Derek Anderson is back in charge as the Browns quarterback, but this time it is because Brady Quinn is injured, not because Quinn is ineffective. Quinn was put on injured reserve Tuesday with a foot injury sustained on a 24-yard run on the game-winning drive last week in Kansas City.
Anderson will be running the no-huddle offense Sunday when the Browns host the Raiders in Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns will be gunning for their third straight victory and their fourth win of the season. They huddled during the five games Anderson started while subbing for Quinn in weeks 4 through 8. The offense has been considerable more effective since the switch.
"I'm way past (being benched)," Anderson said after hearing the news about Quinn. "I have no excuse for anything. I understood we all had to play better. I had to play better.
"I'm excited about this opportunity. We've obviously been doing some good things. I'm going to try to step in and continue to win games."
Quinn stood on the sideline in the field house Tuesday wearing a walking boot on his left foot and watching practice. He was not outside at practice Wednesday. His season has ended, but the questions about his future as quarterback of the Browns have not. They are the same questions that were asked when a broken finger ended his 2008 season after three starts in the middle of the season.
Winning two straight games doesn't automatically count in Quinn's favor. The 2007 first-round pick from Notre Dame was 6 of 19 for 90 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions when the Browns beat the Steelers, 13-6, on Dec. 10. His passer rating was 48.1. He was 10 of 17 for 66 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions when the Browns beat the Chiefs, 41-34. His passer rating was 27.1.
Quinn goes on the shelf 2-7 as a starter this season. His passer rating of 67.2 ranks 26th in the league. He has completed 136 of 256 passes (53.1 percent) for 1,339 yards while throwing eight touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
"I think he's done a lot of good things, I really do," coach Eric Mangini said after announcing Quinn's injury. "A lot of things I was hoping for at the beginning of the season we really started to see in the latter part of the season. I think the no-huddle helped him quite a bit. His ability to do that as well as he did helped us.
"We've improved in quite a few categories. I'm not saying that's the only reason. I think that over the course of time we've gotten better as a group, but I think that's been positive for us. We'll just see where we are."
Mangini said he will wait until after the season to assess Quinn. By then Mike Holmgren will be doing the assessing as Browns president. Holmgren on Monday agreed to run the Browns' operation, but he won't be in town until next week because he and his wife, Kathy, want to spend Christmas with their children and grandchildren living in Seattle.
Had Quinn not been injured, Holmgren would have had one game to watch him in person, assuming Holmgren sticks around for the finale against Jacksonville a week from Sunday. Now it will be Anderson trying to impress Holmgren, a proponent of the West Coast offense.
During an interview on a Seattle radio station last week, Holmgren recalled a game Anderson played against the Seahawks in 2007 when Holmgren was coaching them. Anderson was 29 of 48 for 364 yards, but no touchdowns and one interception in a 33-30 Browns' overtime victory. Holmgren said he hadn't seen much of Quinn.
SERIES HISTORY: 18th regular-season meeting. Raiders lead series 10-7. They have met twice in the playoffs, the Raiders winning each time. The Browns and Raiders have finished at or near the bottom of their respective divisions frequently in recent years, so they met four times from 2003-2007. The Browns won three of those games.
--Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan held the same position with the Raiders from 2004-2008. It is worth noting that in that five-year span Norv Turner, Art Shell, Lane Kiffin and Tom Cable served as head coach and they all kept Ryan to run the defense.
--The date Sunday for the Browns-Raiders game is Dec. 27. That is significant in Browns history because 45 years earlier on that day the Browns beat the Colts, 27-0, to win their most recent NFL championship. Since that championship the Browns are 6-15 in playoff games.
--The fact the Browns are playing the Raiders on what could be a cold afternoon is significant for another reason. It will rekindle memories of the 1980 season playoff game held on Jan 4, 1981. Playing in a wind chill of minus-36 degrees, the Browns were beaten 14-12 by the Raiders.
The Browns had the ball on the Oakland 14 with 49 seconds left. Coach Sam Rutigliano was convinced the frozen field made a field goal try by Don Cockroft risky. Instead, Brian Sipe threw a pass intended for Ozzie Newsome in the end zone. Mike Davis of the Raiders picked it off. Oakland went on to win the Super Bowl that season.
