This is the first of a three-part series providing detailed analysis of the Cleveland Browns quarterback position...
It's a mere five weeks until the start of training camp for the Cleveland Browns. Unlike some recent camps in recent memory, this team will blast into Berea with plenty at stake.
Coming off a 10-6 season, the optimism within the organization is at a post-1999 high and the roster is littered with personnel feeling a little empty after missing out on the playoffs. The 2007 version of the Browns displayed great character and provided fans with excitement unlike that seen on the shores of Lake Erie for more than a decade.
Leading the offensive rebirth was none other than quarterback Derek Anderson... the same Derek Anderson who was picked up by the Browns when the Baltimore Ravens tried to sneak him onto their practice squad. Anderson had plenty of help, of course, behind an impressive line and amongst skill players having some of their best seasons.
Fast forward past the 29 touchdowns and 19 interceptions Anderson tossed a season ago in leading the Browns to a 10-5 record in his starts, and the former sixth-round pick is now incumbent starting quarterback and is in position to fend off an up-and-coming Brady Quinn.
Despite the team's success with Anderson at the helm, some of those watching, rooting and possibly reporting on this team have decided to pick sides. While many realize the accomplishments of the 2007 team behind Anderson, others clamor for the local talent Quinn to step in and take this team to the promised land.
And what a great story it would be for the Cleveland Browns to end four decades of disappointment with Dublin, Ohio native Brady Quinn at the helm.
Let's take emotions and "gut feel" out of the equation and look at the quarterback situation from more of a scouting perspective.
SCOUTING OUR OWN
Depth at the quarterback position is critical, but the players aren't interchangeable parts. There are noticeable differences in qualities and abilities of the two players.
Thanks to the help of some our friends around the NFL, the OBR has completed a lengthy dissection of tape on the two quarterbacks. Adding this to live evaluation during the recent camp tells a tale of two very different players.
For certain, the tape doesn't lie. Take out the cheering and the emotion of the moment, and it tells you most anything you need to know about a player's on-field ability.
One thing that it has told me is that there are subtle misconceptions regarding vertical big-plays versus arm strength, recognition and awareness and utilization of receivers in the offensive set.
Most football people know that players do not fundamentally change, regardless of how well they're coached. The challenge of a coaching staff is to work with a player's strengths and minimize their weaknesses.The qualities and limitations of Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn are likely to remain basically the same regardless of off-season tweaking.
While at Oregon State, Anderson was a downfield, vertical type of player who was in-tune with the big-play. At the college level, he displayed a tendency to throw into coverage, showed inconsistencies with his footwork and follow-through, and was streaky player. The Anderson of today has the same basic characteristic, and retains an uncanny ability to make plays when his team needs them.
It is the ability to make plays at key moments which is intriguing and something that is not simply coached.
After getting an opportunity to display his talent at the pro level, Anderson utilized these skills to succeed last season. Relying on his good arm strength, a scheme which fits his make-up, and athleticism at the receiver positions, Anderson was confident and comfortable attacking opponents. These said strengths also led to many troubling moments on gameday, as his reliance on his arm strength, locking onto receivers and trusting his receivers to go after everything in flight did lead to turnovers and stalled drives.
Despite his shortcomings, Anderson is a viable quarterback in this league and the first option for the Browns heading into the 2008 season despite his streaky nature.
Brady Quinn, with his experience with Notre Dame, is a very different story. In his first two seasons at Notre Dame, Quinn was a 50-percent passer and was not a solid fit for the Fighting Irish offensive scheme. In his final two seasons in college, Quinn's completion percentage was greatly improved under the tutelage of head coach Charlie Weis (former New England offensive coordinator).
Great players elevate the play of those around them and have a leadership quality which cannot be taught. Quite often a player of this stature gains the unconditional trust of those he plays with. This was Brady Quinn as he headed into the NFL.
Since his arrival in Cleveland, Quinn has had a significant change in his mechanics to improve inconsistencies in his throwing motion. The complexity of the changes include his arm slot positioning, hand positioning, and footwork. At the pro level, these changes can play a pivotal role in the development of a quality quarterback.
Again, tape does not lie. In essence, both Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn grade to be successful at the professional level in the Cleveland Browns offensive scheme, but in different ways. While both would work in same base offensive scheme, the Cleveland offense would take on a different look with either player on the field.
In part two of this QB series, we will dig into the qualities and abilities of each QB and how the Cleveland offense could change with Brady Quinn under center, rather than the incumbent Derek Anderson.