Saturday, July 5, 2008

Who Can QB? - Revisited

The one topic that just won’t go away for the Cleveland Browns and their fans is the never-ending Derek Anderson versus Brady Quinn debate.

Prior to last season when the position was in total chaos I broke down the pro and cons of Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn and the incumbent starter, Charlie Frye.

Here is what I said about Anderson and Quinn prior to last year (I’ll spare you the Charlie Frye analysis):

Derek Anderson
Height: 6'-6"
Weight: 230
College: Oregon State

“Started 38 consecutive games for the Beavers on his was to becoming the school's all time leader in passing yardage and touchdowns culminating in a 38-21 defeat of Notre Dame in the 2004 Insight Bowl where he was named the game MVP. He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the 6th Round of the 2005 NFL Draft. The Browns claimed him in Week 3 of the '05 season when the Ravens placed him on waivers in hopes of stashing him on their practice squad.

Prototypical size for NFL quarterback. Above average mobility despite his lanky frame. Quick, accurate release. Strong arm with plenty of zip on the football. Stays in the pocket under pressure and is shifty enough to dodge and shrug off potential tacklers. Intelligent player with a good football senses.

Became too predictable to the opposing defense with each passing start. Defences were able to disguise coverages very effectively causing him to be confused and throw into coverage more often that not. Sometimes too much of a gunslinger as he seemed prone to the interception when trying to force throws. Unable to make an effective read off the line of scrimmage which leads him to lock onto one receiver.

DA seems to have all the "tools" to be an effective NFL quarterback. Whether or not he can refine those tools into being an effective NFL quarterback is yet to be seen. He seemed to thrive in the back-up QB role by single handedly winning the Kansas City game and being the only man to show up for the Thursday night game in Pittspuke. Needs to work the mental side of quarterbacking to succeed long term. I see him being the prototypical back-up QB who can come into the game in relief or make a spot start and thrive but I think his tendencies make him too predictable to be the long term starter.”

Brady Quinn
Height: 6'-3"
Weight: 226
College: Notre Dame

“As a three year starter for the Fighting Irish, shattered 36 school records including career pass attempts, completions, yards, yards per game, touchdown passes, and lowest interception percentage. Won 29 games as a starter which is tied for most in school history. Ranks in the top ten in NCAA Division I history in career pass attempts, passing yards, and touchdown passes. Was selected in the 1st Round of the 2007 NFL Draft (22nd overall) by the Browns.

Just like Charlie Frye, Quinn is Cleveland born and Cleveland bred so he too lives, dies and bleeds orange and brown. Perfect college pedigree after studying under offensive guru Charlie Weis his last two years at Notre Dame. Played in an NFL style system under Weis and thrived in it. Extremely intelligent as he graduated from ND with a double major in Finance and Political Science and was one of the highest scorers on the pre-draft Wonderlic Test given to every draft prospect. Prototypical size for NFL QB, very athletic and calm in the pocket. May have a chip on his shoulder after 21 other teams passed on him in the 2007 NFL Draft.

Seems to lack accuracy at times on throws to the sideline or down the field. Wears his emotions on his sleeve at times which some consider to be a lack of confidence and leadership. Many of his statistics in college came versus what many believe to be sub-par talent due to the weak schedule Notre Dame carried as an independent program. Suffers from a supposed big game stigma as he failed to win a Bowl Game or a game against a top ranked program during his entire college career. A work out freak, which some consider to be a bad trait for quarterbacks as they need more arm and shoulder flexibility and less muscle mass.

Brady Quinn seems to be the national media whipping boy. From his demeanor at the NFL Draft to his hair style it seems everyone loves to hate Brady... He is not in the same league as JaMarcus Russell... He played against inferior talent... He can't win the big game...

But isn't this the guy who was the consensus #1 pick if he would have come out after his Junior year in 2006? Isn't this the same guy who would have beaten USC if Reggie Bush hadn't illegally pushed Matt Leinart into the end zone in 2006? Isn't this the same guy who has put up monster numbers against top college level talent only to have his defense give up 40+ points and lose?

