Sunday, August 12, 2007

It Wasn't As Bad As Advertised

I read the accounts of last night's Browns game in this morning's Beacon Journal and Plain Dealer, and it occurs to me that those reporters may well have written their stories before the game even started, and decided that it adhered closely enough to their chosen plot line that there was no need to revise their stories to fit what actually happened.

If you read Pat McManamon's account of the game, you'll find that neither Charlie Frye nor Derek Anderson took a step forward last night, and that the Browns QB situation remains as muddled as ever. Meanwhile, back at The Plain Dealer, field events aficionado Bill Livingston tore himself away from his beloved pole vaulters just long enough to opine that neither QB capitalized on the opportunity to claim the starting spot.

Yeah, yeah, yeah -- all I can say is that if it had been Brady Quinn who turned in the performance that Charlie Frye did last night, the local media would be falling all over itself anointing him as the team's savior. Unfortunately for Charlie, the party line on him is that he's yesterday's news, and that's how the story line will read for him until he definitively proves otherwise.

Sure, Charlie showed us that he hasn't lost all of his bad habits, although I'm more concerned about the decision-making at the end of the half than I am about the abysmal swing pass to Jerome Harrison that ended up going the other way. That play was ugly, but it's an execution problem and it's fixable. Whether Charlie's propensity to make bad decisions at key points in a game is fixable remains an open issue.

It's hard not to focus on the two brain-dead plays that Frye made in the first half that ended up killing two drives, but to do so to the exclusion of everything else he did in the team's first preseason game obscures some good news. Most importantly, Frye showed a lot more patience in the pocket last night than he ever did last season, and it resulted in several impressive deep completions that were only possible because he didn't run around like a scared jackrabbit.

Frye's overall numbers were very good, particularly when you take into account Romeo Crennel's strange decision to have his QBs alternate offensive series, thus making it hard for either of them to get into the flow of the game. For the night, Frye was 12 of 15 for 122 yards. He averaged 8.1 yards per attempt, and his overall QB rating was 100.6. Those are pretty impressive stats for a guy who has only been in camp for two weeks.

What makes them even more impressive is the team that he posted them against. The Chiefs defense is supposed to be one of the best in the league this season. Despite their continuing inability to punch the ball into the end zone, the Browns managed to drive 49 yards for a field goal against the Chiefs first unit (which only played the first quarter), and dominated the Chiefs statistically during the first half. The Browns were by no means good on offense, but let's keep things in perspective -- they were a hell of a lot better than they were in the first preseason game last year.

There are a lot of questions about the Browns, including whether Charlie Frye has what it takes to be a starting QB in the NFL, but dismissing his overall performance on the basis of two bad plays is a mistake. There's quite a bit of work to be done, but I'm not as down on Frye's performance as the media was. I thought he showed some improvement over last season, and came away from it thinking that he's got a chance to be decent.

I don't want to get carried away here, because there's no way anybody should look at the first five weeks of this season with anything but dread, but if Frye's decent, the Browns just might have a chance to be decent too.


Ben said...


Maybe I've watched too many bad football games over the years, but I was encouraged by Saturday night's game. Frye looked decent- yes he made a bone head play at the end, but he also made a lot of good decisions as well.

And screw all the QB stuff, I was more concerned about the play calling that didn't result in one pass attempt into the endzone.

Hornless Rhino said...

To me, the big question on Charlie is whether he's going to continue to make bonehead plays if he's got enough time to make better decisions.

My gut feeling on him is that his mistakes can be coached out of him, and that he's got the makings of a decent NFL QB. The tough call is how long should the Browns spend trying to find out if I'm right.

I view Frye's overall performance on Saturday night's as a sign that he's progressing. Nevertheless, the guy's incredibly frustrating because even with all he did right, he made a couple of very bad decisions that had huge consequences for the team.

Mistakes that he was directly involved in accounted at least a 10 point swing in the game, and that's huge. So there's definitely ammo for the Frye bashers in his performance as well.

Despite his shortcomings, I think Frye is the guy who is going to give the Browns the best chance to win football games in 2007. But that assessment depends in large part on his ability to break himself of his habit of making downright stupid decisions in critical situations.

Like I said, my bet is that he can break himself of this habit if he's got a decent line in front of him. As a practical matter, I think that's also the only bet that the Browns can make right now as well. They've invested too much of their future in Quinn to throw him to the dogs, and I don't think that Anderson is a viable option over the long term.