--The Raiders beat the Browns in another playoff game two years later. It did not have the drama of the 1980 game. The Browns made the playoffs in the 1982 strike-shortened season despite a 4-5 record. They were hammered by the Los Angeles Raiders, 27-10, on Jan. 8, 1983.
The game turned early in the third quarter, when with the Browns trailing 13-10, Raiders defensive lineman Lyle Alzado forced Charles White to fumble. The Raiders turned the takeaway into a touchdown for a 20-10 lead and firm control.
--Eric Metcalf caught three touchdown passes and had 177 yards receiving on Sept. 20, 1992, in a game the Browns won, 28-16.
BY THE NUMBERS: 121 -- Points by the Browns in their last five games after scoring 78 in their first nine.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's not here yet, but obviously we hired him. I think it's an audition for everybody. We all have to continue to do good things, make plays and just do the things we've been doing the last few weeks." -- Quarterback Derek Anderson on auditioning for newly hired Browns president Mike Holmgren.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Eric Mangini will be gunning for his third straight victory Sunday when the Browns host the Raiders. If they win and beat Jacksonville in the final game they would win four straight for the first time since 1994. That might not be enough to save his job if newly hired president Mike Holmgren decides to make a change.
Mangini is 3-11 in his first season as Browns coach. He hopes there will be another. He said he appreciates Holmgren saying on a Seattle radio station last Friday that firing a coach after one season is unfair. Holmgren added, as a disclaimer, that sometimes decisions aren't fair.
"I think, if you've coached and you've been a head coach, you understand the different things that go into any season," Mangini said. "Mike, his last year in Seattle, he had a tough season; they were 4-12. You go through those things. We were 5-11 in New England with Bill (Belichick). Jeff Fisher was taking a lot of heat early on. He did a nice job turning that around.
"I think it hits at different points. There are always variables to every equation. The key thing is to look at what the situation was, asses it and see how you want to move forward."
Holmgren's hiring was announced Monday, but he won't be introduced to the Cleveland media until next week. He said he likes to "roll up (his) sleeves and get to work" when the franchise he works for needs fixing, as the Browns certainly do. The Browns will miss the playoffs for the seventh straight season. This is the eighth time in 11 years they lost at least 10 games.
--RT John St. Clair missed practice Wednesday because of an ankle injury.
--DL Corey Williams missed practice with a thigh injury.
--DE Robaire Smith was limited in practice with a groin injury. The injury prevented him from playing against Kansas City last week.
--QB Brett Ratliff is now the second-team quarterback with Brady Quinn on injured reserve with a foot injury and Derek Anderson the starter.
--OL Scott Kooistra, a seven-year veteran who has appeared in 84 games with one start, was signed to fill Quinn's roster spot.
GAME PLAN: The receivers have improved in the six weeks since Derek Anderson lost his job as starting quarterback. Chansi Stuckey caught five passes last week. He was lost in the four games he played with Anderson after being acquired Oct. 7 from the Jets in the Braylon Edwards trade. Anderson is the starter again because Brady Quinn is on injured reserve with a foot injury.
Anderson should benefit using the no-huddle offense. He likes to go downfield. The Browns want to run an up-tempo attack to wear out the Raiders' defensive line. The plan worked last week when they beat the Chiefs and rolled up 351 yards rushing.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Browns WR Mohamed Massaquoi vs. Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha matches up against the opponent's No. 1 receiver. For the Browns, that's Massaquoi, the rookie second-round draft pick. Massaquoi has had an up-and-down season. Sometimes he runs one route and the pass is thrown in a different direction. Massaquoi is good on the deep pass and could benefit from the quarterback change.
Browns KR Joshua Cribbs vs. Raiders K Sebastian Janikowski. Cribbs returned two kicks for touchdowns last week vs. the Chiefs. The Raiders have to decide whether to challenge Cribbs by kicking to him. The Browns are preparing for Janikowski to kick away from him. They might counter that strategy by lining Gerard Lawson up around the 20. Lawson isn't in Cribbs' class, but he is capable of breaking a long return.
INJURY IMPACT: It isn't often the starting quarterback can go on injured reserve and not impact the team greatly, but Brady Quinn was not a major factor in the Browns' back-to-back victories. Right tackle John St. Clair missed practiced Wednesday with an ankle injury. Floyd Womack will play tackle if St. Clair cannot play Sunday.