Brownlee: Tackling the QB Switch

In leui of a game report, Joe looks at promises of change and hope. Meaning, Brady Quinn starting at quarterback, of course.

Barak Obama won the election by advocating change. The Browns are also making a change midway through what has quickly become a lost season.

This change is a welcome one for two reasons. First, regardless of his specific performance in the Ravens game, Derek Anderson has been wildly inconsistent and is statistically the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. Second, the Browns have a big decision to make on Brady Quinn, and given that at 3-5 and 1-3 in the division the season is pretty much toast, it's time to see what the kid can do.

I'm surprised by the move, especially on a short week. Not because it isn't a reasonable thing to do, but because it is a reasonable thing to do. The organization hasn't exactly made good decisions this year, top to bottom. There is little to be gained by trotting Anderson out at this point. I suppose it says a lot that my expectations were that the organization would stay the course despite the fact that there is little to be gained by doing so.

While the timing of the change is debatable, I think it makes sense. The Browns face a Denver team that is having problems defensively. After a mini-bye of 11 days, the Browns travel to Buffalo, a team that has fallen off in recent weeks. While Houston is no pushover, the Browns play them at home. After that, the Browns will face some tough tests against Indianapolis, at Tennessee, at Philadelphia, and at Pittsburgh. By then, Quinn will have had a few games to get his feet wet.

Now, if you are one of those people who feel that Quinn will singlehandedly turn this season around, I hate to burst your bubble. Granted, we have very little evidence at the NFL level, but my observations of Quinn from camp and the preseason make me believe that it will take a while for Quinn to settle in as a pro. Immediate success would be welcome, but I believe it is unlikely.

Don't get me wrong here – I'm not saying Quinn won't be a solid starting quarterback in the NFL. I'm just skeptical that he is right now. I am taking a "wait and see" attitude.

Quinn has had one series in a real game. He led the team to a field goal on an eight-play drive. He completed three of five passes. But two passes into the end zone were dropped by Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow. Both should have been caught. He did a decent job. But this was on a cold December day against a 49er team that just wanted to end a long and disappointing season.

In camp, Quinn struggled, especially at the start. In one session I attended, Quinn threw three interceptions in 11-on-11 drills. The first was tipped to himself by Shaun Rogers. He lumbered into the end zone, brushing aside a tackle attempt by Lawrence Vickers. The second was a long ball that was picked off by one of the defensive backs. The third was a gimmie to linebacker Alex Hall on a swing pass which Hall took to the house. It was a play that was eerily similar to the interception thrown by Anderson this past Sunday.

The preseason is such a hard thing to read. Quinn had a so-so game against the Jets playing against the backups. He looked pretty good against the Giants, but this was after they had taken a 30-3 lead and weren't playing all that hard. Quinn started against the Lions and did not look good at all. That's disturbing given how the season has gone in Detroit so far. Quinn had limited playing time in the Chicago game and looked solid.

My take from what I have seen is exactly what you would expect: Quinn is essentially a rookie. There are some throws and some plays you make in college that just don't work given the speed and talent level of defenses in the NFL. Quinn made some very ill-advised throws in the preseason. Some he got away with, some he didn't. He will have to adjust to the NFL game and avoid those kinds of plays.

Yet, with all of the potential negatives, Quinn might still be a better option right now than what we've seen from Derek Anderson.

Quinn showed the ability to improvise and make plays with his feet. He's known as a better performer on game day than in practice. And if Quinn can make some touch throws, he can take greater advantage of the talent the Browns have at the running back and tight end positions. He's reportedly a much more commanding presence in the huddle, which might be needed given the egos on the Browns offense.

There is so much I'd like to say about how the Browns have gotten to this point, but I'm going to leave that until after the Denver game. Seeing people's tickets torn up and trampled on the football bridge across from the stadium Sunday afternoon was a bitter reminder of the dashed hopes the 2008 season has brought us. We did not reach this point because of the quarterback position alone.

For now, a page is being turned. At least there is hope that better times are ahead.

Next Up

Quinn and the Browns take on Denver, the last-ranked defense in the NFL.

The season is short. Bark hard!

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