After weeks of rotating quarterbacks and keeping his team in suspense, coach Romeo Crennel has selected Charlie Frye to start against the Steelers in the season opener.
This might as well be Frye's Super Bowl. He knows Brady Quinn will eventually be the starter, and he knows the crowd in Cleveland Browns Stadium Sunday will be chanting Quinn's name if he stumbles, but if Frye can beat Pittsburgh, something the Browns rarely do, and he can continue playing well, he can hold onto his job longer than his doubters think he can.
"Charlie has experience, he has led this team before and he has played against the Steelers before," Crennel said. "I think that gives us the best chance to win.
"Everybody else is the backup. I don't have to name anybody second or third until one-and-a-half hours before the game. Whoever is second or third, it doesn't make any difference because if Charlie goes down and the next guy goes in, he's the starter."
The Browns expect an all-out blitz from Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. Frye faced the Steelers once last season, on Nov. 19, (he missed the second Pittsburgh game with a wrist injury), and by that point of the season, it did not matter whether he knew who was blitzing; the broken down line was powerless to stop it.
Frye completed 17 of 27 passes for 224 yards. He did not throw an interception, nor did he throw a touchdown pass in the 24-20 loss. He was sacked five times, and that is the area the Browns expect improvement in this season, starting in the opener, because of an improved offensive line with Joe Thomas at left tackle, Eric Steinbach at left guard and Seth McKinney at right guard.
"We're going to surprise a lot of people," Frye said. "Nobody outside of this locker room is giving us a chance.
"Obviously, I'm excited. I've been working hard. It's been a competition all during OTAs, minicamp and through training camp. During training camp, I think it pushed all of us. Not just me, but I think everyone has benefited from it."
Twice in the game last year the Browns were inside the Steelers 20 and ended up with a field goal instead of a touchdown both times. One of those drives stalled at the 6. The stalled drives typified the way the Browns played all season. They scored 238 points, 30th in the NFL.
Rob Chudzinski was hired as offensive coordinator to come up with ways for the Browns to get seven points instead of three when they get close. Soon after the schedule came out in April, Chudzinski started analyzing the Steelers.
"He's been in here for a long time looking at these guys," Frye said. "We feel very good about his abilities to put us in good situations to make plays. Bottom line is the coaches don't win the games. It comes down to the players executing the plays and going out there being fundamentally sound. That's what we're going to try and do this week."
Frye was not with the Browns the last time they beat the Steelers. Tim Couch threw two touchdown passes on Oct. 5, 2003 in a 33-13 victory.
SERIES HISTORY: 109th meeting. Browns lead series, 55-53. A long time ago the Browns dominated the series with their turnpike rivals, but not anymore. The Steelers have won 13 of the last 14 games they have played. Not only that -- the Steelers would have a right to dispute the notion the Browns actually lead the series. The Steelers are 2-0 against the Browns in the playoffs.
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