Now that the negative emotions generated by an utterly pathetic season-opener have subsided, I have analyzed what happened with Charlie Frye and must clarify my position.
Without a full grasp of the new offense, behind a revamped offensive line still seeking continuity and facing a superior Pittsburgh Steelers defense, Frye fell flat on his face in the opener, getting sacked five times and throwing an interception as Cleveland fell behind 17-0 less than 15 minutes into the game. Yes, Frye looked bad, really bad -- starring at his intended receivers and holding the ball too long. He looked tentative and confused, like a rookie not a third-year pro. Who's to blame? The Browns evidently thought Frye, so they pulled him from the game halfway through the second quarter and then traded him to Seattle two days later.
But really, aren't the Browns to blame? Shouldn't Cleveland's coaches have seen that coming after studying Frye and the other quarterback day in and day out for months, from the minicamps in the spring, organized team activities in June, training camp practices in July and August and four preseason games? After all of that time, they concluded Frye had won -- retained, actually -- the starting QB job. But all along they said Brady Quinn would eventually be the starter, and secretly planned to hand him the job in the seventh game.
If Frye has tunnel vision, correct it. If he holds the ball too long, correct that. If he hasn't mastered the offense, give him more time in practice and the preseason. Scrap that ill-conceived open quarterback competition. That's the coaches' fault.
If they really wanted Quinn to succeed, they would have done everything possible to make sure the Browns were a winning team -- or at least competitive -- when he eventually took over. That means having Frye be as prepared as possible. Frye should have taken every snap in the first half of the first three preseason games and had the bulk of the work with the first-team in practice.
Disgusted by the putrid performance against Pittsburgh, I, too, bashed Frye a little on my blog. While praising his attributes, including heart, mobility and moxy, I questioned his intellect for the game and leadership skills. For that, I owe him an apology.
As for intellect, while he may not be as articulate in interviews as a media darling from Notre Dame, Frye has football smarts. He's basically had to learn a new offense every season since his junior year at Akron. That's a tough assignment for a quarterback, considering the differing philosophies, terminology, plays and so on. Imagine you're continually forced to master new tasks at work despite changes in supervisors, some incompetent coworkers (there are a lot of those on the Browns) and strong opposition from competitors.
Back to the season opener. Frye's failures were far from the Browns' only problems Sunday. An excess of penalties, turnovers and breakdowns on defense and special teams, and a lack of a running game and a lack of production on both sides of the line testify to the team's not being prepared or disciplined. The coaches are to blame for those shortcomings.
While he no longer gets to play for his hometown team, the team he passionately followed from his childhood on up, Frye now has a chance to succeed in the NFL. In Seattle, he's being trained by a Hall of Fame coach, the one who developed Green Bay star Brett Favre. Frye also gets to backup an established veteran quarterback, one who can properly mentor him. He'll enjoy what he should have had all along -- a chance to sit back and learn the game without being thrown into the fire before he's ready. And Frye now plays for a playoff contender, one that is two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. The Browns are as far from contending as Willard is from Seattle.
A fuller version of this entry appears on my Browns Blawg at http://www.norwalkreflector.com/...
We wish you well, Charlie. Keep making Huron County proud.