennessee Titans.
Crennel talked about waiting to see how Frye and Harris
performed in training camp, but the more he and Savage thought about it, the
better it seemed to sign Johnson early before some other team decided it
needed another quarterback.
"The bottom line is they don't feel real comfortable
having rookies as their backup," Johnson said. "All rookies struggle, except
the guy in Pittsburgh (Ben Roethlisberger). Peyton Manning struggled as a
rookie. John Elway did. Everybody does."
The chances of Johnson playing at some time during the
season are strong. Dilfer is fit and ready to go, but he has not played a full
season since 1998. This is his first season with the Browns after spending the
last four in Seattle and leading the Ravens to a Super Bowl championship in
the 2000 season.
The Browns took a look at Johnson during an
invitation-only tryout in May, anticipating Frye and Harris would not be
ready. They decided he has the right temperament to play behind Dilfer without
rocking the boat. Originally an undrafted rookie (University of Florida) with
the Falcons in 2000, he started eight games in 2003 and played in two others
while Michael Vick mended from a broken ankle. He completed 136-of-243 passes
for 1,655 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also threw 12 interceptions and had a
67.5 passer rating.
Johnson, 6-2, 225 pounds, spent the 2004 training camp
and preseason with Jacksonville. He was released Aug. 30 and claimed by
Tennessee eight days later. He played in the final two in the final two games
because of injuries to Steve McNair and Billy Volek and was six-of 12 passing
for 68 yards and a passer rating of 68.4. In all Johnson has played in 25
games, with 11 starts and has completed 218 of 384 passes for 2,600 yards with
13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
"I have experience as a starter and I'm ready to step in
if they need me," Johnson said. "In Atlanta, I had a great relationship with
Michael Vick and I can see that's how it's going to be here."
Johnson is behind because he was not signed until after
minicamp. By then the veterans were on a six-week vacation leading up to the
start of training camp July 29. He is spending his time in cram sessions with
the offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon so he can learn the offense.