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Published: Friday, 9/1/2006

Browns need to look around for backup QB

CLEVELAND In the rough-and-tumble world of the NFL, every team is always one play away from being forced to play the backup quarterback.

For the Cleveland Browns, it s one play away from disaster.

Considering that second-year pro Charlie Frye is the starting quarterback, the Browns need a legitimate backup in the worst way.

Derek Anderson looked like the worst backup QB in the league during last night s preseason finale between Cleveland and Chicago at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Anderson, who replaced Frye in the first quarter, missed receivers high and low, left and right.

He threw an interception after running for his life out of the pocket and having his wounded duck deflected and intercepted by a defensive lineman.

While Anderson did lead Cleveland on a touchdown march to close out the first half, he didn t exactly inspire confidence in coach Romeo Crennel, who gave Anderson a long, hard look at the expense of Ken Dorsey, another backup candidate.

It s perfectly safe to assume that the inconsistent Dorsey doesn t exactly give Crennel a warm, fuzzy feeling.

In fact, Anderson s performance last night during Cleveland s 20-7 loss was so totally uninspiring you had to wonder if Crennel had the phone number to the agent of Tennessee quarterback Billy Volek on speed dial.

And it s not like Frye has set the world on fire in preseason. He s had his moments, to be sure, just not enough good ones.

To start the season with Frye backed up by Anderson or Dorsey is playing with fire.

The Browns would be in big trouble if Frye went down.

Volek would be the perfect backup for Cleveland. He s still relatively young (30) and has a major-league arm, plus he has enough raw talent and game experience to acquit himself capably in the event Frye is injured.

Best of all, Volek is available. That wasn t the case until Monday, when Tennessee signed veteran Kerry Collins and all but handed him the starting job.

Given that Volek was the projected starter entering preseason, and given that rookie Vince Young is Tennessee s quarterback of the future, that doesn t leave much room on the Titans roster for a third QB earning around $1 million this season.

Collins is expected to start in Tennessee s opener against the Jets. Volek has already requested a trade. Volek has a no-trade clause, but he could waive it. Titans general manager Floyd Reese told the Tennessean newspaper he s spoken with numerous teams about potential trades, although he didn t identify Volek.

Connect the dots, people. Volek to Cleveland sounds like a winner.

Entering his seventh season, Volek has played in a total of 24 games with 10 starts. He s passed for 3,500 yards with twice as many touchdowns (26) as interceptions (13). He has a respectable 86.9 career passing rating.

Volek, though, is more than a stop-gap. He has the ability not only to fill in in a pinch, but he has the potential to push Frye and make him work to remain No. 1.

Frye s future appears bright, but he remains a work in progress. He s not close to being a finished product. He s still rough around the edges.

Healthy competition is good on a rebuilding team like the Browns. Frye can learn from Volek, a pro s pro who believes he s good enough to start.

Face it. The rebuilding Browns need all the talent they can get.

Volek s presence would make Cleveland a deeper team. It would also mean the Browns had one more strength and one fewer weakness at the position considered to be the most important in football.

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