Despite losing a training camp competition, Derek Anderson, left, is the Browns' starter, but Brady Quinn could be the man soon.
MARK DUNCAN / AP Enlarge
BEREA, Ohio - Wearing a backpack, rookie Brady Quinn strolled into the locker room and quickly noticed the media cluster surrounding Derek Anderson, the Browns' starting quarterback du jour.
Quinn stood patiently to the side and waited.
His turn's coming soon enough.
Normalcy, as much as there is anymore with the dysfunctional Browns, returned to the club yesterday, one day after they made history by trading quarterback Charlie Frye to the Seattle Seahawks for a sixth-round draft pick.
Since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970, no quarterback had ever started an opener and been traded before Week 2.
At least the Browns are first in something.
Frye's abrupt departure - he was benched in the first half of Sunday's 34-7 loss to Pittsburgh - elevated Anderson, the loser in a summer-long competition with Frye, into a start on Sunday against Cincinnati and pushed Quinn up the depth chart from No. 3 to No. 2.
Anderson's promotion could be temporary.
The Browns plan to start Quinn, already being tabbed as the franchise's savior, at some point this season. It's a matter of when, not if, and Anderson has a chance to control how long he's the one running Cleveland's offense.
"I know my job, and I know I've got to move the team," said Anderson, who went 0-3 in three starts last season while filling in for an injured Frye. "I've got to have touchdowns, and I've got to control turnovers."
And he's got to do it with Quinn breathing down his neck.
The former Notre Dame star is now just one snap away from taking over the Browns. General manager Phil Savage has warned that there will be "no turning back" once the club decides to play Quinn.
That time might have arrived.
The 22-year-old missed 16 practices during a training camp holdout, a stretch when the Browns installed much of their new offense. But Quinn, whose football intellect attracted him to the Browns, says he has caught up enough that he's ready to play.
"I'm a confident guy. I'm competitive. I'm someone who wants to be in there, thinks he's ready now," Quinn said. "That decision's not up to me. I just wait, and I try to do my best and help out this team the best I can whenever my number's called."
If Anderson lays an egg like he did during a disappointing preseason, No. 10 could be summoned quickly.
The Browns would like to keep Quinn on the sidelines as long as possible, but their unspoken timetable of keeping him out until at least the bye week (Oct. 21) has been accelerated by Frye's flop, an embarrassing eighth straight loss to the Steelers, and a need to win.
Playing Quinn so soon has its risks.
"Well, it can work out two ways," tight end Kellen Winslow said. "It could work out like Ben Roethlisberger, and it could work out like Ryan Leaf. So you have to be real smart about it. Carson Palmer sat out a year, and he's doing fine now. You have to be smart about the situation."
How do you know when the time is right?
"I'm not a GM. I wish I was," Winslow said, cracking a smile. "I don't know. It's gambling,
really, isn't it?"
For now, Anderson is the safe choice for Browns coach Romeo Crennel, who yanked a rattled Frye before halftime on Sunday. Cleveland's offense never got untracked as the Steelers capitalized on early turnovers and built a 17-0 lead, forcing the Browns to ditch their game plan before halftime.
Anderson, taken by Baltimore in the sixth round in 2005, had his finest moments last season coming off the bench.
After Frye got hurt in a Dec. 3 home game against Kansas City, he rallied the Browns from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 31-28 overtime win.
The out-of-nowhere performance, and Anderson's cannon arm, convinced the Browns to give him a chance to beat out Frye this summer. But he couldn't, and now he's getting a second, and perhaps final, chance to start.
"I expect him to play the way he played against Kansas City when we put him in the game last year," Crennel said. "I did tell him this morning that that's what I expect out of him."
Crennel, whose job could be on the line if the Browns don't start winning, has been criticized for his handling of the team's quirky quarterback situation.
At one point during camp, he flipped a coin to decide who would start the exhibition opener.
Anderson called the competition with Frye "weird" and "confusing."
Following Tuesday's peculiar QB shuffle, the Browns took more than their share of national ridicule for their apparent disarray. Crennel, a former defensive coordinator, defended the team's choices.
"Everybody has a different perspective on the situation," he said. "They aren't in the building. They don't know what we talk about or what the plan is. Their perception is their perception. We're doing what we think is best, and we'll move forward with that.
"I have to work with the things that I have to work with. Frye and Anderson were my two choices at that time, so we let them compete. I chose Frye, it didn't work out, and now I'm going with Anderson."
At least to start.