Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Handicapping the quarterbacks

Since the four quarterbacks the Browns currently have in camp can't seem to declare a winner among them, leave it to the rest of us.

Who is going to be under center when the Browns open against Pittsburgh on Sept. 9? Who is going to be working on his short game and waiting for a team to call? Let the words show the way.

Charlie Frye

Strengths: Tough as nails, very good huddle presence, gets a lot out of limited athletic ability.

Weaknesses: Suspect decision-making under pressure, the NFL game seems to move too fast for him, positively putrid when it comes to turning red zone appearances into touchdowns.

It's tough to fault Frye for what he isn't. He's not Peyton Manning, and never will be. While he is an adequate passer despite below-average arm strength, he lacks what some sports psychologists refer to as "mental athleticism." The ability to read a situation and react properly, and do it in fractions of a second. Too often, Frye resorts to a "damn the torpedoes" style of play when he gets flustered, and that's when reckless turnovers abound.

Frye is a passable stopgap while Brady Quinn develops, and might be a worthwhile NFL backup. But it looks like the jump from the Mid-American Conference to the NFL has been just a bit too far for the former Akron Zip to achieve professional stardom.

Having said that, the starting job, at least for now, is his to lose.

Probability of Frye starting the season opener: 60 percent

Probability of Frye being released/traded: 10 percent

Derek Anderson

Strengths: Throws hard. Superior athletic ability that, on the rare occasion it is harnessed properly, can turn him into an effective quarterback.

Weaknesses: Seldom is able to harness said athletic ability. As far as touch passes go, his sand wedge is a 3-wood.

The more and more I watch Anderson, the more I get the feeling that he'd fit right in with former Indians pitchers Jason Davis and Fernando Cabrera. Like Davis and Cabrera, Anderson has all the physical tools: He has size, a rocket arm, good legs and major-college pedigree ... and an utter inability to put it all together.

Ask Anderson to throw a football through a wooden fence, he might be able to do it. Ask him to feather it into his tight end on an underneath route, he'll probably sail it over his head, bounce it in the dirt or break a couple of fingers.

Finding your receivers as a QB is like finding the strike zone as a pitcher. If you can't do it, no one cares how hard you throw or how much of a physical specimen you are.

Anderson has three more games to prove his worth to Romeo Crennel. Otherwise, he has "odd man out" written all over him.

Probability of Anderson starting the season opener: 5 percent

Probability of Anderson being traded/released: 40 percent

Ken Dorsey

Strengths: A poor man's Bernie Kosar. A smart, fairly good decision-maker with prior experience as an NFL starter.

Weaknesses: Unathletic, immobile, and a below-average throwing arm.

My chief memory of Dorsey is still watching him get stampeded by Ohio State in the 2002 BCS title game. He'd still be a stooge if not for the fact that it makes more sense than any of us realize to give him a shot leading the first team.

Frye and Anderson are gunslingers who both have a nasty tendency to sabotage drives with horrible decision-making. Dorsey, while the least athletic and least impressive of the four Browns quarterbacks, is also a good reader of defenses and an accurate short-yardage passer. With that in mind, he might be the best chance the Browns have to win some games while Brady Quinn develops. He's certainly as good a bet as Frye or Anderson to put the ball in the end zone, which isn't saying much.

It's a long shot, but it just might work.

Probability of Dorsey starting the season opener: 10 percent

Probability of Dorsey being released/traded: 50 percent

Brady Quinn

Strengths: He has all the goods for stardom: Strong arm, mobile feet, Notre Dame pedigree, poster-boy looks and a team in desperate need of a leader.

Weaknesses: Still rough around the edges, doesn't yet fully understand how much faster the NFL game is than college, 11-day holdout robbed him of valuable jelling time with his receivers.

Given the state of the Browns' quarterbacks, if Quinn impresses during the remaining camp and exhibition games, why shouldn't he start the season opener?

The fears of a Tim Couch redux are bogus. Couch was thrown to the wolves armed with an expansion team with a barely professional-level offensive line and Terry Kirby as the feature back. Quinn will have Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach protecting his blind side and will be handing the ball off to Jamal Lewis.

Having said that, if Quinn shows he's not ready, it is imperative Crennel and Phil Savage do not force-feed Quinn into the starting lineup. Quinn has to be the best option, not the least-worst.

If Quinn shows he's not ready to start, it's better that another QB, one who doesn't have the future of the franchise riding on his shoulders, absorb the early-season Pittsburgh-Cincinnati-Baltimore-New England gauntlet.

Probability of Quinn starting the season opener: 25 percent

Probability of Quinn being released/traded: 0 percent (we'd assume, anyway)


graham said...

I highly doubt Quinn will be ready to start Game 1 for the Browns or any NFL team. While he is a good prospect, it's unlikely he'll be adjusted to the pro game in this short amount of time. Plus, he's got some flaws, namely the deep ball and accuracy, that need to be worked out. You don't fall that hard in a draft for no reason.

Browns and their fans must be patient. The problem is even if he's not ready, he could be more ready than Charlie Frye or DA because those guys are backups. Savage probably messed up by not bringing in some kind of vet (a la Brad Johnson) to hold the reins while Quinn develops.

Zach said...

Chances of Quinn starting the opener? 25 percent.

Chance of Quinn convincing most Browns fans he should after ripping up Ball State's starting defense in his first preseason game? 100 percent.

Erik said...

True. But the last time Charlie Frye ripped up any defense, it actually WAS Ball State.