Anderson’s poor play coming under fire

Published 4:24 am Thursday, October 29, 2009

BEREA — Derek Anderson stepped up to the podium and began his weekly news conference with a weather update.

‘‘It’s raining,’’ the Browns beleaguered quarterback said.

It seems Anderson has spent weeks under a metaphoric cloud.

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Since replacing Brady Quinn as Cleveland’s starter in Week 3, Anderson has been awful. He’s made bad throws, poor decisions, fumbled, stumbled and generally looked lost. It hasn’t helped that the Browns recently traded his top target, wide receiver Braylon Edwards, but Anderson’s poor play has contributed to the current messy state the Browns (1-6) are in.

As personal policy, Anderson doesn’t look at his statistics. He knows they’re not pretty.

‘‘Honestly, they are garbage,’’ he said Wednesday. ‘‘I haven’t looked at them since I started playing.’’

Good thing. In his case, Anderson’s ignorance is bliss.

A Pro Bowler in 2007, Anderson is currently the lowest-rated quarterback in the NFL with a 40.6 mark — the third-worst rating through seven weeks this decade. According to STATS LLC, only Ryan Leaf (34.5 in 2000) and Kerry Collins (37.5 in 2006) have started a season as poorly.

Anderson’s performance over a three-game span against Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Green Bay is one for the NFL history books. He has completed only 32.9 percent of his passes (23 of 70) in the three games, the smallest percentage of any QB with at least 70 attempts since the Los Angeles Raiders’ Steve Beuerlein (31.9) in 1988.

Also, Anderson’s 244 passing yards in the span are the fewest for a QB with 70 passes since Chicago’s Vince Evans (212) in 1981.

That’s not the kind of company you want to keep.

And yet, Browns coach Eric Mangini believes Anderson gives Cleveland’s offense the best chance to move the ball.

Anderson is grateful for the support, but it’s not like Mangini has guaranteed him the job for the remainder of the season.

‘‘I haven’t actually had a conversation with him about that,’’ he said.

These are not the best of times for the Browns, but the fun-loving, down-to-earth Anderson is keeping his chinstrap up and working hard to improve. He’s been staying late to study film with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, looking for ways to get Cleveland’s offense in gear.

The Browns have scored four offensive TDs all season, and their lone rushing score came on a 1-yard scramble by Anderson.

Progress has been slow and the season, not even halfway over, is spiraling downward. But Anderson said it’s not any tougher to come to work.

‘‘I’ve probably learned more this year so far, more football and understanding things,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m enjoying the football aspect of it — not necessarily the games right now. That’s the disappointing part. But I’m learning more and getting better.’’

Anderson threw 29 TD passes two years ago, but that was when he had an arsenal of offensive weapons.

Edwards is gone, Kellen Winslow was traded and Joe Jurevicius retired. In their place are rookie wide receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie; Mike Furrey, who is in his first year with Cleveland; and Chansi Stuckey, who came over from the New York Jets for Edwards.

Anderson said he’s developing chemistry with his receivers, but the formula is still incomplete.

‘‘It’s frustrating because we can do it,’’ he said. ‘‘I know we can do it. I’ve seen us do it. Carrying it over to Sundays is our problem.’’

Anderson’s commitment has made an impression on his teammates and Cleveland’s coaching staff.

Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas said Anderson, known simply as D.A., hasn’t let his struggles change his demeanor or affect his development.

‘‘You can see that he has grown as far as his leadership on offense, not necessarily with a throw here or there, but as far as running the offense as a whole,’’ Thomas said. ‘‘It seems like he’s doing a much better job at that.’’

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has observed Anderson and admires the way the 26-year-old has handled himself during a difficult season.

‘‘The guy is a leader, a great leader,’’ Ryan said. ‘‘You can see the way he runs the team. The guys respect him. He’s always in the office with (Brian) Daboll. Sometimes he’s bringing Whoppers with jalapenos to the rest of the coaches that are still there at night, so I appreciate a guy like that. He’s always around and it’s hard not to pull for a guy like him.’’

Sure enough, Anderson has delivered late-night snacks to Cleveland’s coaches.

‘‘I don’t eat them but Rob is on a diet — a Burger King diet,’’ he said, laughing. ‘‘He’s supposed to be on a diet. I brought about 10 burgers. I don’t know who ate them all, I can’t point any fingers.’’