I'm not saying Brady Quinn is the next Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer or Tom Brady. But I don't think he's the next Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf or Tim Couch. I do think that he will be a more than solid NFL QB for years to come due to his work ethic, determination and desire to prove his doubters wrong.

Now despite all his tools and talent, the NFL game is a totally different speed that the NCAA. Unless he just plays like gang busters in training camp he should not start the season as QB1. Even though the Browns have improved their O-Line and have weapons that neither Tim Couch or Charlie Frye had in their rookie seasons, I get the vibe that Quinn will need some time to adjust to the NFL game (a la Carson Palmer or Steve McNair).

The last thing the Browns need to do is ruin another rookie QB like Couch or Frye, especially one that actually has a ton of talent. Quinn needs to learn for a year or so. Play here or there in 2007 when the situation allow it and build for launch in 2008. The 2007 Cleveland Browns do not have a large chance to be a factor in the NFL. The 2008 Cleveland Browns do. Especially now that they have their "Franchise QB" on their roster.

And for those who say the Browns gave up too much for him with the 2008 1st round draft pick... the only two "top tier" QBs coming out in 2008 are Brian Brohm of Louisville and Colt Brennan of Hawaii. I will take Brady Quinn over them in a heartbeat.”

We all know how it panned out. Frye and Anderson looked awful in the pre-season while Quinn shined against opponents B and C Squads. Frye started the season opening day debacle against the Steelers, was benched after less than a half and traded before Week 2. Anderson stepped in and pulled off one of the most amazing out-of-nowhere stories in the NFL regulating Quinn to the bench for all but ten plays in the season finale in the process.

Despite the amazing 2007 and being the incumbent starter, there are some who think Anderson is a fluke and that Quinn is the better player. Browns GM Phil Savage re-upped Anderson for another three years, but odds are 2008 will be the last year the two will co-exist. Anderson is the man, barring any sort of injury or complete nosedive, and he should be.

Until then, Quinn is regulated to clipboard duty and studying film with Browns’ 3rd QB Ken Dorsey. We can only hope that his intense work ethic and dedication can push Anderson to continue to improve as well. According to reports by ESPN’s John Clayton from Browns’ mini-camp, Quinn did just that.

That’s all The Golden Boy can do because, like it or not, Derek Anderson is the man for the Cleveland Browns at quarterback… for now.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Isn't This What We Want as Cleveland Browns Fans

The general feeling about the Cleveland Browns in 2008 is polarizing to the extreme. On one side you have those who have the Browns as the “sexy pick” of the year. They are a young, exciting team who greatly exceeded expectations in 2007 that features a dynamic offense and plays an inordinate amount of close, dramatic games.

A team who’s General Manager, Phil Savage, made some bold, yet risky, moves to fix a weak defensive line that he identified as a problem. A team for the first time since its reincarnation has a core group of players who have carried over from the past couple of seasons. A team, which for the first time since the early 1990s, has some high profile, budding players that are recognized nationally.

On the other side you have the nay-sayers who believe the Browns’ 2007 success was based on a weak schedule and down year for the AFC North. Those pundits say that despite going 10-6 and missing the playoffs by a tiebreaker the Browns blew a chance at the post-season by producing a late season stink pickle against the Cincinnati Bengals. They point to the fact that the Browns registered losses to NFL bottom-feeders like the Bengals, Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders.

That there is no way they will be able to repeat that kind of performance in 2008. They say that the performances of Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow were a fluke. They haven’t beaten the hated Pittsburgh Steelers in almost five years. And the 2008 schedule? No way will the Browns make it out alive with games against the NFC East and AFC South. And with all those prime time and 4:00 games the Browns will wilt under the pressure of the limelight.

But my question to you, the Cleveland Browns faithful, whichever side you may fall on is this:


To see if 2007 was an aberration or a stepping stone to the next level?

To see if the Reincarnation of the Kardiac Kids can produce points at the same rate?

To see if Phil Savage’s atypical way of addressing the porous defensive line will work?

To see how the team responds after faltering down the stretch and blowing a playoff spot last year?

To see if Derek Anderson is the QB of the future for this franchise or if the Golden Boy, Brady Quinn, is the real deal?

