Finally. At long last. Mercifully. The Derek Anderson era in Cleveland is over. It’s not a move that is surprising by any means, everyone knew it was coming. What’s surprising to me is both how the Browns got here and how the fallout has come down afterward.
First things first, though. Lets start with what I know all the readers of this site are dying to talk about, and that’s the comments Derek Anderson made to the fans on his way out the door last night. When the News Herald’s Jeff Schudel emailed DA yesterday to ask for his reaction to being released, he certainly got the money quote back from the maligned outcast QB:
The fans are ruthless and don’t deserve a winner. I will never forget getting cheered when I was injured. I know at times I wasn’t great. I hope and pray I’m playing when my team comes to town and (we) roll them.
There’s an old sports saying that you can never win when you blast the fans, and this certainly holds true in this case.
This isn’t about condoning fans cheering an injury. There’s really no way to justify that kind of behavior. However, I think it’s more than fair to question whether the cheers were for DA’s injury or for the fact that the golden boy Brady Quinn was going to get a shot to play. And in all reality, that’s the crux of this whole situation. Derek Anderson was never fully embraced in this city, even in his “Pro Bowl season” of 2007, because the fans always wanted the local kid, the Notre Dame star, to be the starting QB in Cleveland.
Browns fans are the most loyal, most passionate, and most rabid fans in the NFL. No football team anywhere means more to its city than the Browns mean to Cleveland. But with such an overzealous following, you’re going to have idiots who cheer for injuries and make the fanbase somewhat embarrassed at times. It comes with the territory, and I wouldn’t trade this Browns fanbase for anything. The quicker you understand this city’s passion for football as a professional athlete, the sooner the fans will embrace you. Derek Anderson was the ultimate whiner and complainer, and he consistently had every excuse in the world for why he wasn’t playing well. That just doesn’t fly for Browns fans.
This morning, Derek Anderson probably woke up and realized he had made a huge mistake in lashing out against the fans, and early this morning he issued the following “apology” to Browns nation:
I said some things to Jeff Schudel (of The News-Herald) earlier that I regret. Those of you who got to know me personally from covering the Browns over the past five years, know this was out of character for me. I wasn’t taken out of context, but I was speaking out of my frustration after my career with the Browns came to a close.
I had some great times playing in Cleveland, especially during the 2007 season and I met some great people and made many lifelong friends along the way. I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life.
Personally, I find it hilarious that he says this was out of character for him, when in fact both the original statement as well as this half hearted apology are actually vintage Derek Anderson.
I’ve been lashing out for years at DA for his lack of accountability for his own shortcomings as well as for the shortcomings of the team. Time and time again he has lashed out at reports and appeared sullen and brooding around media members. I’ve written about my frustration with the way DA has refused to take responsibility for this team in the past, including the infamous DA-Braylon scuffle on the sidelines:
But I guess we shouldn’t worry about that, because DA is just fine. Ask him, he’ll tell you.
“I’m throwing the ball well. My arm doesn’t hurt me like you guys think it might. My brains are fine. I mean, we’re digging pretty deep right now.”
Yeah, he’s throwing the ball well. Haven’t we been watching? What’s wrong with us? The guy is fine and he’s on top of his game. Oh, also, remember that fight with Braylon that we all saw on TV? That never happened either. Anderson tells us,
“There was no argument whatsoever. I just mentioned to him about being smart. I told him I loved the effort he was giving, just be smart. He agreed. Jamal happened to come over while we were in the process of getting the whole offense together and somebody said, ‘Offense, all up.’ So it looked like he and I were arguing but that wasn’t the case.”
Like I said, plausible deniability. Anderson must really think we’re all stupid. Everyone saw what happened, they showed it clear as day on the sidelines. That was not Braylon playfully agreeing with DA and Lewis stepping into a huddle with the offense.
Things got so frustrating that in October of 2008, when I wrote an “Airing of Grievances” article about the Browns, I had the following to say about DA:
You know what else is a Festivus Miracle? Every time you complete a pass. I have never in my life seen such consistent ineptitude from a starting QB. EVER. No hyperbole, no exaggeration, no superfluous exclamations……you are playing the worst QB on a weekly basis that I have ever seen with my own eyes. You’re completing fewer than half of your passes, you’re throwing interceptions at the same pace as you are throwing TD passes. Ironically enough, though, you’re STILL on pace to throw fewer INTs (16) than you did last year (19). That just tells me that you weren’t as good last year as everyone thought you were. The only QBs with a worse rating than you have are Matt Hasselbeck and Tyler Thigpen. And yet you have the audacity to get mad at us for questioning you. You continue to sell us rainbows and lollipops while darkness and despair lingers all around. You accept no blame and you have no accountability. We all wanted so much to believe in you. We put aside our common sense, and we ignored all the blinking neon signs that were telling us we shouldn’t trust you. And now look where we are. Truly pathetic.
Looking back, I still stand by those words 100%. Do I understand if DA is mad at fans like me for “not supporting” him? I actually do. I don’t really care how DA feels about the Cleveland Browns fanbase, to be honest. His play on the field and his consistent snide remarks in the media led to this paradigm shift between how he feels the Browns fans should have supported him and how Browns fans perceived his words and actions in Cleveland.
Lets be honest, there’s not a fanbase in the world that would have stood behind DA with the way he played in Cleveland, especially not when you factor in his attitude toward fans. This didn’t start with his knee injury and the fans supposedly cheering him being injured. Both of those quotes above are from before then.
It’s not all Anderson’s fault, though. Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel both deserve their fair share of the blame as well. Savage is the one who decided to give DA a relatively massive contract after just one decent season, when he could have just max tendered him and given DA another year to prove himself. Back in 2007 I called for the Browns to just tender DA and not give him a full guaranteed extension yet. Had Savage done that, the Browns (and Romeo Crennel) would have been free to just move on after the disaster of 2008. Instead, DA was making big time money while fans had to just sit there and watch him throw away the season. It created a volatile situation that led to where we are today.
And so it is that I say good riddance to Derek Anderson. I truly hope he does go somewhere else and someday comes back to Cleveland Browns Stadium to face the Browns. I relish the opportunity to watch him complete 45% of his passes, throw 2 INTs and about 5 other passes that could be picks. I’m happy to see DA go. I’ve long felt that he lacked the mental toughness to handle being a QB. He’s a big, strong QB with a powerful arm, yet for all of his rough and tough exterior, he consistently showed a sense of fragility on the inside that never allowed me to have faith in him to get the job done.
So goodbye DA. You can say what you will about what this franchise and its fans does or does not deserve, but we will not apologize for being “ruthless” and for having the passion and pride in our team. We will not back down from caring with every fiber of our existence about the well being and success of the franchise and the colors we all grew up adoring. You showed no dignity or class in your time here, and you showed even less in your bitterness as you left. You say we’re ruthless, well, I think you’re soft. Don’t believe me? Just ask Donte Whitner:
Cleveland Fans don’t worry about D. Andersons comments. He’s just soft. You guys do deserve a winner.