Depth Perceptions: Cleveland Browns’ Quarterbacks
Depth Perceptions is a weekly look at the depth chart and positional battles all over the NFL.
The Cleveland Browns followed up a promising 2007 season by reverting back to the tougher times we saw throughout the decade, stumbling to a 4-12 record in 2008. After missing the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, including all four in their respective tenures, head coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Phil Savage were fired during the late December house cleaning. New head honchos, high profile trades, and even higher profile court cases dotted the Browns’ landscape and will make for a very (hopefully) different 2009 season.
New GM George Kokinis comes from the Baltimore staff and head coach Eric Mangini gets his second opportunity to prove he can have success at the helm of an NFL team after being let go by the New York Jets. Both men got to work quickly as they dealt talented but injury-plagued tight end Kellen Winslow to Tampa Bay in February. Mangini has been installing his philosophy since January and has had to deal with rumblings that some veteran players’ feathers (Shaun Rogers) were ruffled by the new regime. Donte Stallworth’s tragic off-field incident and false trade rumors involving star WR Braylon Edwards added to a very difficult beginning for the new regime as they try to set the tone for better results this year.
Above and beyond all the other questions, the most important one remains:
Who will be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns this season, Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn?
Let’s find out…
Now that New England’s QB Tom Brady has made it en vogue for late round picks to become successful stars, several players have followed in his footsteps and Anderson is one of them. A sixth-round pick out of Oregon State in 2005, Anderson did not see his first action until 2006 and then won the starting job away from Charlie Frye during Week 1 of the 2007 season. Anderson shocked everyone as he led the Browns to a 10-5 record in 15 starts and went on to throw for 3,787 yards and 29 TDs to earn himself a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Blessed with prototypical size at 6’6”, Anderson looks the part but could not replicate the performance last year that we saw two years ago. Signing a three-year, $24 million contract extension should have put him at ease but poor play, myriad drops by Browns wideouts, and nagging injuries led to a lackluster season that resulted in a 50% completion rate and a 66.5 QB rating. Yikes.
Brady Quinn’s arrival seemed to light a fire under him in 2007, yet now it seems he may be affected by the process that left him wondering whether or not he would be a full-time starter – and that uncertainty continues throughout this offseason.
The Browns’ brass rejoiced in 2007 when they wheeled n’ dealed draft picks to trade back into the first round in order to take Brady Quinn with the No. 22 pick overall. They finally ‘had their franchise guy’ again after the failure with Tim Couch several years earlier. Little did they know that Derek Anderson was on the precipice of a great season that would create a quarterback controversy for the next couple of seasons…and possibly beyond.
Quinn also has ideal size at 6’4” with a very good arm and a great pedigree having excelled at Notre Dame under the tutelage of alleged offensive guru Charlie Weis. Quinn got his first chance to start last November and played very well in a close loss to Denver (23 for 35, 239 yds, 2 TDs). Unfortunately for Quinn, his season would be cut short by a broken index finger that he suffered the following week versus Buffalo and ultimately played with for two games.
Quinn is also the recipient of a fairly large contract that could reach $30 million with incentive bonuses over the five-year term and his confidence is an asset that has been conspicuous throughout his career, stretching back to college.
For a team that finished near the bottom of the league in almost every significant offensive category, the fortunes will not change on the arm of one man alone. Near the top of the league in drops, struggling to get any ground game going in 2008 and now instituting a new system in 2009, it will be an uphill climb for either player to have a very productive season. Both are capable and both may very well see time this season as the Browns attempt to turn the page from the previous regime’s failure.
This job is absolutely up for grabs going into training camp later this month and this could be the most compelling positional battle we see all summer. It seems that Mangini favors Quinn at this stage and will choose him in a dead heat in training camp.
I think Quinn wins the job and struggles to keep it at times during the year, unless of course Anderson gets traded. Don’t count on it, even with Mangini favorite Brett Ratliff at third string they will wait another year to deal someone and make sure they have the right players in place. It is the Browns after all, what’s the rush?