Posted: Tuesday November 27, 2007 9:19AM; Updated: Tuesday December 4, 2007 4:53PM
They could sign him to a long-term deal. They could give him the league's highest tender (approximately $2.5 million for 2008), meaning another team wanting to sign him would have to give the Browns a first- and a third-round pick. They could put the franchise tag on Anderson -- which would mean paying him an average of the league's top five quarterback salaries -- and force another club to turn over two first-round picks to sign him. Or they could hand the reins to the highly touted Quinn, 23, as the Chargers did with Philip Rivers in '06 when they didn't re-sign Drew Brees.
"We're kind of letting the situation play itself out," Savage says. "I think it's a little different [from the San Diego scenario]. With Brady being the 22nd pick [Rivers was taken No. 4 overall in 2004], we have not paid an exorbitant amount of money for a backup quarterback, if indeed he became a backup. This is the first time the Browns have had legitimate depth at the position, and we'd like to hold on to it for a while."
When Anderson was asked after Sunday's game about leading Cleveland beyond 2007, he said, "I try not to get caught up in it. If we continue to win and do the right things, the outside stuff will take care of itself. I'm really happy right now to be a part of it, and with Braylon, Kellen, the guys on the O-line, we have some really good pieces that have pushed us over the edge and made us successful."
With Anderson winging passes to Winslow over the middle, Joe Jurevicius in the flat and Edwards down the sideline, what is a defense to do? Lewis, who has been bursting through gaps in the line, says that in Baltimore he never played on an offense with such versatility. "The way we open up things offensively, it just spreads a defense out," says the 28-year-old Lewis, whom Savage signed to a one-year, $3.5 million free-agent contract (which could rise to $5 million with incentives) last March. "No more eight in a box, which is what I saw for the last seven years [with the Ravens]. I'm seeing these holes, and I'm saying, 'Is that really there?' This is the time of year when it's cold and defenses wear down and don't want to tackle. It's my time of year."
The holes were there on Sunday to the tune of 134 yards on 29 carries, including a one-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that put Cleveland up 27-10 with 5:48 left in the game.
Crennel wasn't happy that Houston came right back and scored on the next drive, the sort of defensive lapse his team has suffered too often this season. Why talk about the playoffs when there is more work to do? "We have a tendency to get ahead and then relax," says Crennel. "We let the other team come back. We're going to have to fix that."
The way things are going, Crennel will have time both this year and beyond to work on it. The Browns are well-stocked for the future and have a favorable stretch to close this season. They travel to Arizona and the Jets in consecutive weeks, host Buffalo, play at Cincinnati, and finish at home against San Francisco. While running the table is a long shot, none of those opponents have a winning record. The Browns, who've been to the playoffs just once since returning to the NFL, are in the driver's seat for a wild-card berth; the AFC North title is not out of the question.
The players say Crennel, who was 10-22 in his first two seasons, has never lost faith regardless of the score on the board or the rumblings in the streets. "He's always been a good coach," says McGinest, who played for Crennel in New England. "He just deserved a chance to show it. I think a lot of people were prejudging him. It's a tough job being a coach in this league. Even with the Patriots, when Belichick got there, we didn't just take over. It takes time to get everything you want into play."
Says Savage, "People want instant coffee, microwaves and throwaway razors -- people want it now."
Judging by the looks on the faces on Sunday, people in Cleveland -- even the ones in the old Tim Couch and Courtney Brown jerseys -- are finally getting what they want.
3 of 3