To see if the Browns can actually take care of business against the arrogant Appalachian Inbred a couple hours SE on the turnpike and make it a real rivalry once again?

To see how the Browns stack up against the crème de la crème of the NFL?

For too long the psyche of the Cleveland Browns fan has been fragile at best. They have seen a lot of lows, especially lately, but they are still here living, breathing and barking. I understand the trepidation that comes with high expectations. You need look no further than the 2008 Cleveland Indians who have crumbled under the weight of perception. One always has to be realistic in any situation.

But that doesn’t mean to expect failure either. It’s time to shed “the woe is me” attitude that often permeates a Cleveland sports fan. It’s time to stop blaming things on bad luck or curses. Those are just excuses for failing to get the job done or being beaten by the better team. Suck it up and be a man, learn from past failures and use it to make yourself better. You are a Cleveland Browns fan, dammit!

For the first time since 1995, the Cleveland Browns have legitimate, lofty hopes and dreams. Whether the 2008 season ends with them at 6-10, 8-8 or 10-6 it will tell us exactly where they stand in the hierarchy of the NFL. How they match up against the league’s best. How they handle the pressure of being on the National TV stage week in and week out. How they handle those lofty expectations.

Yes, it will be difficult. Yes, it will be stressful. Yes, it will have its ups and downs. And yes, it will be thrilling. But as a Cleveland Browns fan, isn’t that exactly what you want?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Say Goodnight to 2008 and Prep for 2009

I can’t take anymore after last night. It’s the same script day in and day out. Take one exceptional starting pitching performance, sprinkle in minimal support from the offense to tie or take the lead only to have the bullpen hand the game right back to the opponent in painfully excruciating fashion. Ladies and gentlemen… Your 2008 Cleveland Indians!

Last night was even more painful as revitalized Cliff Lee was once again a victim on the Tribe’s tragic 2008 formula. Lee could conceivably be 15-1 or even 14-0 if the offense was somewhat existent and the bullpen was just cohesive. Just as they failed C. C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona last year, the team looks to be squandering Lee’s attempt to be the Indians’ first 20 game winner since Gaylord Perry in 1974.

I will give the offense a pass last night as John Danks has been just as impressive as Lee this season, but it doesn’t help that the team continues to struggle to score three, let alone four, runs on any given night. If anything they battled all night long as Casey Blake’s solo homer in the 10th gave the Tribe the lead for mere moments. But that is one of the Indians’ few weapons, the solo home run. I reiterate: two runs make it difficult to win.

Ironically, on a night when Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez actually looked like Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez circa 2007 the bullpen still collapsed under the pressure of a close game. I’ll be nice. Joe Borowski looks done. When Alexei Ramirez, DeWayne Wise and Orlando Cabrera beat you with relative ease, it’s time to say sayonara.

Realistically, 2008 has been over for the Tribe for weeks. They went 6-12 in Interleague Play when no other team in the AL Central went worse than 12-6. That 6-12 was also against the last place Cincinnati Reds and every team in the NL West that is below .500 in a division where the leader is 42-42.

They are 13-18 versus the AL Central after going 48-24 in 2007. Now they sit in last place, all by their lonesome and 11.5 games behind the White Sox, who have beaten them five straight times. Even the usually hapless Kansas City Royals look to have more spark than the Erie Warriors.

Because of all of this I think it safe to dole out some things that I’d like to see the rest of the year to prep for 2009. So here are Ten Things I’d Like to See the Tribe Do for the Rest of 2008:

10. See What Andy Marte Can Do
Listen I know he has been horrible this year. I know he did nothing out of camp last year. But give the kid a couple weeks of playing time and see what he’s made of. He hasn’t exactly gotten an extended look this year. If anything you can unequivocally cut bait if he fails.

9. Make Kobayashi the Closer
Iron Joe is d-o-n-e done. Masa has a history of closing in Japan. Let’s see if he can do it over the course of a few months here in the US. If anything you can mix in a few of the young arms here or there when he needs a rest but he is the only arm on the staff now that I even have an inkling of faith in. Plus he has not appeared in any Japanese alternative-lifestyle films to date and should be rewarded for that.

