The year was 1999. The Browns were preparing for their triumphant return to the NFL. And, the best movie ever made opened in theatres around the country. That movie was The Matrix (I'm a geek) and it chronicled the discovery and growth of Neo on his path to becoming the savior of a people and the key to unlocking a world without limits and controls, a world where anything is possible.
Put more succinctly, The Matrix told the story of Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) becoming The One. And yes, this article is about Brady Quinn. What, too much?
Ok, maybe that is a bit much, but there are some interesting parallels here. Let's take this a little further with the help of some key lines from the movie.
You may have spent a few years looking for me but I've spent my whole life looking for you (-Morpheus)
Quinn may have been looking for a starting job the last few years, but the Browns have been searching for a franchise quarterback nearly my entire life. At long last, Morpheus found Neo, and just maybe, Randy Lerner has found his quarterback.
Neo, sooner or later you're going to realize just as I did that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path (-Morpheus)
Early on, even Neo doubted his destiny, having been told by The Oracle, he was not The One. Quinn certainly has not always looked like The One, even being told by his coach he was not the starter. Neo responded with a heroic assault on an agent controlled building and a daring, explosion filled escape that saved Morpheus's life. Quinn answered the call by throwing seven TD's while staying interception free over the past three games. Continuing on this path with a couple wins the rest of the way could very well make Quinn responsible for saving Mangini's job.
You hear that Mr. Anderson?..That is the sound of inevitability... It is the sound of your death (-Agent Smith)
Down 27-7 entering the fourth quarter on Sunday, I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach, that feeling of inevitability, that feeling of another embarrassing, runaway train style blowout. Agent Smith believed he was about to kill Neo. Agents typically killed foes in the Matrix with such ease that opponents simply ran at the sight of them. I imagine the Chargers expected something similar as Browns opponents have dominated them so thoroughly late in games that, while "running away" may be overstating the situation, certainly there has not been much resistance.
On this day however, for Neo and for the Browns, the story would be different.
He's beginning to believe (-Morpheus)
For once, someone stood up to an Agent. Neo didn't really win the fight that day, but he didn't die either, and that simple fact was a major step on his path to becoming The One. Down 20 on Sunday, Quinn and the offense suddenly started moving the ball, capping the drive with an 8 yard touchdown pass to Jerome Harrison. After a San Diego field goal, Quinn again took the field and completed passes to four different receivers on route to another Harrison score.
The Browns didn't win, but they certainly didn't get killed either. Like Neo, Quinn and the whole offense stood up and fought like a team that is beginning to believe they can win.
(As a quick non-matrix side note, you may have noticed from the previous paragraph that Jerome Harrison scored the final two touchdowns. Interesting that he has started twice this year and the Browns arguably played their two best games, pushing playoff teams to the brink in both cases. I'm not looking to kick a guy on his way out the door, but now that Jamal is officially gone… well, let's just say I hope Harrison has sufficiently proven to Mangini that he can pass block well enough to be the Browns best [only] offensive playmaker.
And yes, that sarcasm is meant to imply that inactivating your best offensive weapon because his pass blocking needs work is… well… ok, here's a matrix tie-in after all:
…there's something wrong with the world... it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. –Morpheus
That's how I feel. Harrison only playing sporadically, and excelling when he does is officially driving me mad.)
What are you waiting for? You're faster than this. Don't think you are, know you are (-Morpheus to Neo)
You got the gift (-Oracle to Neo)
It was early in the movie that Neo learned this lesson. He gained the confidence, the belief that he could succeed, and the world inside the Matrix began to slow down for him. Like Neo, Brady has the physical gifts. Against San Diego it appeared that the game began to slow down for him but it is the confidence to settle down and do it every week that will make the difference. At some point he has to stop trying to win, and just win.
Ok, still not sold on the Matrix parallels? The Matrix opened just as the Browns returned to the NFL. In the movie, Morpheus spoke frequently of the prophecy and Mangini can't stop talking about the process. Still not enough? Ok, here is an undeniable fact. In addition to playing Neo, Keanu Reeves has twice played characters that quarterbacked at local favorite Ohio State (in Point Break and The Replacements). So yeah, it is destiny.
Of course, I know calling Quinn the savior of the Browns is premature, but on Sunday against the Chargers, he took a big step down the path to Browns redemption. This was not Detroit, or Buffalo. It was also not a win, but it was a gutsy performance against a playoff team. Like Morpheus and the people trapped in the Matrix, isn't this what Randy Lerner and us Browns fans have been desperately searching for? If not The One, then at least some sign that this team has a leader it can build around. At least a sign we don't have to use another top draft choice on a quarterback and start the rebuilding process from scratch once again.
So maybe The Matrix was not the best movie of all time and maybe Quinn's destiny lies short of becoming The One, but against San Diego, there were signs that the prophecy may in fact be true. Maybe this offseason, Lerner will call Mangini into his office and have the conversation Morpheus had with Trinity:
"We've done it, Eric. We've found him." ?
I hope you're right. "?
You don't have to hope. I *know* it. "