Browns coach Romeo Crennel is dealing with an unusual kind of quarterback
controversy as he prepares rookie Charlie Frye for the future. Crennel inserted
Frye in the second quarter last week against the Dolphins and used him again in
the fourth quarter. Trent Dilfer does not like the idea of being pulled, albeit
temporarily, in the middle of the game.
No one is disputing Dilfer should be the starting quarterback when the Browns
play the Vikings in Minnesota on Sunday, least of all Frye. Crennel will use a
"gut feeling" about when to give Frye spot duty again. It might or might not be
this week, Crennel said.
"I'll support whatever decisions are made wholeheartedly, but I'm not going
to stand up here and say I agree with it," Dilfer said. "If you've ever played
quarterback in this league, rhythm is one of the biggest parts of it, and when
you take a guy's rhythm away, it makes it that much tougher."
Dilfer has had an up-and-down season for the Browns, who are 4-6 with six
games to play. Had he played better against Baltimore and Detroit, the record
could be reversed. He comes across as insecure. He didn't like it in preseason
when reporters asked him about Frye, and he obviously still doesn't. When a
reporter asked him last week why he and Braylon Edwards were having timing
problems, he answered: "I've been talking about this for months. Obviously you
haven't paid attention. It takes time to develop chemistry."
Crennel understands Dilfer's frustration, but he said he will use Frye the
same way the next time if he believes it is the right thing to do. The Browns
were leading the Dolphins 9-0 when he used Frye for the first time this season.
Frye engineered a 14-play drive that chewed up nearly six minutes and ended with
a field goal.
"Trent is a competitor, and if I take the ball out of his hands, he isn't
satisfied," Crennel said. "I don't blame him. That's the way competitors are.
Everybody wants to play. They understand the head coach makes some choices they
have no control over."
The Dilfer-Frye situation goes beyond what happened in the game against the
Dolphins or what spot duty the rookie third-round choice from Akron might see
the remainder of the season. In a little more than eight months, the Browns will
be back in training camp.
When camp began this summer, Dilfer was the undisputed starting quarterback.
That won't be the case when camp opens next July, Crennel said.
"In training camp, everybody starts over," Crennel said. "There's a battle in
training camp for jobs. That's the way it is in the NFL. The guy who does the
best gets the job."
Dilfer has been short with the media and he made it clear he doesn't like
Crennel's plan for indoctrinating Frye, but he has been very unselfish when it
comes to the rookie, who was 6-for-11 for 58 yards with an interception in the
Dolphins game. He gave Frye the game ball immediately after the game ended. Frye
seemed almost embarrassed to take it into the tunnel as he waved to fans.
Last month, talk of playing clearly made Frye uncomfortable. He knew it put
Dilfer in an awkward position. Now Dilfer claims being pulled in the middle of
the game damages his status as starting quarterback, even though Crennel has
made it clear Dilfer is the starter for now. Crennel did not shut the door on
starting Frye sometime this season.
"Trent and Charlie are good friends," Crennel said. "Trent has been helping
Charlie tremendously since training camp started, and Charlie will tell you
that. These guys are professional football players. I don't think their
professional relationship will be hurt one iota by a couple series here and
In fact, Frye is spending Thanksgiving at the Dilfers when he could just as
easily be spending it with his own family in Willard, Ohio, a small town about
two hours southwest of Cleveland.