BEREA — Five weeks ago, Derek Anderson was seen as a stopgap between Charlie Frye and Brady Quinn.
Five starts and three wins later, Anderson is considered the biggest reason the Browns are 3-3 at the bye and owners of the third-highest-scoring offense in the NFL. He has silenced the chants for Quinn while erasing many of the painful memories of the Frye experiment.
“That’s very apparent when you watch the film,” tight end Steve Heiden said Monday of Anderson’s unparalleled impact. “He’s making some throws some big-time guys would make. He’s doing some big-time things right now.”
Anderson has completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,496 yards (sixth in the NFL) with 14 touchdowns (third), eight interceptions and an 89.0 rating. The Browns have averaged 32 points in his five starts, including a 41-31 win over the Dolphins on Sunday, and are third in scoring (27.8 points) behind New England and Dallas.
“He’s improving, just like this offense,” running back Jason Wright said. “He’s going to be really, really good.”
When Anderson struggled through the preseason and failed to lead a touchdown drive in four games, Frye was named the starter for the opener vs. Pittsburgh. He flopped, was benched in the first half of the 34-7 home loss and traded two days later in an unprecedented move.
Anderson was handed the job and has run with it.
“You really didn’t know how it was going to play out,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “As the thing went along there was the good Derek and the bad Derek. Now, he is maturing.
“It’s not final and we still have to go week-to-week and he still has to improve. But he has shown some improvement and he’s put some points on the board.”
Anderson was 18-for-25 for 245 yards, three touchdown passes to Braylon Edwards, a 1-yard touchdown run and a career-best 142.5 rating vs. Miami. He’d put up big numbers before — 51 points and five touchdowns in Week 2 vs. Cincinnati — but had never gone without an interception in seven previous starts.
“Being patient, making good decisions and growing as a quarterback every week is key,” Anderson said.
His growth was most evident on incompletions Sunday, when instead of forcing the ball into coverage he threw it away. The week before in New England, Anderson tried to force a pass into the end zone and was intercepted.
“You learn from those,” Crennel said. “As you gain that experience, you begin to make better decisions.”
Anderson opened eyes last year in his first significant playing time, leading an overtime win over Kansas City after Frye was hurt. His strong arm was always evident, but that game showed Crennel and the front office that the talent could translate to the field on Sundays.
“Until you get in the game and produce in the game, you really don’t know,” Crennel said. “He was able to go in, produce, bring the team back, get it into overtime and then win it in overtime. That showed me a little something there.”
His extended success this season has been a shock to many, but his teammates said they’ve seen the potential all along.
“I don’t think he was much of an unknown inside this locker room, as he was outside of it,” Heiden said. “Anytime you gain experience, he’s going to continue to get better. That’s the exciting thing.”
Anderson’s unexpected success has delayed indefinitely the professional debut of Quinn, the rookie from Notre Dame who was drafted No. 22 to be the face and the future of the franchise. Quinn was asked if it’s easier to take standing on the sideline when Anderson is playing so well.
“It’s easier for our team and everyone else when he plays like that,” Quinn said. “You have to give him kudos for everything he’s done.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.