Frye returns to Cleveland to find Browns thriving without him
KIRKLAND, Wash. - For Charlie Frye, Cleveland really does rock.
Not just because he grew up in nearby Willard, Ohio, and played college football at Akron. And certainly not because the Browns benched him in their opening game this season and then two days later gave him away to Seattle for a sixth-round draft choice. It was the most sudden dumping of a starting quarterback the modern NFL has seen.
No, Frye is psyched to score some fresh clothes from his for-sale house on Cleveland's west side.
"You know what, I am. Take some of my suits from home, throw them in a bag and reload," Frye said this week. "I've got two suitcases here. Still."
He was standing inside the locker room of the Seahawks, for whom he has been the third-string quarterback for the last seven weeks.
In Cleveland, he was 6-13 as the starter. The Browns (4-3) -- behind the play of Plan B quarterback Derek Anderson, wide receiver Braylon Edwards, tight end Kellen Winslow and a revamped offensive line -- have revived since Frye left. They host the Seahawks (4-3) on Sunday having won three of their last four games.
"I'm happy for him," Frye said of Anderson, with whom he regularly talks. "Those guys are making plays for him. Kellen, Braylon, they have a lot of good weapons there. And they are making plays."
The only plays made with Frye in Week 1 were bad.
Frye went 4-of-10 for 34 yards with an interception -- a QB rating of 10.0 -- Sept. 9 while getting sacked five times during Cleveland's 34-7 loss to Pittsburgh at home. The Browns then replaced their third-round pick in 2005 with Anderson, a third-year veteran who had just three starts.
Frye appeared stunned in the ensuing weeks. He seemed to be the Browns' knee-jerk scapegoat.
"I don't really want to say what they were thinking. I don't know what they were thinking," he said. "All I know is I landed out here."
Since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970, no quarterback had ever started an opener and been traded before Week 2.
Frye didn't exactly have time to call AAA for a travel planner before he got kicked out of Ohio, where he'd lived for all of his 24 years.
"Two hours," he said. "It was, just throw as much stuff as I can in the bag and get out here and get to practice.
"I don't think anyone realized that rope was going to be that short. But that's the way it went down."
Way down, for him.
When asked how many tickets he was collecting for Cleveland pals this week, Frye chuckled.
"None," he said. "I'm not playing."
In Seattle, he's insurance, with a minimal premium. He backs up both Matt Hasselbeck and Seneca Wallace. Frye is the veteran reserve that Seattle coach Mike Holmgren has wanted for years, so he can use the dynamic Wallace at wide receiver as he's done in recent games without fear that Hasselbeck's only trusted backup will be lost to injury.
Frye sees a positive in that.
"I've played in my hometown basically my whole career. Went to college an hour-and-a-half away. It's kind of good that I am away from my hometown," he said. "Just to focus really on football. You don't have people asking you for tickets every week. You don't have people pulling you one way or the other every day."
His limited wardrobe is less of a social faux pas because Frye spends much of his time inside Seahawks headquarters trying to catch up on Holmgren's intricate offense. Holmgren said he is comfortable enough with that progress that he thinks Frye could now win a game if needed.
On the practice field, Frye looks up at cards with opposing plays diagramed on them while leading the scout team against the Seahawks defense. This week, he won't have to look at the card. He used to call and run most of the plays.
Yet Hasselbeck said that doesn't mean Frye or Brian Russell, the starting safety signed from Cleveland in the offseason, have inside information on their former team.
"I'm going to listen to whatever they have to say, but they can change quickly," Hasselbeck said of a team's plays. "(The Browns) know that both of those guys are here, so I'm going to probably focus more on what we do."
Frye isn't surprised the Browns are surging without him.
"It's a totally different team than it was last year," he said of a squad that went 4-12 for its fourth consecutive losing season. "Nobody was really stopping us in the preseason.
"What I think people don't realize is that the regular season, it's a whole different level. It wasn't going to happen in Week 1. You really can't base the season on what you saw in Week 1, because there are too many weapons on offense."
Frye thinks he'll get another chance as a starter, but realizes that may mean another stint of living for months out of two suitcases in some city foreign to him.
"Matt's the guy," he said. "I think eventually, whether hopefully it's here or somewhere else, I'm getting another shot. I'm still a young guy.
"I've got 20 starts under my belt. I've seen a lot of defenses. So I won't get set back too far."