Farewell Derek Anderson. Adios amigo. Buh-bye. Ta ta. Sayonara. Bon voyage. Aloha. Shalom.
Any way you say it, it all means the same thing … Anderson's days with the Browns are now definitely numbered. Call Mayflower, Ryder or United Van Lines. Anderson is as good as gone once the curtain comes down on the '08 season.
Brady Quinn, making his first NFL start, pretty much punched Anderson's one-way ticket out of town Thursday night with an awesome performance in the Browns' thrilling 34-30 loss to the visiting Denver Broncos.
Quinn, appearing composed and confident despite limited practice time, was nearly flawless in the first half, tossing a pair of touchdown passes to Kellen Winslow Jr., while putting up a 131.1 quarterback rating.
In the second half, Quinn played well once again, but was victimized by Winslow, who not only lost a critical fumble, but was also guilty of a critical offensive pass interference call that wiped out a key first down and had a critical drop with less than a minute to go that put a halt to the Browns' comeback hopes. "The legends catch that," said a disappointed Winslow of his game-ending drop. "We've dug ourselves a big hole (3-6) and you can blame me for that."
In reality, the Browns' sixth loss in nine games, actually can't be blamed on Winslow or anyone on the offense. Instead, it was another horrible second half performance by the defense, which squandered a 13-point (23-10) third-quarter lead. It was eerily similar to the 14-point second half lead the team blew four days earlier against the Ravens.
Leading the list of culprits was cornerback Brandon McDonald, who was burned a couple of times for touchdowns. And while McDonald was proving he's not yet ready to stand alone on an island, he had plenty of company as Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, with virtually no pressure, was 24-for-42 for an incredible 447 yards.
"It's disappointing that your defense does some of the simple things wrong," said Browns head coach Romeo Crennel, who watched McDonald get burned on a 93-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Quinn, meanwhile, did a very solid job of managing the offense. He was efficient throughout and showed very little rust for not having started a game in 22 months. His final numbers – 23-for-35 for 239 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions – give every reason to believe he can be the answer at quarterback.
Quinn showed mobility, a nice touch and also avoided the costly turnovers that had plagued Anderson throughout his year and half as the Browns' starter, including the disastrous pick in the fourth quarter against Baltimore.
When the Ravens' Terrell Suggs reached the end zone following his 42-yard jaunt, Crennel's blood pressure simultaneously reached the boiling point.
Twenty four hours later, the long-awaited Brady Quinn era began, much to the delight of Browns fans who had cast their votes with boos and chants of "Brady, Brady, Brady" as the team trudged off the field last Sunday.
In political terms, the fans' choice of Quinn was a landslide. It was more one-sided than Barack Obama's 200-plus electoral margin over John McCain, which was a nail-biter comparatively speaking.
Quinn certainly didn't inherit a job nearly as difficult as the one Obama faces, but there have been a number of unexpected chinks in the Browns' armor during the first half of the season. The offensive line has been inconsistent, due in part to injuries; the team's No. 1 receiver, Braylon Edwards, leads the world in dropped passes; All-Pro tight end Winslow has been in and out of the lineup due to illness (two games) and a big mouth (one game); and, of course, Anderson was a model of inconsistency, which is why he is now a highly-paid clipboard holder.
Quinn isn't big enough to fill any position on the offensive line; he can't put glue on Edwards' fingers; and he can't cover Winslow's mouth with tape or magically get rid of the staph infection that has affected more than a half-dozen Browns players in recent years.
But Quinn can bring some consistency to the most important position on the team, and that in a round-about way did cure some of the other non-staph woes. The line looked solid, allowing no sacks while opening some nice holes for the running game. He also got Winslow heavily involved by looking his direction early and often. Winslow finished with 10 catches and 111 yards. Edwards was a non-factor with only one catch.
Due to the fact the Browns' playoff hopes are now over, there will be very little pressure on Quinn to win every game down the stretch. The balance of the 2008 season will pretty much be on-the-job training for the former Notre Dame standout. He'll enjoy a two-month honeymoon with Browns fans and gain valuable experience that will be important when the Browns make their playoff run in 2009.
Anderson, meanwhile, is talented and should have a chance to take his team to playoffs as well. Where that is will be determined before March 15, when he is scheduled to receive an $5 million roster bonus. NFL teams don't pay backup quarterbacks that kind of money.
Thanks for the memories, Derek Anderson.