8. Bring Back The As-Man!... At Shortstop
I have already spewed by venom towards Jhonny “Don’t Call Me Honey” Peralta in this forum I don’t need to do it anymore. Bottom line, if you are going to build a team around pitching as the Indians are inclined to do, then you need excellent defense at the important positions. Asdrubal Cabrera has been playing SS exclusively since his demotion to AAA Buffalo and it is his natural position. He seems to be working out his swing and hopefully it will translate when he returns. I don’t care what you do with Honey… 3B, DH, trade him or cane him, whatever. He is not the answer at SS for this team.

7. Bid Adieu to The Looch
I thought David Dellucci could help this team. He is not. Not even a little. All he is doing is stealing ABs from the younger guys who need them. Trade him, trade him and pay part of his contract, buy him out, release him but he’s only hurting this team. Seeing what a Brad Snyder or a Trevor Crowe can do at this point is much more important.

6. Get Some Athleticism
This may be the most unathletic, uncoordinated and slowest baseball team I have ever seen. Ever. I think the Browns offensive and defensive lines could outrun half the guys on the team. Is it any coincidence that the most athletic player on the team, Grady Sizemore, is the best player on the team right now? Or that when the athletic Ben Francisco and Shin-soo Choo are in the line-up the Indians can actually do things other than play station to station baseball? And solo home runs! The Tribe loves them some solo home runs!

5. Find Out if Ryan Garko is a Viable MLB First Baseman
In a season of disappointments, Garko is often overlooked because so many other guys have been worse. But his lack of power, so-so defense and streaky hitting this season are disconcerting. I thought he’d make big strides this year. He has… backwards.

4. Get Uncle Eric a Personality
I am neither pro or anti Eric Wedge. But I have grown tired of the monotonous press conferences and sound bites. It has worn stale on me and I think it has in the clubhouse as well. A manager has to evolve just as his players do. This see-sawing of even and odd number years has to stop. I don’t put 2008 on him as much as I do Mark Shapiro but Uncle Eric needs to evolve if he wants people to think he is the man to lead this team for years to come.

3. Shop Anyone Not Named Sizemore, Martinez or Carmona
Anyone who can help the Indians is already here. The farm system is not as deep as it once was. Mark Shapiro needs to listen to any and all offers to try and restock for 2009 and 2010. Most of our talent is signed through then. If Shapiro wants to reload rather than rebuild then everyone should be fair game. There are too many holes to fill to not listen to offers.

2. Bring Up the Young Arms
I hope Scott Elarton is all right as he was placed on the Restricted List but he serves no purpose for the Indians. Neither does Rick Bauer who, by the way, stinks. Jensen Lewis has been tweaking his delivery and velocity in AA long enough. Let’s see how he does in the bigs. Let’s see if Brian Slocum has made the conversion to reliever. Rich Rundles, Jeff Stevens and anyone else worthy should be up here seeing if then can contribute to the Tribe. Elarton and Bauer are just taking up space for no reason at this point.

1. Aggressively Shop C. C. Sabathia
Sabathia isn’t resigning here. I don’t blame him for that and appreciate all he has done for the team and city. Every start until he leaves should be treasured by Indians fans. He should be cheered when he eventually comes back to Cleveland as an opponent. The Indians have been scouting potential trade partners and sending out feelers for interest. Shapiro and company need to aggressively shop the hefty lefty. Go to Team A, set the bar high, and tell them what you want. Do the same for Team B and so on and so forth. Someone will get desperate and pull the trigger and overpay. It may not be a Bartolo Colon type deal but Shapiro has every opportunity to get the maximum return on his investment. Do not let the other team drive the negotiations. The Indians have the asset that other covet, they should be using leverage to their advantage. Anything less will set the franchise back.

There are probably ten more things I could mention but these are the ten that ramble around my warped mind on a routine basis. The success of 2007 has made it difficult to let go of 2008 so quickly. Last year, this team was such a joy to watch, write about and discuss that the performance in 2008 has been such a tremendous let down. 2008 has also exposed so many flaws in the organization that it has flipped Indians’ fans topsy-turvy. But the Indians have a chance to set some of the foundation for 2009 and beyond. They just need to realize its time to say goodnight to 2008.