BEREA, Ohio (Sept. 5, 2005) -- Charlie Frye is no longer an ordinary NFL rookie. He's a backup quarterback, too. Just one snap away from being Cleveland's starter.
Frye beat out veteran Doug Johnson and was named the Browns' No. 2 QB by first-year coach Romeo Crennel, who is confident the former Akron star could capably fill in for starter Trent Dilfer.
"Charlie has stepped in, and he has performed and done a nice job," Crennel said. "At this point, he's ahead of Doug. I feel like he's done enough to warrant the No. 2 spot."
Johnson, who started eight games for Atlanta in 2003 when Michael Vick was injured and was signed by the Browns as a free agent in June, missed one exhibition game and a week of practice because of a sore arm.
His absence gave Frye the chance to pass him on the depth chart, and Frye made the most of it.
The third-round pick had a strong training camp and played well during the exhibition season. Frye sealed the backup job Sept. 1 when he got a surprise start at Chicago and responded by going 12-of-14 for 186 yards in leading the Browns to a 16-6 victory over the Bears.
"Just about every situation he's gone in, he's been able to move the team," Crennel said. "He hasn't been perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but he has some pocket presence, he can evade the rush, he can make plays and he has made plays. That's why I think he can do it."
Frye hasn't been a backup since his freshman year at Akron. He said Crennel's decision to make him the second stringer won't alter his preparation.
"It doesn't change my thinking at all," said the Willard native who grew up rooting for the Browns. "I'll still prepare the same way and do everything I've been doing all training camp."
Frye is already a favorite with Cleveland fans, who have chanted "Char-lie," "Char-lie" during training camp and preseason games. Crennel was asked how soon he expects to hear the calls for Frye during Sunday's season opener against Cincinnati.
"Probably after the first incompletion by Trent," he said.
Crennel, though, isn't going to yank Dilfer just because the fans might want him to make a switch.
The Browns made that mistake before. Ty Detmer began the 1999 season as Cleveland's starter but was benched in favor of rookie Tim Couch following a 43-0 loss to Pittsburgh in Week 1. Without a strong supporting cast around him, Couch was roughed up the entire season.
Crennel promises he'll be patient with Dilfer.
"If I've got a proven vet, a guy who has been to a Pro Bowl and won a Super Bowl, I'm not going to pull him after the first interception," Crennel said. "Why would I do that? I'm going to give him time to lead this offense and lead this team. At whatever point I decide it's not where I want it to be or it's counterproductive, at that point we'll put somebody else in and give them a chance.
"It won't be after the first interception or after the first bad play."