As Donte Stallworth flipped the freshly-caught touchdown pass over his shoulder, my friend Lars and I both had similar responses. We were obviously happy that the Browns had scored, but the deeper feelings were a little different. I finally pulled out my phone, and summed it up with a text message to Scott: “Groundhog just saw his shadow – six more weeks of DA.”
Let me see if I can explain: I’ve long been an advocate for putting Quinn in, if for no other reason than the season seems (seemed?) to be slipping away, and it is/was thus time to find out if Quinn has a longer-term future with this team as a QB. I termed the Giants game a “stay of execution” for DA. He promptly went out against the Redskins and just KILLED [rim shot!] the Browns’ chances in that game. Because of that, one would think that he then had a short, short leash against the Jaguars.
And then something happened. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Anderson played a pretty good first half. The offense looked semi-competent. They punched in two touchdowns to take a halftime lead, and took some pressure off of their defense. Anderson wasn’t turning the ball over, his throws were in the same zip code as his receivers, and the play-calling was maximizing his effectiveness. The bomb to Edwards. The 4th-and-Heiden (h/t jraster) pitch and catch. The throw to Stallworth in the end zone. The crossing route to Steptoe in the 4th quarter. Where did this guy come from?
More importantly, can we plan on seeing him again? Is he going to continue to do just enough to ensure that Romeo won’t bench him anytime soon? Just when I’m about to write him off completely, he goes out and throws up a 95.6 rating (or, in the case of the Giants game, a 121.3 rating) and helps the Browns to a much-needed win. Cue the shots of Brady Quinn on the sidelines with the earphone in and the clipboard.
Of course, there’s another wrinkle to all of this: Anderson’s two good games coincided with one other criterium: the absence of Kellen Winslow in the lineup. As Kevin Boss scored the winning touchdown for the Giants, I had to wonder… is Kellen Winslow (rightly or wrongly painted so) the 2008 version of Jeremy Shockey? Look how much better Eli Manning has played since Shockey broke his leg and subsequently never played another down for the Giants. They’ve lost only twice since then (one an essentially meaningless game in week 17 against the undefeated Pats, and ironically the other to DA and the Browns two Mondays ago).
We all know how “emotional” and “competitive” and “fiery” Winslow is. We all know how talented he is. We all know that he works harder than just about any other player on the Browns team, and pound-for-pound might be the most talented player on the team. That said, in the five games DA has played WITH Winslow this season, his numbers are:
72-154, 679 yards, 4 TD, 6 INT – 51.84 rating
Without Winslow, his numbers are:
32-56, 556 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT – 108.93 rating
The numbers never lie. But, what does all of this mean?? Is it really Winslow? Or, is it just a coincidence, and is it really that when DA’s back is against the wall (job-security-wise, anyway) he plays just well enough to buy himself some more time, a la Peter Gibbons’ “that’ll make someone work just hard enough not to get fired”? Can we extrapolate from the numbers above that the return of Winslow will sink DA’s performance? More importantly, much like Groundhog Day, can we as fans safely assume that we know what’s coming the next few games, and prepare ourselves?
Could we start Ned Ryerson at QB??
I’ve been notably silent on the Winslow situation, mainly for two reasons:
1) it’s just draining. It’s the same old story for the Browns. They’re so busy shooting themselves in both feet to ever take a step forward in a year in which their team shows flashes of being good enough of being able to compete in a WIDE OPEN AFC. It’s like watching the presidential campaign when people are talking about who “pals around” with whom, and who spent a bunch of money on clothes, all while I watch my 401(k) evaporate. Seriously.
2) I can’t really decide for myself who’s “right” and who’s “wrong”. I just don’t care. I would hate to see a player like Winslow run out of town by the fans for caring about it when the team isn’t playing well. That said, I don’t want to root for a team whose front office hangs its players out to dry, either.
All of that having been said, the Giants played better on offense after losing Shockey last season, and have continued to do so. Likewise, the numbers have shown that Anderson has played better this season without Winslow. We obviously don’t have a very big sample size here, and we obviously don’t know what’s going on and being said (or, not being said) in the huddles either.
So, WFNY readers: is it Winslow? Is it just Anderson? More importantly, much like Phil Connors, are we doomed now to repeat the same cycle over and over again, wherein DA stinks up the joint in enough games to kill any playoff hopes, only then to rally just enough each time that his rope is at its proverbial end to convince Romeo to stick with him through the rest of the season?