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Starting QBs have tenuous hold on spots for Raiders, Browns

| Sunday, Sept. 23, 2007

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Josh McCown and Derek Anderson know they have a tenuous hold on their starting quarterback positions.

With a former Pro Bowler and the top overall draft pick waiting behind McCown in Oakland and another first-round phenom sitting behind Anderson in Cleveland, it's only a matter of time before those teams make a quarterback change.

But when the Raiders (0-2) host the Browns (1-1) on Sunday, the focus of each quarterback will be on making the best of his long-awaited chance and not on how long that chance will last.

"You can't think about it that way," McCown said. "As a quarterback, or anything you do in life, if you start looking over your shoulder, you're going to bump into a lot of walls."

Based on their performances last week, McCown appears to be the quarterback with more to worry about in terms of job security. Coach Lane Kiffin called the Raiders passing game "embarrassing" after McCown was 8-for-16 for 73 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in a 23-20 overtime loss at Denver.

McCown beat Culpepper out for the starting job based on his better knowledge of the offense and ability to manage the game. It was an unpopular decision with Raiders fans, who chanted "Daunte! Daunte!" throughout a 36-21 loss in the opener to Detroit.

McCown knows there will be even more of those cheers Sunday after the way he played last week. With Culpepper becoming more comfortable with Oakland's schemes each day, McCown must do a better job protecting the football or Kiffin might join the fans and call out Culpepper's name.

"It's a disaster right now," Kiffin said. "It's exactly everything we talked about not doing. It goes back to us coaches and offensive players, that we're not getting it done. And we need to get it done or some things need to change. Obviously that's where we go back to the situation with the quarterback. He's going to take too much credit, too much blame and the turnovers fall on him."

Oakland needs to shore up its play at quarterback and stiffen up defensively after allowing more than 400 yards per game the first two weeks if the Raiders want to avoid their first 12-game losing streak since 1961-62 -- the year before Al Davis joined the franchise.

The nine-game skid to end last season gave the Raiders the top pick in the draft, which they used on JaMarcus Russell. But with Russell missing all of training camp in a contract dispute, he is still a long way from entering the picture in Oakland.

The Raiders chose Russell over Brady Quinn, a player Kiffin believes will become a "franchise" quarterback in Cleveland. Anderson is doing his best to delay that, throwing five touchdown passes in a 51-45 victory over Cincinnati last week.

The Browns would probably like to hold off turning to Quinn until after their off week Oct. 21. But the fans in Cleveland, who were chanting Quinn's name the first two weeks, will have only so much patience with Anderson.

"It is what it is," Anderson said. "I've got to go out there, and keep moving the ball, and making plays and winning games and everything will be all right."

Anderson, drafted by Baltimore in the sixth round in 2005, made a lasting impression on the Browns last December when he relieved an injured Frye and rallied from a 14-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a 31-28 overtime win over playoff-bound Kansas City.

He lost as the starter the next three weeks, but had shown enough with his strong arm to challenge Frye for the starting spot this summer. Frye won the competition but was pulled in the first half of a 34-7 season-opening loss to Pittsburgh and then traded to Seattle.

That gave Anderson his chance to keep the QB seat warm until Quinn is ready to seize it. After Anderson started last week's game 0-for-5, that moment seemed imminent. But the five TD passes and 328 yards passing that followed have delayed the inevitable for the time being.

"It shows that he's capable and he's ready for this level and that he had the support," receiver Braylon Edwards said. "He had guys around him that are willing to play for him, do the things necessary. A coaching staff that believes in him, put the game in his hands, let him make calls and plays."

It also shows how quickly the perception of a quarterback can change in the NFL. Browns coach Romeo Crennel said quieted the calls for Quinn to take over the starting job immediately.

"Quarterbacks always get too much credit, too much blame," Kiffin said. "Derek Anderson's the next John Elway right now. He played really well but he had a number of guys make really good plays for him. People turn either way real fast on that position."

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