Let us mark Sunday's abysmal loss to the Redskins as the official end to the 2008 Browns season and the beginning of 2009 training camp. This Year lasted just a smidge longer than the ill-conceived Geico Cavemen sitcom survived in prime time, and Next Year begins with 10 games still on the schedule. It's time for the Browns to admit it, and that means letting Brady Quinn hand over the clipboard to Derek Anderson.
This is not to pin all the blame for the Browns 2-4 record on Anderson - although it's hard to argue he doesn't deserve a lion's share. Braylon Edwards seems to have borrowed Jhonny Peralta's hands, and key players - including Sean Jones, Shaun Smith, Robaire Smith, Kellen Winslow, Donte Stallworth, Ryan Tucker, Josh Cribbs, Mike Adams and Brodney Pool - have missed significant time due to injury. Also, the team doesn't have cheerleaders. There's a lot of blame to go around for this level of sucking. I get it: It's not all D.A.'s fault.
But that doesn't exempt him from criticism, and that doesn't mean you don't fix the things that need fixing, especially since your ineptitude has just brought you to the doorstep of 10 games that are useful only as practice for 2009.
Going into this year, the unspoken plan in Berea was that one of the two quarterbacks would probably not be back in 2009. If Anderson played well, led the Browns into the playoffs and regained the form that merited a Pro Bowl trip, maybe it would be Quinn who would be shipped off. If Anderson stumbled, the perfectly coifed Notre Dame product would be at the helm, right after he finished his Myoplex.
Signing Anderson in the off-season and bringing him in as the starter seemed like the right move at the time. But as it should be clear to anyone still watching, the experiment failed. The numbers are nauseating: 49.2 percent completion rate, 164 yards per game, six touchdowns, six interceptions, bad goatee. He looks tepid and unsure in the pocket. He's missing receivers by wide margins. He's awful.
When Ohio State lost to USC earlier this year and dreams of another trip to the BCS championship game disappeared overnight, the Buckeyes made the swift and decisive move of starting freshman Terrelle Pryor and sitting veteran Todd Boeckman. OSU knew that if they wanted to be back in the BCS picture in 2009, they were going to need Pryor at his best, and that meant getting him in the game as soon as it was clear that 2008 was over.
The Browns owe it to the fans and themselves to put in Quinn for the same reason. Losing is no fun, but what would you rather watch? A team playing out 10 games in a lost season in hopes of "respectability" and, at best, a 7-9 record? Or a team taking every advantage to make sure this doesn't happen again? What makes you feel better about their dedication to winning? I'd rather watch Quinn lose every one of the remaining games while preparing for his coronation as 2009's starter than watch Anderson rack up four more wins.
If the organization is optimistic about contending next year, Quinn deserves every chance to be ready. That means live action against division rivals this winter, facing the bright lights of Monday Night Football and lining up in road games when the stakes are relatively low. Plus, it will give him the chance to practice his menacing glare when Edwards drops yet another pass.
You might say you don't want to shake Quinn's confidence and start him off in a bad situation. Phooey. This isn't the porous line that allowed Tim Couch to serve as a human tackling dummy in his rookie year. Solid line, solid running back - the perfect combination for baby steps into the system, just like Pryor's first action in Columbus.
To leave Anderson in as starter is merely refusing to admit defeat. It's also patently stupid. (And given D.A.'s performance this year, who's to say that Brady wouldn't be more effective?) Playing for wins in a 2-4 season is not the point right now; neither is worrying about Anderson's future trade value. Trotting him out when you have serious work to do (and it's apparent he's not part of the solution) all under the assumption that a 6- or 7-win season is any consolation, well, that's a sure way to piss off a whole bunch of people and look mightily incompetent along the way. Quinn can't save this season. But if you play him now, he might save the next.