Will Quinn win? Will Frye fly? A look at Browns QB contenders

Steve Doerschuk

Four’s a crowd, but Romeo Crennel seems dead set on playing crowd control.

The Browns head coach says Charlie Frye will start and be followed by Derek Anderson in tonight’s game at Denver. Crennel wouldn’t provide details on when Brady Quinn and Ken Dorsey will play — but they will play, he said.

With the quarterback issue in flux heading toward the Sept. 9 opener against Pittsburgh, Gatehouse Ohio Group’s Steve Doerschuk offers an analysis of how each man might fit as the starter.

The Long Shot

Ken Dorsey

Case for: He led Miami (Fla.) to a No. 2 finish in 2000, won a national championship in 2001 and almost beat Ohio State in the 2002 title game. He has been in the league two years longer than Frye and Anderson. An A-plus student in his school days, he understands playbooks better than some coordinators. He and Quinn have become fast friends. Dorsey is better suited than Frye or Anderson to mentor the rookie. He has been respectable in preseason games, going 13-of-18 for 120 yards, with a TD and no interceptions. He has been sacked just once for a 1-yard loss and has decent mobility.

Case against: Compared with Anderson and Quinn, he has a noodle arm. He’s an interception waiting to happen on out passes and throws over the middle. Defenders keep getting their hands on his throws in practice. At the NFL level, he’s more book smart that field savvy. His record as a 49ers starter was 2-8. Even thought Anderson was out and Frye was beat up heading into last year’s season finale, Dorsey was snubbed. Frye started.

The Leader

Charlie Frye

Case for: Frye played tepidity or poorly almost weekly in 2006, but his supporting cast was inferior. The cast and the coordinator this season have much greater possibilities. Unless Frye gets a chance to start while Quinn is groomed for 2007, his 18 starts will have been wasted. He moved the team in his only preseason start. He indicated improvement on a connection with Braylon Edwards, using split-second timing to turn a sack into an impressive completion on a slant. He buys time with his feet and has a better sense of when to scramble.

Case against: He knows he must eliminate bonehead mistakes, but he keeps making them. Against the Chiefs, he kicked away a field goal with an ill-advised fourth-down run inside the 5. A week later, he gift-wrapped a Detroit field goal by forcing a throw over the middle on an interception seconds before halftime. His arm is adequate, but his accuracy can be dangerously erratic. He’s not far ahead of Quinn, if at all, in mastering Rob Chudzinski’s offense.

The Kid

Brady Quinn

Case for: Sure, his 155 passing yards on two fourth-quarter touchdown drives came against Detroit scrubs playing a prevent defense. But why dismiss it? Quinn could only play the hand dealt him, and it turned up aces. Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis thinks Quinn could be good right away. A guy who coordinated three Super Bowl winners for New England should know what he’s talking about. Quinn plays and talks with more confidence than Tim Couch exuded after three NFL seasons. He has made steady strides since ending a 12-day holdout. If he’s the quarterback of the future and has poise enough to hold up now, why waste a year grooming him in practice?

Case against: He shows a strong arm but hasn’t learned NFL game speed. He knows windows close more quickly at this level, but he doesn’t yet know when to take a chance at a small window. One reason to sit him early is to avoid getting him killed while the line shows whether or not its supposed vast improvement is more than just theory. His holdout set him back. The humility coming from paying some dues might help. He can play later in the season if things aren’t going well — and the brass isn’t planning on playoff contention.

The Challenger

Derek Anderson

Case for: Anderson shouldn’t be dismissed just because he was a late draft pick, No. 222 overall. That’s in the same neighborhood as Trent Green and Tom Brady, who rank in the all-time top 10 in career passer rating. Anderson faded over the course of his four games in 2006, but he was playing behind a bad line. He was sensational in directing an overtime win against the Chiefs. Anderson has a big arm and a quiet toughness. He doesn’t fake machismo just so he can “sound like a quarterback.”

Case against: For now, at least, he too often tries to use his cannon to gun balls through windows that aren’t there. That Chiefs game is the extent of his positive NFL track record. He’s not as slow as Bernie Kosar, but he might be the slowest guy on the team.