Browns QB Derek Anderson recovers his own fumble.
(Mark Duncan/AP Photo)
You can follow Charles Robinson on Twitter at @YahooSportsNFL
Another game, another round of snaps keeping Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn(notes) from earning $10.9 million in salary escalators. With every Derek Anderson(notes) start, fans can only hope the franchise is going to use some of the money it saves by refunding season tickets.
For every moment they keep Anderson as their starting quarterback after Sunday's 31-3 loss to Green Bay, the Browns are stealing money from fans and trading losses for millions. Thanks to salary escalators in Quinn's deal, he would stand to earn nearly an additional $11 million in salary in 2010 and 2011 if he plays at least 70 percent of the offensive snaps this season. But with each Anderson start, Quinn gets further and further from earning that money. By not earning that money, Cleveland keeps him on the cheap, while simultaneously avoiding hurting his trade value. The less money Quinn makes, the easier he is to deal away. Meanwhile, the tradeoff is sticking with Anderson and losing games in embarrassing fashion, but who's really paying attention?
Of course, the Browns will scoff at the idea that they are sitting a player to avoid triggering a salary escalator, which is the typical reaction of every offending coach/general manager/owner. That trio historically shrugs and says it has a sound reason to sit a player – that it has nothing to do with money and is actually in the best interest of the team.
Brady Quinn started at QB for the Browns in their first three losses, but has been benched.
(James Lang/US Presswire)
But how can the Browns realistically justify that argument at this point? How can they point to Anderson and say he's the best shot this team has to win? He has been the worst NFL starter not named JaMarcus Russell(notes) this season. Forget theorizing whether Quinn would have helped the Browns win games. Just look at Anderson's numbers. They are beyond awful. And don't bother spewing nonsense about Anderson starting the 6-3 win over Buffalo. He went 2 for 17 for 23 yards and an interception in that game. Even mentioning him as part of that victory is a slap in the face of a defense and running game that won in spite of his shortcomings.
I'll submit that when you break down their numbers this season, neither Anderson nor Quinn has been good. They've both turned the ball over too much, and they both struggled against good competition. But at the very least, Quinn's 60.8 completion percentage has shown an ability to be accurate in the short game. And the last time I checked, that is better than Anderson's ability to be inaccurate all the time. So forget Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll lauding Anderson's preparation and saying he "has nowhere to go but up." Just look at Anderson's last three starts: He has posted passer ratings of 15.1, 51.0 and 36.4, and has completed 23 of 70 passes – a 32.8 completion rate. He also has one touchdown against five turnovers.
The numbers scream for change. The only thing screaming back is the additional $10.9 million Quinn could be due if the starting job were his. But sometimes losses in the checkbook weigh heavier than anything.
Here is a look at some of Week 7's other winners and losers:
Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley, second from left, rambles 77-yards for a touchdown after recovering a fumble by Vikings QB Brett Favre.
(Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo)
• The Pittsburgh Steelers defense
When they come back, they come back in a huge way. After not being able to pull off the backbreaking stops in the fourth quarter for much of the season, the Steelers did it twice in a win over the Vikings. LaMarr Woodley's(notes) 77-yard scoop and touchdown run of a Brett Favre(notes) fumble conjured some images of James Harrison's(notes) epic Super Bowl touchdown against Arizona last season. Give it up for the Steelers secondary, which acted as Woodley's convoy as he dodged two tacklers and took it the distance. He was then one-upped by fellow linebacker Keyaron Fox(notes), who iced the win with an 82-yard interception for a touchdown. Did we mention the four sacks (two by Harrison)? Yes, this D finally looked nasty again.
• New England Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather(notes)
After years of wondering whether he could ever match the discipline and study habits with his immense physical gifts, we're starting to see the answer. While he notched his first two interceptions of the season in a win over Tampa Bay, Meriweather was already having the best season of his career. His 39-yard pick for a touchdown was very impressive. Frankly, he's having a vastly underrated season. Talk to opposing offensive coordinators and they'll tell you that you now have to plan for Meriweather. They used to say you planned how to expose him. Not anymore.
• The Green Bay Packers offense
Cleveland became just the latest victim of a unit that is starting to realize all of those preseason expectations. With 460 yards of offense, the Packers now have four straight games of 400-plus yards. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers(notes) has nine touchdowns in that span, and wideout Donald Driver(notes) is playing like he's in his mid-20s again. With Minnesota losing Sunday, next week's tilt against Brett Favre and the Vikings can't be overhyped. I can't remember a regular-season game at Lambeau Field promising this much drama.
