King: The Quarterback Quandry

Two quarterbacks with different skill sets fighting for one job. What to do when neither dominates?

In a lot of ways, the evaluation by head coach Eric Mangini and his offensive staff of Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, the two players competing for the starting quarterback job, will be like comparing apples and oranges because the two players are so different.

That's one of the problems facing the Browns as this QB derby really starts to heat up with the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday night at Lambeau Field.

Yes, of course, there are all the obvious differences:

*At 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, Anderson has a string-bean look to him in comparison to the well-muscled, 6-3, 235-pound Quinn.

*Quinn comes from Dublin, Ohio, a Columbus suburb located just two hours or so south of Cleveland. He grew up a Browns fan. Highly-recruited, he played in the national spotlight at Notre Dame. Anderson is from far away. Born in Portland, he played at Scappoose (Ore.) High School and then at Oregon State. He probably had never set foot in Cleveland, or watched a Browns game, before coming to the team.

*Anderson was a lowly sixth-round choice of the Baltimore Ravens in the 2005 NFL Draft. When he walked into the Browns locker room for the first time during the media availability after being claimed on waivers from the Ravens, not one media person recognized him or spoke to him, a rare occurrence when a quarterback – any quarterback – is added to the team. The Browns made a draft-day trade with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007 to move back up into the first round to take Quinn at No. 22 overall, causing a series of cascading shrieks, cheers and shouts from wildly excited club employees watching the proceedings on TV from their upstairs offices at team headquarters.

*Anderson celebrated his 26th birthday two months ago. Quinn won't turn 25 for a little over two months.

In terms of this competition, though, none of these things matter. They absolutely don't factor into the equation.

Here are the things that will be considered, however:

*Anderson has much more experience. He has played in 31 games with 27 starts, while Quinn has been in just four contests with three starts. But Quinn has nonetheless been in pressure situations. He was a four-year starter at Notre Dame, where the Fighting Irish quarterback is second in the spotlight only to the Pope.

*Anderson has been there, done that. With his big season in 2007 – one of the greatest passing performances in Browns history – he has proven he can play in this league. Quinn has proven nothing. He hasn't had the chance. Who knows for sure if he's an NFL quarterback or not?

*Anderson has a much stronger arm. He can throw a football through the proverbial brick wall. But Quinn has proven that he can throw the long ball as well – on occasion.

*Neither quarterback has a great touch on the shorter throws, but Quinn is better. Anderson tends to the rocket the ball way too hard, making it difficult to catch from such a short distance away.

*Quinn is athletic and mobile and can throw pretty accurately on the run. Anderson is strictly a dropback passer who likes to stay in the pocket and throw. When he has to sprint out, he looks awkward – like Bernie Kosar did -- and is not on target with his throws. If he's getting flushed out a lot, that's not a good thing.

*Anderson appears to have only average leadership qualities. He's simply the guy in the huddle calling the play. According to several of his teammates last year, Quinn is a great leader with a strong huddle presence. They said it was not just a coincidence that all the little problems that had been nagging the offense went away in the short time he started last year.

*Quinn seems to like to a certain degree the media and fan attention that a quarterback gets. Though friendly, Anderson seems uncomfortable with it. He doesn't seem to like – or even be accepting of the fact -- that it's part of his job. When – and if – things go south and the media starts getting its fangs out, that can be a big problem.

*Anderson tends to lock in on his receivers too much and too long, especially in the red zone, and tries to force the ball into crowds, such as what he did in last Sunday's intrasquad scrimmage when, while trying to hit Robert Royal on a post route as the tight end had a posse of defenders around him, he was picked off by D'Qwell Jackson. The inside linebacker has intercepted him several times in that situation on that route, so you wonder why Anderson keeps falling prey to it. Quinn does not lock in on receivers – he does a good job of working through his progressions to look the field over – but his fatal flaw is that instead of throwing when a receiver comes open, he hesitates for whatever reason and holds on to the ball too long. Offensive linemen can't pass block forever, and the longer Quinn keeps the ball, the better chance he has of eventually getting flattened.

*Anderson seems to get rattled too easily. His tossing the ball at nose tackle Shaun Rogers after getting sacked in the intrasquad scrimmage, is not an isolated incident. On the other hand, Quinn always seems cool, calm and collected. When you look at him, you don't know if he just got knocked down or threw a touchdown pass. His expression doesn't change. He appears to be unflappable, a good quality for a quarterback to have.

*Quinn struggles at times with his accuracy. Anderson has way too many passes tipped or knocked down at the line of scrimmage. That seems strange for such a tall quarterback until you watch it happen and realize he's throwing downhill most of the time.

*And finally, Quinn is the people's choice in Cleveland and Anderson is not. That wouldn't make a bit of difference if these games were played in vacuums, but they're played in front of 73,000 fans at Cleveland Browns Stadium. If Quinn loses this quarterback battle, then many of those fans are going to be upset and take it out on Anderson. How tough would it be for Anderson to try to work with that kind of home-field disadvantage? When Vinny Testaverde eventually took over for the highly popular Kosar late in 1993, the fans blamed Testaverde for coming to town and pushing his former University of Miami teammate off the roster. That never ceased. And Testaverde was about as nice of a guy as you'll ever meet. So fair or not, that type of thing happens at times to make it an untenable situation for the guy who wins out in the end in these quarterback derbies. Does Mangini realize that? Does he have a way for Anderson to cope with that? Maybe we'll find out, and maybe we won't. But it will definitely be interesting to see it play out.


The OBR Top Stories