Browns replace Anderson at QB with Quinn

Published 2:39 am Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Here’s a switch: The Cleveland Browns dropped Derek Anderson.

The inconsistent Pro Bowl quarterback, whose production this season has been slowed by dropped passes, was benched on Monday by the Browns, who will start popular backup Brady Quinn on Thursday night against the Denver Broncos in hopes of turning around a disappointing season.

The surprising and unexpected swap was announced Monday by the team, just hours after coach Romeo Crennel said he had no plans to make a change.

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On Sunday, Anderson threw a costly interception that was returned for a touchdown in the final minutes of a 37-27 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The pick prompted Browns fans to begin chants of “Brady! Brady!” for Quinn, the former Notre Dame star who has thrown just eight passes in two seasons.

Those fans are getting their wish.

A team spokesman said Crennel and Quinn would not be available for comment until Tuesday.

Earlier, Quinn was asked for his reaction to hearing fans scream his name.

“We lost the game, really that’s all that matters,” he said. “That’s something in the NFL, everyone always loves the backup. That’s just how it is.”

Browns center Hank Fraley found out about Anderson’s demotion when he got a text message during the afternoon from the QB.

“I was surprised,” Fraley said. “I’ve become real good friends with Derek and I feel for him. I told him to stay positive. He will. He’s a team player.”

Anderson had gone 132 pass attempts without an interception before he was picked off by Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who stepped in front of a screen pass and ran it back 42 yards for a TD. Anderson finished 17-of-33 for 219 yards and two TDs, but the 25-year-old’s stats would have been even better if wide receiver Braylon Edwards hadn’t let a certain TD pass in the fourth quarter slip through his hands with the game tied.

Edwards leads the NFL with 13 drops, and Anderson has had to throw to wide receivers Syndric Steptoe and Steve Sanders, two former backups who have played only because of injuries to Donte’ Stallworth and Joe Jurevicius.

Fraley was asked if Anderson, who has completed less than half his passes, was the fall guy for the Browns, who were expected to contend for a playoff spot coming off a 10-6 season in 2007.

“That was the coaches’ decision,” he said. “Maybe they feel like he (Quinn) will bring a spark. It’s tough because Derek is a great guy, a team leader and a captain. We just haven’t been playing well around him. It’s a shock to everybody on this team. It’s their decision and we’re going to have to live with it.”

Anderson led the Browns to 10 wins last season, and after an 0-3 start, he had guided the Browns (3-5) to three victories in their past four games before Sunday’s loss î Cleveland’s second to Baltimore this season.

Crennel had hinted about a change at quarterback following a Sept. 21 loss at Baltimore. But he stuck with the strong-armed Anderson, a former backup who threw 29 TD passes last season and made the Pro Bowl.

During his news conference Monday, Crennel was asked if he was considering a change at quarterback.

“No, I haven’t really,” he said. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to the coaches or anything. With a short week, I told them to go ahead and get started on Denver. They haven’t even looked at this game yet.”

Crennel was then asked if Anderson was still his starter.

“Yes,” he said, “as of right now.”

Former Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer, now an analyst for ESPN, feels the Anderson benching was the team’s knee-jerk reaction to fan backlash.

“Public opinion has made this decision for the Browns,” said Dilfer, who was Cleveland’s starter in 2005 before he lost his job to Charlie Frye. “I have spoken to coaches who have said, ‘This is not Derek Anderson’s fault.’ In fact, at times he’s played better than his statistics have showed. This is a function of the defense not getting off the football field; Braylon Edwards, a superstar receiver who’s supposed to make all the plays to make you better, having 14 drops at least. It’s about their playmakers, Kellen Winslow, not being there, not being dependable. It’s about people not being at their best and Derek Anderson burdening the responsibility for this.

“This is an organization that I played for for a year and I saw very closely that the organization itself is highly dysfuctional and cannot make decisions that are good for the long-term growth of the organization.”

With their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy, the Browns feel it’s time to see what they have in Quinn, who didn’t play as a rookie until the final game of 2007, when he came in for one series and led the Browns to a field goal. Quinn was 3-of-8 for 45 yards and had a TD pass dropped by Winslow.

On the first day of the 2007 draft, the Browns traded a first-round pick in 2008 to Dallas and selected Quinn with the No. 22 overall selection. Quinn had been expected to go much higher, but the four-year starter for the Fighting Irish sat in the wings at Radio City Music Hall in New York waiting for his name to be called.

In two starts during the exhibition season, Quinn completed 21 of 33 passes for 171 yards.

Fraley is confident Quinn is ready for the spotlight.

“He’s young, so you don’t know what to expect but he has worked hard and he’ll be ready,” Fraley said. “Derek and the other quarterbacks are always together, 24-7. Brady is always prepared because as a backup you are always one play away. He’s been doing it the whole season.

“I know Brady has been waiting for his turn and I’m not sure this is the way he envisioned getting it. We’re going to play hard for whoever is back there, and now it’s Brady.”