• Houston Texans running back Steve Slaton(notes)
Even with two touchdowns, it wasn't a spectacular day for Slaton. But he showed some serious burst on a handful of plays, especially the 9-yard catch-and-run touchdown in which he exploded over the goal line. It's worth noting that San Francisco has a pretty stiff defensive front, too. That's good news for a Texans team that has recovered nicely from a 2-3 start. With a win next week against Buffalo, a Week 9 tilt against Indianapolis becomes pivotal.
• San Diego Chargers wideout Vincent Jackson(notes)
Let's see, five catches for 142 yards and a touchdown in the first half against the Kansas City Chiefs. The more I watch Jackson, the more I think he's every bit as good as Houston Texans wideout Andre Johnson(notes). His pair of 51-yard touchdown catches against the Chiefs was a Johnson-esque display of size and speed. Something tells me the Chargers are really going to regret not getting his contract extension done last offseason. He'll probably command $10 million more in guaranteed money based on this season alone.
• Alex Smith and Vernon Davis(notes)
Even in a loss, Sunday was a pretty special day for both San Francisco 49ers players. On one hand, Davis (three touchdowns) is playing like Antonio Gates(notes). And that's not hyperbole. He's every bit as dangerous as any tight end in football right now. Then you have Smith, who for all intents and purposes appeared to be finished as a starter in the NFL. But if you saw his performance against the Texans (15-of-22 for 206 yards and three touchdowns), he looked fantastic. In fact, I can't recall Smith ever having a better NFL game. If he's forced to go back to the bench after this performance, you have to question the decision-making in San Francisco.
• The Indianapolis Colts defense
This one isn't so much for chopping up a bad St. Louis team, but for the player who made his first appearance of the season Sunday: a Mr. Bob Sanders(notes). He notched only one tackle, but it's an important and timely moment for this unit. When healthy, Sanders is still one of the most important playmakers in football. And just in time, with three elite passing offenses on the schedule in the next five games: Houston (twice), Baltimore and New England.
• St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson
Hard to put anything about the Rams on the positive side of the ledger, but if you've watched Jackson, you understand why. He is playing harder right now and showing more on-field leadership than I've ever seen from him. For a guy who was branded as temperamental and injury prone, Jackson should be changing a lot of minds right now. Great player in a bad situation.
Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, top, intercepts a pass in the end zone intended for Raiders WR Todd Watkins.
(William Cooley/AP Photo)
• The New York Jets
Dominant running game? Check. Crushing defensive shutout? Check. Stop the panicking for a week? Check. Sunday's 38-0 shutout of Oakland was precisely what the Jets needed on every level. Unfortunately, they may have paid a steep price with the loss of running back Leon Washington(notes) and linebacker Bart Scott(notes). Scott's injury didn't look nearly as serious as Washington's broken leg, but anything extended would be a blow to the defense. With next week's home tilt against Miami, a 5-3 record going into the Week 9 bye is within grasp. The offense badly needs to get Jerricho Cotchery(notes) back, but don't write this team out of the AFC picture just yet.
• Dallas Cowboys wideout Miles Austin(notes)
We can stop asking whether Austin can be a star in the NFL. His 171 yards and two touchdowns in only his second career start on Sunday testify more to his talent and fit than just a hurting Atlanta defense. Austin has the size and ability to be Dallas' No. 1 – not just an ancillary piece next to Roy Williams. A tip of the cap to owner Jerry Jones, who at one point suggested that Austin factored into part of his reasoning for cutting ties with Terrell Owens(notes). What once sounded absurd now seems like a rock-solid managerial decision.
• The New Orleans Saints
It wasn't always pretty, but the Saints get credit for absolutely gutting out a 46-34 win over Miami. Particularly quarterback Drew Brees(notes), who played one of his worst halves in a Saints uniform. However, the 36 second-half points after trailing 24-10 showed something we don't usually associate with the Saints: grit. New Orleans is not just a high-scoring finesse team anymore. Now it has the defensive spine and veteran calm to collect itself and battle. In the past, the Saints would have pressed, committed turnovers and watched a deficit get ugly. If anything, the comeback against Miami just showed another dimension that makes this team seem even more ready to make a significant postseason mark.
• The Buffalo Bills defense and safety Jairus Byrd(notes)
Well, we know the defense is far from being a problem right now. The unit has forced a league-best 10 turnovers in the last two weeks, and it carried the Bills to consecutive wins for the first time since Weeks 3 and 4 of last season. Byrd, the team's second-round NFL draft pick out of Oregon, has been spectacular over the last three weeks, notching all five of his interceptions. That included two against the Panthers. That said, Byrd and the defense will have to prove it can hold up against one of the league's best. And they'll get that chance next week against Houston.
