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News » Dilfer, Frye, Dorsey . . . why not look at Harrell?

Dilfer, Frye, Dorsey . . . why not look at Harrell?

Dilfer, Frye, Dorsey . . . why not look at Harrell?
Here at the Next Level, the NFL scoffs at players like Graham Harrell, who was, among other things, fourth in the 2008 Heisman Trophy voting

He so dazzled the NFL at Texas Tech that he's a tryout player, not even an undrafted free agent, with the Browns .

And if anybody knows quarterbacks, it's the Browns the past 10 years, right?

Actually, the current Browns regime, which is giving Harrell this weekend at rookie minicamp to make an impression, can't be blamed for the past. That is a mess stretching from Ty Detmer to Bruce Gradkowski, with splatters at Doug Pedersen, Charlie Frye, Ken Dorsey and Trent Dilfer in between. The teeny-tiny peak of actual competence was compressed into Derek Anderson's 2007 season against break-but-don't-bend defenses.

Maybe the problem was the quality of defenses in the Big 12. Harrell has heard that criticism. "As much as everyone throws in the Big 12, you are going to run into some games where you give up some big points," said Harrell.

But it's not just volume of fire. It's Harrell's height (listed as 6-2, but probably 6-0), which, inconveniently, is the same as Drew Brees, an NFL success.

It's also the spread offense, which transfers to the NFL poorly, except for the Brees guy and the "basketball on grass" he played at Purdue.

NFL scouts frown on quarterbacks who take a shotgun snap seven steps deep and throw to five wideouts scurrying here and there. Yet Denver did that with Jay Cutler before he got into a snit. But Cutler was 6-3, 233, with an arm that was what paradise looked like to scouts.

NFL defenders are supposed to be too athletic for the spread to work, because the pass rush is fiercer, the need for something deep to vary the spread's dink passes is greater, and the ability of a QB to read a defense after the play has started is non-negotiable.

Harrell admitted the Browns' playbook is thick. "But it has a little bit of the spread concept," he said.

The Next Level, though, digs the long ball, so much so that Anderson could be as blithely inaccurate as an Oliver Stone biopic and still wow the coaches because, one supposes, he missed hard.

"I have to prove I can make the throws," said Harrell. "But throwing the Football is throwing the Football."

Anderson, Brady Quinn, and Brett Ratliff, the latter acquired in the trade that sent Mark Sanchez to New York, are already here. So the Next Level for Harrell might be no more than the practice squad at first.

But what happened to giving value to a job well done, regardless of the tools used? Sanchez was ballyhooed, but he started just 16 college games. Curtis Painter, who led Purdue to a 4-8 record, was drafted, but Harrell was not.

"I thought Harrell did a nice job," said Mangini, "not just with his throws, but also the huddle mechanics, absorbing the information and being able to run the offense."

He said Harrell is here because "of the way he ran that offense, the success he had in the offense. For quarterbacks, to me, it's about their ability to operate the system, their ability to run the offense. Then, obviously, you have to look at a range of throws, the type of throws. I thought he was accurate the first two sessions."

At Texas Tech, Harrell completed almost 70 percent of more than 2,000 passes for almost nine miles in the air with 134 touchdowns to 34 interceptions.

The Browns have thrown a total of 135 touchdown passes the past seven seasons. They scored no offensive touchdowns in their last six games in 2008. Mangini gets credit for giving Harrell a look. This team could do a lot worse - and has.

To reach Bill Livingston: blivingston@plaind.com, 216-999-4672

Previous columns online: cleveland.com/columns

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 5, 2009

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