by Zac, Throwing Into Traffic
Offseason Moves You Missed is a feature that will highlight the NFL offseason action that didn’t receive as much attention as it deserved.
Since Bernie Kosar stepped down from the helm of the Cleveland Browns offense in 1992, the following men have started under center for the team prior to this past season: Vinny Testaverde (the old version, not the good version), Ty Detmer (of whom there is no “good version”), Tim Couch (who couldn’t even get halfway decent on steroids), Kelly Holcomb (I’m pretty sure being 3rd string on the Vikings makes you 2nd string on most flag football teams), Jeff Garcia (during his nomadic, sucky franchise years), Trent Dilfer (who mentored Charlie effing Frye), Charlie Frye (who was mentored by Trent effing Dilfer, and who inspired a photoshop job that made a few Browns fans laugh long enough to stop cutting themselves).
To say that none of those guys made the Pro Bowl is to say that the sun rose this morning, the sky was blue, and Kellen Winslow engaged in douchebaggery; some natural occurrences don’t need pointing out.
This history of futility changed, however, this past season, when the Browns discovered that, seated firmly on their bench behind the man whose quarterbacking tenure will be synonymous with “futility,” they had the passing weapon that would emerge as the biggest surprise of 2007. Having been shaky under center during his rookie season, Anderson emerged from Frye’s shadow this season seeming to have finally turned his unbelievable physical gifts into bona fide quarterback talent. The result: A 6’6” monster that roamed the league with a cannon of an arm and the size and strength to survive in the pocket. Frankenquarterback was born. Anderson finished the season among the top five quarterbacks in touchdowns thrown, and would have led the Browns to the playoffs if not for a bizarre loss in the final two weeks of the season (trust me, that sentence would have been much funnier a year ago). He also gave the team a presence under center that lent an offense filled with underachievers and troublemakers (Jamal Lewis was the “nice guy” among the skill players, and he’s done time for selling blow) a legitimacy that made other teams respect and even fear its firepower.
All of this makes it somewhat surprising that the Browns appear ready and willing to put a first and third tender on their Pro Bowl quarterback and let him test the waters of restricted free agency. After all, one would think that they’re crazy to let go of a quarterback who jumpstarted their offense, saved their head coach’s career, and developed chemistry with star receiving targets Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards (an act that I’m sure took at least some degree of orphan fighting).
In reality, however, the Browns may be making a brilliant move to speed up the resurrection of their franchise. Looking at the facts, this is a team that always had one solid possession receiver (Jurevicius) and two incredible downfield talents. In the past season, they revamped their offensive line and added a former Pro Bowl running back to the mix. Furthermore, both Winslow and Edwards seemed more mature this year, which is not uncommon given the trends with elite downfield talents (something about running twenty yards to catch passes turns people into pricks). Is it really that inconceivable to think that Anderson might not have had as much to do with the team’s turnaround as previously believed? After all, in the season before, Anderson hadn’t just been bad; he’d been AWFUL.
Now consider that waiting on the bench the Browns have Brady Quinn, a talented young quarterback that they gave up this year’s first round draft pick for, one that has spent a year learning on the sidelines and is costing the team a ton of money for his current job of holding a clipboard. Given that Quinn showed potential under center in his limited action, it’s certainly not crazy to think that he could succeed using the same high caliber offensive weapons that Anderson had. Furthermore, consider that as much as he deserves credit for helping the Browns emerge as a playoff contender this season, Anderson also deserves a lot of the blame for them not making it, as his inconsistent performance in the second half of the season lost the team a couple of close games to teams they should have beaten. While the mentality in Cleveland has long been that a star quarterback was what the team needed, maybe all that was required was a decent one, and Anderson just happened to be good enough to not get in the way of his more talented surrounding parts (look at the above list and you’ll understand how that could have been mistaken for greatness in Cleveland). Quinn, on the other hand, has already shown in limited action an ability to function adequately under center, and has been projected as having a much higher upside than Frankenquarterback.
Given that so many teams will be willing to make moves to obtain Anderson (and rightfully so, considering that even if he is just a good quarterback he’s still good enough to start right now on several teams), this could be the perfect chance for the Browns to sell high and get back the draft picks that they lost in acquiring the man who was originally supposed to be the franchise quarterback. Bear in mind that this is the worst defense in the league we’re talking about here, and drastic revamping is needed, the kind that comes from having draft picks readily available to fill the multiple holes that exist. As they’ve struggled to become a team based upon a leader under center, the Browns have strangely managed to become the kind of team that can succeed with simple competency at the quarterback position. Getting first round talent for competency is value in any trade chart, and with another first round talent waiting in the wings to pick up where Anderson leaves off, the Browns may not be throwing away the key to their success as much as they’d be replacing one cog in an already functioning machine for a brighter, shinier cog, along with adding a whole lot of other nifty parts as well.
by Zac, Throwing Into Traffic