DENVER — For most NFL teams, the third preseason game is the dress rehearsal. The starters play a half or three quarters, as they try to fine-tune things in their last significant action before the regular season.
The Browns aren’t most teams. Most teams aren’t still trying to pick a starting quarterback.
“Our approach this training camp has been just get our team ready for the opener,” general manager Phil Savage said on WTAM 1100-AM this week. “It doesn’t have to be typical, it doesn’t have to be traditional, let’s do what we need to do to make sure we have the best chance to win.”
Coach Romeo Crennel varied from his summer routine Monday and named Charlie Frye the starter for tonight’s game in Denver. The nod appears to give Frye the inside track to starting the season opener Sept. 9, but his lead over Derek Anderson is about as comfortable as a Joe Borowski appearance.
Crennel refuses to name the opening-day starter and said he’ll re-evaluate the position weekly. He’s been asked repeatedly if he’s disappointed neither Frye nor Anderson seized the job.
“I’m not disappointed in the guys, it’s a good competition,” Crennel said Thursday. “They worked very hard at it. Competition makes everybody better.”
The theory’s solid, but the evidence hasn’t been there this camp. Neither Frye nor Anderson has led a touchdown drive in two preseason games, and both looked uncomfortable as Crennel delayed picking a starter until pregame, then shuffled them in and out of the games.
“It’s a little bit (confusing),” Anderson said of Crennel’s ambiguity. “Obviously he wants to leave it a little bit out there for us to keep us working, for guys not to kind of throw it in if he declares a guy. I think he’s handled it pretty well the last couple weeks.”
Frye said he expects the week of work with the first team and the uninterrupted time tonight — the starters will play at least the first half — to help the offensive flow.
“It’s got to,” he said. “We’re getting ready for the season. It’s four quarters, it’s not rotating series. The more work you get, the more confidence you’re going to feel getting ready for the season.
“I feel like I’m ready to play. I just want to look sharp.”
Frye talks as if he’s going to be under center when the Steelers visit for the opener. That’s how the incumbent is expected to talk, and a good night in the Rockies would certainly ease some minds at team headquarters. Of course, Anderson and rookie Brady Quinn said they believe they’re still in the mix.
While the fans and media have been consumed with the quarterback saga, Savage recommended taking a deep breath.
“It’s gonna resolve itself. I’m not even concerned about it,” he said. “We’re going to do it the right way and the right way is to try to win right now and get Brady ready to go on the side. When those tracks merge, I think we’ll be really good.”
The team’s philosophy all along has been to ease Quinn into the starting role. Despite the cries from the fans, that doesn’t change just because Quinn was nearly flawless in two fourth-quarter touchdown drives against the Detroit scrubs in his professional debut.
But Quinn will probably jump ahead of Ken Dorsey and be the third quarterback into the game, and the Browns would love to see him against the first- or second-team defense.
So would Quinn.
“To not only see what I can do against them, but do with our first-team guys,” he said, adding he has “no idea” when he’ll play. “It would be nice just to work in with those guys in a game-type scenario.”
For tonight, that privilege belongs primarily to Frye. But he isn’t about to let up, even with a “leg up” again in the competition.
“You have to go out and prove yourself every day,” he said. “We have Pittsburgh Week 1 and you don’t want to let up on anything knowing these guys are coming into town.
“This competition is pushing us. I think it is just making us all better. It will show in the first week of the season.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Cleveland at Denver
TIME: 9 o’clock
WHERE: Invesco Field at Mile High, Denver
TV/RADIO: Channel 3; WMMS 100.7-AM