• The Cincinnati Bengals
The defense showed up and harassed Jay Cutler(notes) and the Bears' passing game all day long, but it was the offense that made the threat one-dimensional. Carson Palmer(notes) threw five touchdowns, while Chad Ochocinco(notes) backed up all his trash-talking by catching two of them. But even with Palmer's performance, the game pretty much belonged to running back Cedric Benson(notes), who pounded his former team relentlessly. Certainly, the Bears defense never imagined Benson could roll up 189 yards on 37 carries. For a day, he exacted some sweet revenge. Cue the Bears fans who will start debating whether he's better than Matt Forte(notes).
• The Arizona Cardinals
Well hello there, Mr. Three Game Winning Streak. The offense that was once in disarray looks like it's getting dangerous again, even without Anquan Boldin at full strength. The pulse in the running game with rookie Beanie Wells is a very welcome addition. But that defense is legitimately superb. To hold the Giants to 107 rushing yards is a feat, plain and simple. And don't look now, but that schedule is about to get soft as satin. We could be looking at a three-game winning streak that turns into eight games.
49ers WR Michael Crabtree caught five passes for 56 yards against the Texans.
(David J. Phillip/AP Photo)
• The 49ers
That 3-1 start is feeling like a distant memory, and you have to wonder how much damage Sunday's loss to Houston did to this team's playoff hopes. If you look at the schedule, the 49ers have a very winnable slate the rest of the way, with Tennessee, Jacksonville, Seattle, Detroit and St. Louis still remaining. Going into Sunday, 10 wins and a playoff berth looked very plausible. Now you have to wonder. And frankly, until the 49ers beat a team the caliber of the Colts (who they face next week), we won't know if this team is anything more than a solid team with a lot of hype.
• The Vikings' stranglehold on the NFC North
The perfection couldn't last forever, but it also couldn't come at a tougher time. Had the Vikings pulled out Sunday's win over Pittsburgh, they would have played the Packers next week for a potential (and likely insurmountable) three-game lead in the NFC North. Now they'll face a Packers team looking to even up the divisional race. And if Vikings fans think that Antoine Winfield(notes) injury already hurts, just wait till that defense faces the Green Bay offense next week. This one should be a barnburner.
• The Kansas City Chiefs
Just when they appeared to be making strides, the Chiefs took a huge step back in Sunday's 37-7 drubbing at the hands of San Diego. The defense was absolutely pitiful, especially a secondary that just got used and abused. But someone needs to explain to me why Larry Johnson(notes) is still carrying the rushing load. I understand backup Jamaal Charles(notes) has fumbling problems and the offensive line is in shambles, but what is Johnson accomplishing at this point?
• The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback position
For a minute, I really started to believe that Josh Johnson(notes) had the tools to eventually develop into a solid starter. Maybe he does, but his awful second half against New England isn't going to win many believers. That said, I still don't believe you plug Josh Freeman(notes) in this season. From his footwork to his knowledge of the offense, it just makes no sense to throw him into a bad situation. Sometimes patience hurts. But in this case, it's necessary.
Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes can't stop Cowboys WR Miles Austin from scoring one of his two touchdowns.
(LM Otero/AP Photo)
• The Atlanta Falcons defense
With all of those young pieces added, and then the losses of defensive tackle Peria Jerry(notes) and cornerback Brian Williams(notes), you knew it was only a matter of time before this unit ran into some problems. And we saw them on Sunday, with Dallas' offense just physically overpowering the Falcons at times. While Dallas quarterback Tony Romo(notes) was sacked twice, Romo's mobility really hurt Atlanta at key points. If the Falcons can't finish a pass rush, it's only a matter of time before the depleted and somewhat inexperienced secondary gives way.
• Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell
Not only was Russell bad enough to get benched, but backup Bruce Gradkowski(notes) actually moved the offense in his limited time. Granted, Gradkowski didn't get points on the board, but this has got to be a wakeup call for the Raiders. Like Justin Fargas(notes) in the backfield, Gradkowski might actually be the difference between being competitive or being blown out on a semi-regular basis. That means something, right? One less top-five draft pick to overpay might count as a small victory.
• Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme(notes)
I don't know how the Panthers could possibly justify not making a move at the quarterback position next offseason. Make all the excuses in the world, but the fact is Delhomme just isn't a starting-caliber quarterback anymore. His turnovers are killing the Panthers on a regular basis. Maybe it takes franchising Julius Peppers(notes) and trading him for a pick that would be earmarked for a quarterback. Maybe it means looking on the scrap heap for a starter who is on the way out in another city (Jason Campbell(notes)?). Whatever it means, the Panthers have got to move on from Delhomme before other pieces of this team see their prime years vanish.
