CLEVELAND — This is no ordinary preseason game. It can’t be when the starting quarterback job is on the line.
“It’s possible that a starter could come out of this game,” Browns coach Romeo Crennel said Thursday. “If it plays out the way we want it, then we’ll announce a starter. If it’s still close, we might have to alternate a little bit more.”
Time is running out for Crennel to pick between Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson. The opener Sept. 9 vs. the Steelers is three weeks away.
Frye (12-for-15, 122 yards, 100.6 rating) was close to pulling away last week in the preseason opener. But two big mistakes — a lateral returned for a touchdown and letting time run out at halftime — let Anderson hang around.
And after a good week of practice, a standout performance tonight would let Anderson (7-for-16, 76 yards, 58.3 rating) move closer to claiming the starting job the Browns have tried to give him since he filled in for an injured Frye last season.
“It’s a big game,” Anderson said this week. “But it’s a preseason game and we’re going to try to get work and build on it. I just need to be ready to go whenever Coach says it’s my time.”
When it comes to the biggest story of training camp, Crennel holds all the cards. He decides who starts and how much each plays. And he keeps much of it a secret.
He flipped a coin to determine the starter vs. the Chiefs, and tonight he’ll tell the starter in the locker room before the game. The obvious choice is Anderson, because Frye won the flip last week.
The competitors will alternate, taking two series at a time.
“I think it’s important that a guy has to react on his feet,” Crennel said, explaining his secrecy. “I can’t please everybody. I have to please myself and try to find out who can do what.”
Anderson and Frye can be excused for feeling a little helpless.
How early does the opening-day starter need to know so he can prepare?
“It’s up to Coach,” Frye said.
When will the decision be made?
“It’s up to Coach,” Anderson said.
Rookie Brady Quinn even got into the mix. Will he play against Detroit?
“That is up to the coach,” Quinn said.
The rest of the team has fallen in line, supporting both quarterbacks and refusing to stir up any controversy. But the offensive players would like to know their leader as soon as possible.
“Somewhat, but we’re comfortable with whoever’s in there,” tight end Kellen Winslow said. “That’s a coach’s decision.”
Crennel insists delaying the decision isn’t detrimental to the growth of the offense in coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s new system.
“I think the position will be a better position as a result of the competition,” Crennel said.
But the decision must be made eventually, and the contestants feel the deadline looming.
“Every day I try to be perfect in practice and try not to have any balls on the ground,” Frye said. “That’s the way I approach it and if you make it hard like that in practice, then you go out in the game and it will be a little bit easier.”
The loser of the competition will be banished to the limited repetitions of the second team. But that’s only temporary with Quinn hovering. Eventually, the loser will run the scout team, or be traded or released if veteran Ken Dorsey is kept as the third quarterback/mentor for Quinn.
Frye doesn’t want to think about the ramifications, or if the Detroit game will determine who starts vs. Pittsburgh.
“That is up to (Crennel) and whoever else is making the decision,” he said. “I just go out here, take it one day at a time and really try not to think about those types of things. I just really try and get better every day and focus on that.”
Much of the attention of fans and media has shifted to Quinn since his arrival after an 11-day holdout. Crennel said he will play a little in the second half.
“He’s behind like I’ve been telling everybody,” Crennel said. “He’s missed a lot of time so he’s got some catching up to do even though he feels confident with the offense so far.
“It’s still different when you have to stand behind that line and the defense is blitzing on you. Like I said, I might give him a few snaps in the fourth quarter to see what he can do and we’ll go from there.”
This is no ordinary preseason game.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.