Passan: The Moment of Truth

Elevating Brady Quinn to starter will change offensive philosophy, and says much about RAC's role...

It's the moment Braden Tyler Quinn has dreamed of since he was a little kid growing up in suburban Columbus. And now, he's about to live in that moment.

Browns fans are about to witness the dawn of what many of them hope is a new era for the team, an era that finally brings winning football on a consistent basis to the lakefront.

The pressure will rest heavily on Quinn's shoulders when he trots onto the Cleveland Browns Stadium turf Thursday night as the Browns' starting quarterback against the Denver Broncos in a nationally televised game.

We don't know how he'll respond to that pressure. Neither does he, although you can bet his nerve endings will tingle with excitement as he fulfills that childhood dream of being the team's starting quarterback.

The Browns must still believe postseason participation is in their future with this move. They also believe, based on their benching of Derek Anderson Monday, that Quinn will be the linchpin that sparks the mother of all comebacks in a season that is more than halfway down the toilet. The move does not have the aroma of giving up.

What it amounts to is a no-lose situation for the kid from Dublin, Ohio. First of all, his first start comes during a short week, hardly enough time to adequately prepare for the opposition. Can't blame him if his first effort falls short of what are bound to be lofty expectations.

If Quinn succeeds, there are those who will say the move should have been made a long time ago. Then there's the other side of the argument.

If he fails or experiences only moderate success, there are those who will say, "Unfair. Give him a full season to show what he can do."

And if Quinn fails miserably against the Broncos, a team also beset with all sorts of problems, it'll be interesting to see how the fans react now that the hot-button quarterback issue has been settled. Sides are bound to be taken.

You can bet the Broncos, knowing they'll face a quarterback with only eight regular-season snaps on his resume, will throw the entire defensive playbook at Quinn. They'll show him no mercy, as well they should. Too bad the Browns didn't treat Baltimore rookie Joe Flacco similarly in their two games this season.

The biggest adjustment will have to be made by the other 10 guys in the Browns' offensive huddle. A new voice, a new attitude, a new approach, a new rhythm, a new way of doing business. It's almost like starting all over again.

And because Quinn doesn't have the same physical attributes of Anderson, the most important adjustment will have to be made by offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, whose partiality to a vertical passing game most likely will be scaled back.

Quinn is the quarterback for the remainder of the season unless he gets hurt. So Chudzinski had better change his offensive philosophy pronto and start attacking opposing defenses in a manner foreign to him.

Quinn does not possess the arm strength of Anderson. He's a West Coast style quarterback who relies on a more horizontal approach. That flies in the face of what Chudzinski wants to accomplish.

The move, if nothing else, also proved Phil Savage is running the show and Romeo Crennel is nothing more than a figurehead. Until now, the general manager has adopted a hands-off policy when it comes to who plays. That changed Monday.

It'll now be interesting to see how the club spins this move after Crennel in his news conference Monday stated that Anderson remained the starting quarterback "as of now" when asked about the quarterback's status in the wake of his latest performance. If he had known about the switch to Quinn then, he would have said something.

While there's no way of proving it, it wouldn't be surprising to learn that if Crennel had not acquiesced to the switch, he might have found himself either kicked upstairs in some capacity or booted out the door.

What else could one conclude after the coach told the media at noon that Anderson was his quarterback and a few hours later, Quinn is the guy?

The decision had to be Savage's, perhaps after consulting with his top lieutenants and maybe even owner Randy Lerner. That makes Crennel a lame duck. And if the Browns don't wind up in the playoffs, he'll either be elsewhere next season or residing in the Browns' ivory tower.

The players, at least those on offense, must wonder who's really in charge. Crennel is a players' coach, but the sudden change in quarterbacks has to create at least some doubt in their minds.

Based on this move and the one where Savage helped Crennel pick a virtually brand new assistant coaching staff for the offense in 2007, one also has to wonder what other moves the GM has dictated. We'll probably never know.

 


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