What to do with Anderson?
All last summer, I advocated making Derek Anderson the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. In all honesty, it was not because I believed in the young man from Scappoose but more I had no faith at all in Charlie Frye. New Browns offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski felt the same way but it took until Frye’s meltdown in the season opener to convince the Browns powers-that-be. I thought Anderson would be serviceable until Brady Quinn was ready. I also believed just getting rid of Frye would help because Brady would get more reps in practice.
You have to give credit to Derek Anderson for his performance this past season. He put up big numbers and helped the Browns to a 10-win season. He will now always have the Pro Bowl on his resume but lets not get too excited about his future. Anderson accomplished a great deal but he did not lead his team to the playoffs.
His agents, doing what agents are paid to do, are asking for Tony Romo money six-year, $67.5 million with an $11. 5 million signing bonus. The Browns invested in Brady Quinn are looking at a three-year contract. Anderson was quoted by the Plain Dealer as being disappointed by the Browns offer which was reported as being between $15 and $20 million over three years.
During the season, I stayed clear of all the articles about this budding controversy. What should the Browns do? While the season was in progress, it was silly and worthless. The truth is in the NFL; you should never unload a quarterback. As good as New England and Indianapolis have been the last few years, both franchises are one play away from not making the playoffs. While I would prefer to keep both Anderson and Quinn, the prospect of getting a first round and third round draft pick is salivating. Now we have a general manger that knows what he is doing, draft picks -- especially first day draft picks-- are a premium.
And to those who say Quinn is an unknown, I would argue that Anderson is not that much more known. He had a great start to the season but since halftime of the second Pittsburgh game, Anderson was hardly a franchise quarterback. It may not be fair but the reason the Browns did not make the playoffs can be traced to the final minutes of the first half of the Cincinnati game.
So the question is – Is Anderson a product of Chud’s offense and the weapons the Browns have assembled or is he truly a NFL franchise quarterback?
Sadly, I think the chances of getting first and third round picks- if there ever was one-- vanished because Tom Brady pulled out of the Pro Bowl. Based on the quote of a scout in today’s Plain Dealer on how Anderson’s 19 interceptions could have been doubled without defensive drops, NFL teams are well aware of his deficiencies. But sometimes talk radio and fans clamoring for off-season progress can influence an owner to force his management to do something. On paper getting a Pro Bowl quarterback who threw 29 touchdowns and led his team to 10 wins looks mighty tempting. But sadly anyone who watched the Pro Bowl saw the same thing we saw here in Cleveland over the last part of the season. Anderson is not very accurate and he looked away over his head.
Now I am not completing bashing Anderson, but if the Browns keep him I want to see an open competition for the starting position. It may not be fair to Anderson but the NFL is not about fair, it is about winning games and making the playoffs. The Browns schedule is much harder next season with games against playoff teams Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, Colts, Jaguars and Titans and the non playoff teams are all potential playoff teams as well including the Broncos, Bills, Texans and Eagles besides six tough divisional games.
The truth is the Browns could be better next year and win fewer games. If some team wants to give up two high picks for Anderson I will take my lumps with Quinn as the Browns continue to get competitive. That way, as much as it pains me to say, 2009 would be the season for them to really compete for the Super Bowl. And if Quinn develops quickly and the Browns find a d-line- maybe the Browns could compete next year. I am not convinced that Anderson could be better than he was this season. Will the upgrade in schedule and defenses expose him?
For those that argue it is insane to make a switch at quarterback after a huge breakout season, it worked for Bengals. Cincinnati has had its problems but I doubt any Bengal fan regrets giving away Joe Kitna’s job to Carson Palmer. And with less weapons, Kitna’s 2003 numbers are very competitive with Anderson’s this season.
Now I am not advocating getting rid of Anderson just for the sake of doing it. But if I were the Browns I would tender Anderson and see if a team takes the bait. If no one does and Anderson proves me wrong and proves he is a franchise quarterback, the Browns still have the 2008 season to negotiate with Anderson’s agents before he hits the market.
There is no reason to rush and commit to Anderson for six years and big money. The NFL is a business and the Browns have the leverage. They should keep it.