• The Chicago Bears defense
Cutler's three interceptions certainly did the unit no favors, but Benson just wore the unit out. This is what happens when you have to go without defensive tackle Tommie Harris(notes) and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa(notes), on top of already missing linebacker Brian Urlacher(notes). This isn't a one-game fluke. The Bears are going to have to score points to win games for the remainder of the season. And that's not good for an offensive line that is allowing a lot of hits on Cutler and not opening many holes for the running game.
• The Miami Dolphins
Bill Parcells has to be on the verge of losing his mind. Just when this team seems ready to turn the corner, the second-half fold against New Orleans puts the Dolphins back against the wall. And the schedule-makers did them no favors, with the Jets ready and waiting to hose the Dolphins only three weeks after dealing the Jets a tough loss. The bottom line (and it's getting to be about that time): Miami can't afford to lose the next two to the Jets and the Patriots before getting to the softer part of the schedule. If Miami can win one of the next two, it's conceivable it could reel off a string of wins and put itself into the playoff race by mid-December.
(FIVE THINGS I LOVED AND FIVE THINGS I LOATHED)
Loved: The NFL Today vault segment on CBS, featuring a 1978 clip of former broadcaster Jayne Kennedy interviewing former Jets quarterback Joe Namath. There is even a reference to Namath's failed nightclub "Bachelors 3." The cheesy nature of the segment is unbelievably entertaining. I'm sorry, but it just oozes disco and 1970s pornography. Worth a look if you can find it online.
Loathed: Hearing Fox's NFL Sunday crew talk about Tennessee's 59-0 loss to New England and shrug off running up the score in games. I had to shake my head at former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan(notes), who said teams should "score 100" if they can. I can tell you there is no way Strahan would have said that when he was a player. He would have complained and suggested the Giants would get payback. Totally hypocritical statement.
Loved: The "Inside the Game" segment on CBS with former NFL general manager Charley Casserly. Casserly brought some good tape and observations regarding Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell's indecisiveness. Casserly is more watchable because he delivers information and lacks the pretentiousness of some other network insiders.
Loathed: ESPN's buffoonish "Upset Alert" game picks. When tabbing Carolina for a potential upset, Mike Ditka's entire bit of analysis consisted of: "That Fitzpatrick [Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes)] knows how to speak Gaelic." Um, what the hell?
Loved: Watching the Patriots and Buccaneers in London and hearing the crowd chanting in the first quarter. I couldn't make out what they were saying, but it sounded like something you'd hear at a soccer match. It's fascinating how NFL and soccer crowds sound so different. Watch the real-time clip of Antonio Bryant's(notes) second-quarter touchdown catch and just listen to the sound. It's very unique compared to what you would hear at an NFL stadium.
Loathed: Seeing Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) get stoned twice from inside the 5-yard line in the second quarter against Kansas City. Maybe coach Norv Turner was making a point, but he gave Tomlinson his shot twice and the back came up empty. The offensive line didn't get a great push, but maybe that's the point of inserting Darren Sproles(notes) in that situation. The Chargers need all the quickness they can get in that area of the field.
Colts tight end Dallas Clark catches a 27-yard touchdown pass between Rams defenders James Butler, left, and Ronald Bartell, right.
(Tom Gannam/AP Photo)
Loved: Seeing Peyton Manning's(notes) 27-yard touchdown pass to Dallas Clark(notes) in the first quarter against St. Louis. Manning dropped a perfect pass over Clark's left shoulder, putting it where two defenders couldn't get near the ball. Sometimes it's just not fair how good Manning really is. This was one of those times.
Loathed: That Adrian Peterson fourth-quarter run in which he absolutely crushed Steelers cornerback William Gay(notes) came in a loss. This is what happens when a 190-pound cornerback meets a 235-pound man-beast. While it ultimately didn't matter, Peterson delivered a steam-rolling that should endure for a long, long time.
Loved: Continuing to see lesser-known wideouts break out this season. From Mike Sims-Waker to Pierre Garcon(notes) to Austin Collie(notes) to Mike Wallace(notes), there's a ton of young talent around the league. Like running backs, you can find a lot of good receivers in the middle rounds of the draft these days.
Loathed: Watching Minnesota cornerback Benny Sapp(notes) commit a personal-foul penalty by hitting Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger(notes) as he ran out of bounds in the third quarter of Sunday's game. It was an utterly foolish play. Sapp notched the triple crown of stupidity: leading with his helmet, launching himself into a player and hitting someone out of bounds. Numbskull.