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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Derek Anderson: Jon Kitna or Carson Palmer?

In the movie Casablanca, Captain Reynaud talks to Rick Blaine after Blaine has finished talking to a pretty woman. The expedient law enforcement officer offered the following advice: "Rick, you shouldn't dispense with women like that so easily. They may become scarce."

And so it is with starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Those who show that they can play -- and Anderson did enough of that in 2007 -- are not a commodity -- they're the exception. And therein lies Phil Savage's dilemma in Cleveland. He has a proven starter (albeit one who threw too many picks but who can improve) and a starter in waiting in Brady Quinn. Who does he choose, and does he have to pick one right now? Reports on ESPN indicate that the Browns are willing to listen to trade offers for Anderson.

Ben Franklin once said this about telling time: "He who has one watch always knows what time it is. He who has two is never sure." So, does Savage peddle Anderson, figuring that he'll only be an average to sometimes plus quarterback (a la Kitna) and go with Quinn, whom they drafted to be the franchise QB (a la Palmer), or, does he keep Anderson (a la the Falcons oh so many years ago) and peddle Quinn (who could turn out to be the next Brett Favre)? Of course, many years ago the Cowboys tried to split the starter's job between Steve Walsh and Troy Aikman, peddled Walsh, and, well, you know the rest of the story. Walsh failed elsewhere, but Troy Aikman won three Super Bowls and made the Hall of Fame. Most recently, the Chargers opted to elevate high draft pick Philip Rivers and let Drew Brees become a free agent. So far, that looks like a bad move by Chargers' GM A.J. Smith, because while Brees had a somewhat schizophrenic season (playing like Rip Van Winkle early and then his old, excellent self for the last 12 or so games), Rivers did less well (and Brees, of course, was brilliant two seasons ago). If you trade Anderson, will you regret it? If you trade Quinn and he excels, will you end up as a GM in the Arena League?

Savage has to pick one, but he might have some time. The Browns have invested more in Quinn, but is Quinn's star still the same as it even was after he dropped to become a late first-round pick, given the horrors that Notre Dame has endure this year and the tarnishing of the reputation of the Irish's head coach, Charlie Weis (translated: was Quinn ever really as good as people said?)? Or, can he wait a year, have a spirited competition in training camp, giving Anderson a year to improve and Quinn another season to learn, and then determine whether Anderson is in fact the real deal and Quinn attractive trade bait? That course of action might be the way to go.

In many ways, Cleveland's is a pleasant problem to have.

Only time will tell, however, whether Cleveland's solution is the right one.

The decision of the GM, of course, is the one on which reputations are cemented.


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