Sunday, October 25, 2009

Did Brady Quinn Ever Stand a Chance?

By Eric Engberg

Ever since Eric Mangini took over in Cleveland, the quarterback situation there has been curious, and tenuous at best. When he first got the job, everyone expected Mangini to tab Brady Quinn as his starting quarterback heading into offseason camps and training camp. He refused to do so, in fact, he refused to name a starting quarterback at all.

Fair enough, I suppose, he wanted to see firsthand what he had in Quinn and Derek Anderson before making a decision. I can dig that philosophy. Well, the spring mini-camps came and went without Mangini naming a starter. It was curious, but it stands to reason he wanted to see how the two would perform in training camp with the full roster in camp. Maybe he wanted to see how the team as a whole was going to respond to the quarterback competition, which one was going to have the most support in the locker room. I get that. Or he possibly wanted to see them in preseason games, see how they were going to play in real-time game situations and not just running non-contact passing drills in practice. Understandable.

As preseason rolled on, neither player did a lot to distinguish themselves from the other. Neither one of them was particularly bad, but neither was overwhelmingly great, either. They both played fairly well when called upon in the preseason. Anderson completed 15-of-26 passes for 207 yards and 2 interceptions, while Quinn was 21-of-31 for 227 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.

Quinn was eventually tabbed the starting quarterback just days before the Browns season opener against the Vikings. One can only assume he was named the starter based on having slightly better numbers than Anderson did in the preseason. Given that he was effectively benched half-way into the third game of the season, one kind of wonders who or what was behind Quinn being the named the starter after all.

Did it come from the front office that Quinn was going to start because they did not spend a first round draft pick and millions of dollars to sit the bench? Look at it this way. Anderson had earned the right to be the starting quarterback last season based on throwing 29 touchdowns and passing for 3,787 yards in the 2007 season. But he did nothing during the 2008 season to warrant being the starter heading into camp, and in Anderson's defense, Quinn had done nothing to separate himself as the clear-cut favorite given the couple of games he started before going down with a season-ending injury in his third career start.

Granted, Quinn was not setting the world ablaze the first few weeks of the season with his play, but was his benching truly warranted? He completed 59% of his passes and had thrown 1 touchdown against 2 interceptions and passed for 366 yards in the Browns' first two games. Not great numbers, but not horrendous, either. Let us not overlook the fact that the first two games were against two pretty good defenses in Minnesota and Denver.

Let us also not forget that Cleveland's talent at the skill positions is pretty lacking. Jamal Lewis is a serviceable back, but teams do not feel compelled to game plan around his presence. Braylon Edwards is as good a talent as there is at wide receiver, but, let us face facts. He was pulling a Man-Ram in Cleveland and dogging it there the past two years. Aside from getting the big payday he has been after, he was never going to be happy playing for a going-nowhere-fast franchise like the Browns are these days.

After that, the cupboard is pretty bare given they traded Kellen Winslow to the Bucs, Donte Stallworth got suspended for the year, and Joe Jurevicius may never play football again. Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie are promising talents, but it is tough to expect an inexperienced quarterback to cut his teeth in the league and be successful without any real talent around him to throw the ball to.

Given how quickly Quinn was given the hook this season, one wonders if Anderson was Mangini's favorite all along. He could not very well name Anderson the starter outright without upsetting the fan base, or, potentially, upper management. Remember, they have a vested interest in seeing Quinn be successful out there. Quinn was the fan favorite last spring and they wanted to see him get a shot as the starter.

Remember that Mangini comes from the Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick coaching family and Anderson is the kind of quarterback they tend to gravitate towards. He is a late round pick who was a three year starter in college who threw for a ton of yards and touchdowns. They love those kind of quarterbacks who have to fight and scrap for their spot on the team. They tend to veer away from the over-hyped guys who every other team in the league falls in love with. The mid-to-late round guys are more coachable and eager to go the extra mile to be successful in the league. They know they are not good enough to get by on their skills alone and need to be students of the game.

Quinn is the wunderkind out of Notre Dame that was being hyped as a top quarterback prospect. That was the first strike against him, the second being he was the fan favorite. Guys like Parcells, Mangini, Belichick, etc. do not like to be dictated to and told what to do with their teams.

One gets the sense that Mangini disdained the fact that he was forced to have Brett Favre as his quarterback last season and rode with him the entire year to prove a point. If he had his druthers, Kellen Clemens or Chad Pennington probably would have been the starter last season for the Jets, not Favre.

Mangini was a bit of a controversial hire in Cleveland given how he left New York and he was probably not looking to rock the boat too much when he first got there. So he played ball and went with Quinn, and when he benched him in favor of Anderson, it was as though he was saying, "see, this guy sucks, I never wanted him in the first place." What leads one to believe Anderson was always the first choice is how dreadfully he has played and how Mangini has yet to even consider pulling the plug on him. It is as though he is saying "I did it your way and we lost, so now I am doing it my way."

First of all, Anderson was named the starter after completing just 11-of-19 passes for 92 yards in the second half of the Ravens game in Week 3. He also threw three picks in that game. Even though he did not do anything to make one believe he was going to have any more success than Quinn did, he drew the starting assignment in Week 4 versus the Bengals. He played well enough in that game — completing 26-of-48 passes for 269 yards and a score — to warrant starting against Buffalo.

He was downright dreadful in the Bills game, completing 2-of-17 passes for 23 yards and an interception. The mere fact that they won the game and Anderson kept the starting job is nothing short of a minor miracle in and of itself.

Despite putting up one of the worst games in league history, he drew the start this past week against the Steelers and while he was not as bad, he was still awful. He completed just 9-of-24 passes for 122 yards with a touchdown and an interception against Pittsburgh. Anderson's only saving grace as a starter this year is he holds the Browns' only win.

After this past weekend's games, Anderson is currently the worst rated quarterback in the league. Believe it or not, his completion percentage and passer rating worse than that of Oakland's JaMarcus Russell, who has been roundly criticized as the worst quarterback in the league this year. In three games as the starting quarterback, Anderson has completed just 41.6% of his passes, is averaging a meager 138 passing yards, and has thrown 2 touchdowns against 3 interceptions.

The mere fact that Derek Anderson is still the starting quarterback after being the worst quarterback in the league to this point leads one to believe that Brady Quinn never stood a chance at starting all 16 games this year. He needed to be absolutely perfect to hang onto the job. The fact that Mangini has not even thought twice about keeping Anderson in the lineup is mind-boggling.

One wonders if he is trying to throw the season, so he can get a better draft pick. One thing that seems pretty evident at this stage of the season is that neither Quinn or Anderson will be the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns next season. Who it ends up being remains to be seen, but I fully expect Brady Quinn to be in another team's uniform come next spring.

This article was republished with permission from the Pickle Barrel.

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