Passan: Don't Even Start

Passan: Don't Even Start

You may confused now that the buzz of the Browns win is starting to ebb. "Did Derek Anderson earn a shot at the starting job Sunday, or is this still Charlie's team?", you wonder to yourself. Here, in your hour of need, is Rich Passan to provide the answer...

Stop it.

Stop it right now.

Don't even think about it.

If you know nothing else, know this. There is no quarterback controversy on the Cleveland Browns. At least not at this point.

If Charlie Frye is healthy enough to start against the Steelers Thursday night in Pittsburgh, he's your quarterback. Period.

Coach Romeo Crennel has enough headaches already. No need to throw another log into that fire.

This if Frye's team. No matter how you think he's played, he is still the Browns' No. 1 quarterback. The Browns have invested a lot of time, energy and money into making him their offensive leader.

It makes no sense throwing him to the wolves based on one performance by someone whose previous National Football League experience consisted of one snap against the Denver Broncos in game six this season.

And that was a simple handoff to Reuben Droughns for a four-yard gain over left guard late in the first quarter. Frye, who suffered a minor concussion moments earlier, returned on the next play and quarterbacked the rest of the game.

It's so easy to sit back and say Derek Anderson should start the Steelers game after leading the Browns to that comeback victory over the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday in front of a lot of vacant orange seats at Cleveland Browns Stadium. If he can do it against the Chiefs, why not the Steelers?

There's no question that Anderson has a stronger arm than Frye. Much stronger.

There's no question he gets rid of the ball quicker than Frye. Much quicker.

And there's no question he seems unflappable in the face of a pass rush. Very unflappable.

His improbable scramble down the right sideline that set up Phil Dawson's game-winner in overtime was right out of Gil Thorp. Kansas City free safety Greg Wesley, who whiffed on Anderson at the Chiefs' 35, is still looking for the protector to his private parts.

Anderson confessed after the game he hadn't made a run like that since his days at Scappoose (Ore.) High School. Yep, Gil Thorp.

Based on how this season has unfolded, it's very easy for Browns fans to get excited about the gangly kid from Oregon State.

The frustration of this season has reached such disparaging levels, fans will latch on to just about anything resembling hope in an effort to feel good about their team.

Anderson has suddenly and improbably become the feel-good poster boy. So why not make the switch to him even if Frye can go Thursday night? What has Crennel got to lose?

For one thing, the Chiefs had no idea who Anderson was. They did not prepare for this stranger. No film. No advance scouting report. Nothing. They focused on shutting down Frye. And they had trouble doing even that in the first half.

By the time Thursday night arrives, the Steelers will know everything about Anderson. And then some. Guaranteed.

Even if Frye's sore wrist heals sufficiently enough to enable him to play against the Steelers, Anderson's profile will be in Pittsburgh's data base along with film from the Chiefs game.

Based solely on his effort Sunday against Kansas City, Anderson gives the Browns a chance to win games. I can't remember the last time they came from 14 points down in the fourth quarter to win a game. Had to be before the return in 1999.

Taking into consideration the Browns' defense has surrendered 82 points in the last 10 quarters, the ability to come back cannot be minimized. It is essential.

What must be determined is whether Anderson's showing is a microcosm of things to come or an aberration.

Anderson, 22 months younger than Frye even though both were drafted in 2005, showed poise beyond his 23 years against the Chiefs. But was that because he had nothing to lose and let it all hang out? Or was it because he has the intangibles a good quarterback needs to become successful?

I know one thing. Frye doesn't make that throw to Steve Heiden from three yards out to tie the score in the final minute and send the game into overtime. That was a tough throw and Anderson squeezed it into a tiny area where only his tight end could catch it.

So why did he have to wait until the end of the sixth round to be selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2005 draft?

Certainly not his 79 career touchdown passes or 11,249 career passing yards. Perhaps it was his 50.7% completion rate. Then again, it might have been because he threw 57 interceptions, fumbled 23 times and was sacked 95 times.

But all that is lost in the glow of Sunday's victory.

Whether Crennel likes it or not, his backup quarterback's performance Sunday will divide fans into two camps: Those who want Frye and those who, well, don't.

If nothing else, at least the coach now knows he doesn't have to get religious the next time he has to call on his backup quarterback.

The question is: Who is that backup quarterback going to be?

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