With his start on Saturday night, Brady Quinn may have – should have, in fact – finished this Browns quarterback derby for all intents and purposes.
Oh, sure, head coach Eric Mangini probably won't publicly name a starter until just before – maybe even moments before – the Sept. 13 regular-season opener so as to keep the Minnesota Vikings guessing. He will continue to say what he said following the impressive 23-17 win over the Tennessee Titans at Cleveland Browns Stadium, and that is, "I'll look at the tape tomorrow and talk to the coaches and continue to evaluate it. When a decision is made, I'll let everybody know, but I don't have a timetable on it."
However, in this third preseason game, which is usually the dress rehearsal for the season, Quinn started and played well. Derek Anderson was good, too, but Quinn was simply better and seemingly moved ahead in this open competition.
Quinn completed 11-of-15 passes for 128 yards and one touchdown on a 20-yard laser shot to wide receiver Braylon Edwards midway through the third quarter, giving him a quarterback rating of 121.0.
Anderson's rating was 84.3 after hitting on 7-of-11 throws for 77 yards. He also absorbed the only sack of the game.
"All three games, I think I've been pretty consistent," Quinn said. "Tonight, I made some good throws and some others I wished I had back."
The Browns scored on three of the four possessions he directed against Tennessee.
"I don't want to sound greedy, but I want more," Quinn said.
But was that enough to seal the deal? Does he expect to be named the starter sometime over the next several days?
"I expect to practice on Monday, and that's about it," Quinn said.
Anderson said he played "pretty good when I was in there" against the Titans. "I was pretty solid."
Overall, he said he didn't perform well in the opener against the Green Bay Packers but turned it around the last two games and had "a good training camp" to boot.
He added, "I've just got to let the chips fall where they may."
Over and over, Anderson and Quinn have said all this – and more. They have to be tired of talking. It's time to stop talking and have a winner declared. Isn't it?
"Both D.A. and I are mentally tough guys. That's why we're on the team," Quinn said. "If the coaches want us to go forever, we'll go forever."
Based on what happened Saturday, though, forever just got a lot shorter.
STAR OF THE GAME: The Browns have found their backup to Pro Bowl nose tackle Shaun Rogers. He's second-year pro Ahtyba Rubin. He was the best player on the field for the Browns. The Titans couldn't block him. When he couldn't shed the person blocking him, he merely drove the man back into the ball carrier. He's been the most pleasant surprise on the defense in terms of a young player rising.
IMPORTANT PLAY: Another second-year defender, outside linebacker Alex Hall, solidified his bid to become a starter with his 11-yard interception return for a touchdown off Vince Young. As veteran David Bowens continues to rehab an undisclosed injury, Hall has taken advantage of the opportunity to play. You can see his confidence growing daily.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Conversely, the Browns' top draft pick in 2008, fourth-rounder Beau Bell, has hardly played. The special teams tackle he made has been the inside linebacker's only real contribution thus far. It's hard to believe he has a chance to make the team. Another inside linebacker who has been invisible is Leon Williams. He's a longshot to make the team, too – but not quite as much of one.
CUTTING CORNERS: Rod Hood in particular and Corey Ivy really struggled. Hood couldn't stay with Justin Gage at all. The Browns are looking for a third cornerback, and you have to wonder if the answer is either one of these players.
RUSHING TO JUDGEMENT: The Browns had just 12 yards rushing at halftime in but eight carries. Both of those totals have to go way, way up if the Browns are to have an offense where the quarterbacks aren't forced to make all the plays.
FLAG DAY: Once again, the Browns hurt themselves with penalties, getting four for 53 yards in the first half, at which time the Titans pulled a lot of their starters. Mangini is preaching discipline every day, but so his message hasn't sunk in.
RECEIVING PRAISE: Wide receiver Mike Furrey continues to be the best pass catcher the Browns have – by far. He catches everything in sight, even when the ball first goes off a defender's ends, as did on one play at the start of the second half.
RECEIVING PRAISE II: Braylon Edwards' leaping, one-handed catch just out of bounds in the end zone on the first drive of the third quarter shows once again why the Browns are willing to put up his plethora of drops at time. He is just so big, strong, fast and, especially, talented. He showed it minutes later when he caught the TD from Quinn on a quick slant. He got inside the defender and to the spot quickly, and this his size screened the defender away from the ball.
REALLY SPECIAL TEAMS: The Browns special teams have been good for quite a while, and that has remained the case under new coordinator Brad Seely. The fumble recovery on the kickoff return to set up Edwards' TD, and the field-goal block by robust Robaire Smith were no accidents. The Browns spend a lot of time in practice working on special teams. Wait a minute didn't Smith tear his Achilles tendon less than a year ago? His recovery has been … well, special. "I don't even think about the injury anymore," Smith said. "I guess that's the best way to deal with it."
MORE SMITH: Smith's rush on Young is what helped cause the interception. "I got pressure on him and got in his face," he said. "That caused him to alter his throw." Young threw off his back foot and floated the ball toward where Hall was retreating.
NOT AS IT SEEMED: An NFL kicker should be able to make a 37-yard field goal without much trouble, so when Phil Dawson booted one from that distance, it seemed like no big deal. But it was actually a tough kick. The wind was blowing hard across the field, toward the Browns bench, so Dawson started the ball just inside the right upright and the ball barely squeezed inside the left upright. That's why Dawson is arguably the best kicker the Browns have ever had.
FAN FORUM: The Browns distributed 67,400 tickets for the game, or about 5,800 less than capacity. However, far less than that – about 40,000 – actually showed up. The only to win those fans back is exactly that -- to win. These last two games have helped in that effort, and so is the fact they were at home.
QUOTABLE: "I was watching the play on the scoreboard when I realized it was coming at me. I thought, ‘Uh-oh.' I tried to get out of the way. Sorry about that, guys." – Anderson on getting flagged 15 yards for being out of the sideline box and tripping an office on an incomplete throw into the Browns bench by Titans quarterback Kerry Collins.
"I've never seen it in any game I've coached. We'll just have to do a better job of coaching it up." – Mangini, smiling wryly, on the call.