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Published: Sunday, 12/3/2006

Browns need Frye to step up

CLEVELAND Charlie Frye has been tested and taunted in his first full season as the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback.

Opposing defenses have tossed him around like a rag doll he has been sacked 43 times in 11 games.

And Frye, the second-year pro from Akron, has turned the ball over with alarming frequency for the 3-8 Browns, who play host to the 7-4 Kansas City Chiefs today.

He has lost six fumbles and tossed 16 interceptions while throwing just nine touchdown passes, which ranks him near the bottom of the league.

By comparison, Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Bruce Gradkowski, the former Toledo star, has nine touchdown passes, six interceptions and five fumbles in eight starts.

Frye still has a lot of work to do to prove he is indeed the guy to lead the Browns franchise.

To date, he is 5-11 as the starter, with 13 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, and 10 fumbles.

But Frye has been sacked a whopping 65 times in those 16 starts.

Even coach Romeo Crennel, whose offense has not scored a touchdown in 11 quarters under Frye s leadership, admits that his young quarterback s long-range future is uncertain.

Asked about the possibility of replacing Frye next season, Crennel, whose coaching ability also has come under scrutiny, didn t mince his words.

You do what you have to do to give your team the best chance to win, said Crennel, who is 9-18 in two seasons. If Charlie is the guy, Charlie is the guy. There is always a possibility of bringing someone else in, and if he s better than Charlie, he s the guy who will play.

Sitting here today, I don t know if we ll bring someone else in. Sometimes you bring people in, and sometimes you don t bring people in.

Let s be honest here.

Frye is not the second coming of Brian Sipe or Bernie Kosar, but he isn t getting much support from his patch-work offensive line or from his teammates.

After starting five games as a rookie last year, and going 2-3, the Browns believed Frye was ready to fly solo.

He entered this season figuring Braylon Edwards was going to be one of his main targets.

But Frye never could have imagined the outspoken receiver from Michigan was going to paint a bull s-eye on his back.

Edwards has been agitated with just about everyone in the organization as of late.

First, he questioned offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson s conservative play-calling. Then he called out teammate Bryan Russell for a hard hit he made on Cincinnati s Chad Johnson in the second week of the season.

And last Sunday, Edwards stooped to a new low, confronting Frye on the sideline before and after his third interception in the third quarter of an embarrassing 30-0 home loss to the Bengals.

Frye, who passed for 186 yards, was sacked four times and threw a career-high four interceptions against the league s worst defense, did his best to try and shrug off the incident after the game.

Me and Braylon are fine, he said. Our biggest opponent right now is us. We have to get on the same page and fight together. We have to stop fighting each other and start playing against the other team. If not, we are not going to win many games.

Edwards, who caught just two passes for 29 yards, apologized the next day for his tantrum, explaining it was not aimed specifically at Frye, but rather at the offensive line.

Either way, it s pretty obvious the Browns are a team in disarray.

They have struggled since returning to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999.

The Browns are just 39-84 during that stretch, with one playoff appearance, and they are closing in on their sixth season of double-digit losses.

Frye became the fifth quarterback in five years to start for Cleveland.

If he doesn t show steady improvement over the next five games, the Browns brass may very well decide to draft a quarterback or acquire a veteran in the offseason.

If that happens, Frye s name will forever be etched in Cleveland lore with Browns quarterbacks who have flopped since 1999. He would join Tim Couch, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, and Trent Dilfer.

It s not the way Frye would like to be remembered.



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