Browns quarterback Brady Quinn had his second solid performance in the last three games, setting personal highs for attempts and completions in hitting 25-of-45 passes for 271 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 95.7 quarterback rating.
Two weeks before that against Detroit in a 38-37 loss, he was 21-of-34 for 304 yards, four TDs and no picks for a 133.1 rating.
If you combine the numbers from these two contests, then Quinn is 46-of-79 for 575 yards, seven TDs and no interceptions for a 110.5 rating. So he excelled against a good team in the Chargers and against a horrible one as well in the Lions.
In between, of course, he had a clunker, going 15-of-34 for 100 yards, no TDs and no picks for a poor 51.3 rating against another good club, the Cincinnati Bengals, in a 16-7 defeat.
For the year, he is 120-of-220 (54.5 percent) for 1,183 yards, eight TDs and five interceptions for a 72.5 rating. Those stats are OK, but they look much better when you compare them to those of the man he beat out for the job, Derek Anderson, who is 66-of-154 (42.9) for 681 yards, two TDs and nine picks for a microscopic 36.2 rating.
What's even more impressive about Quinn is another stat – zero. He has gone 127 attempts over the last four games without an interception. The last Browns quarterback to be that careful with the ball was some guy named Bernie Kosar.
Now, are we comparing Quinn to Kosar, or Brian Sipe, or Frank Ryan, or Bill Nelsen, or the best of them all, Pro Football Hall of Famer Otto Graham? Of course not! That wouldn't be fair to Quinn or to those former Browns stars.
What we are saying is what we've said all along, that Quinn is a better quarterback than Anderson and now, in finally getting four consecutive games under his belt for the first time in his NFL career, he is starting to make some strides. He is starting to look like the player the Browns were hoping he would be when they traded back up into the bottom of the first round in the 2007 NFL Draft and selected him.
Quinn still has to get more accurate with his passes, which was the knock on him when he was coming out of Notre Dame. He misfired on 20 attempts on Sunday, and while some of them were flat-out drops, others were poor throws. Accuracy is everything. It's what Sipe, Nelsen and Kosar, three passers who lacked a lot of the physical tools, possessed that made them very good quarterbacks.
Also, he still holds on to the ball too long at times. That can be an admirable trait – it's what Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger does so well to buy himself more time and be able to make plays when there doesn't seem to be anything there – but it can be a negative one as well when it results in the costly sack and lost fumble that resulted in the second quarter when the Browns, behind just 10-7 and having driven to the San Diego 3, had a chance to go ahead with a TD or even just tie the game with a field goal. Quinn has to have a clock ticking in his head, and when it starts to get up around three or four seconds, it's time to tuck it and run or "throw it to the blond in the first row," as former Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano used to say about getting rid of the ball.
In addition, Quinn must develop that sixth sense that all good quarterbacks have of feeling the pressure, even when it comes from the blind side or from behind, as it did on that fumble on Sunday.
But you have to like his guts and guile, his headiness, his leadership qualities, his ability to improvise, as he did on Sunday at the end of the game when he had to throw off his back foot and put the ball up for grabs in the end zone as he was getting crushed, and his refusal to quit, which led to his bringing the Browns back to the point where they made it at least interesting.
The Browns need to stay committed to leaving Quinn in there for the rest of the season, no matter what, barring injury, and letting him go through the inevitable ups and downs of a young quarterback. That's the only way he's going to learn and develop.
If the Browns do that, then the guess here is that they will realize at some point that they have in him the quarterback with whom they can go forward into 2010 and beyond – or at least they would know if they did. Anderson is not an option anymore. That ship has sailed.
Not much good is coming out of this miserable season for the Browns, but if they find their quarterback, then they will have accomplished much in terms of laying the foundation for a winning team someday.
So, over these last four games, especially the one against Pittsburgh on Thursday night, watch the stats and see how – or if – Quinn continues to be progressing. It's really the only reason to look at the stats, which are otherwise pretty ugly.