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As It Stands Again - Quarterback
As It Stands Again - Quarterback
Whether you view the Browns current quarterback situation as incompetent, or simply incomplete, it probably is much too early to speculate on how either Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson will perform in 2009, considering no one outside of Eric Mangini's office knows exactly what the Browns offense will look like in 2009. However, in the spirit of early July 4th celebrations, and in the bloody embrace of independence that gives us all a forum to shout our idiot ideas and opinions, let's take a look and see what we actually have at the quarterback spot. Dave K breaks it down for us.
The following is Part Six in a series profiling the most essential positions that will determine success for the Browns in 2009. After beginning the series by looking at the team's traditional weaknesses at
and along the
, I profiled the team's drama drenched shortcomings at
, then focused on the intriguing situation developing along the
, before finally detailing the players who may benefit from the new depth up front, the
. Today, I switch gears and peers into what many feel is the most important and often most glamorous position on the field, quarterback.
Based on the recent
Quarterback Power Rankings
provided by Fox Sports, it appears our Browns are suffering from a case of inept talent at the position...or merely entering the vague unknowns often generated by a huge shift in coaching philosophy and personnel. According to Fox Sports, the Browns are entering 2009 with the 25th best collection of quarterbacks in the league. Not bad, until you realize that there are still only 32 teams.
Yet, the optimist in me still feels that a true set of "power" rankings would more accurately reflect Brady Quinn's left guard-esque weightlifting regimen. Give us something at least. How about a pose down? Couldn't that be a substitute for actually playing the games? Calm down, Brady...I didn't mean to get your hopes up. Put your shirt back on.
Whether you view the Browns current quarterback situation as incompetent, or simply incomplete, it probably is much too early to speculate on how either Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson will perform in 2009, considering no one outside of Eric Mangini's office knows exactly what the Browns offense will look like in 2009.
However, in the spirit of early July 4th celebrations, and in the bloody embrace of independence that gives us all a forum to shout our idiot ideas and opinions, let's take a look and see what we actually have at the quarterback spot.
No matter who wins the upcoming quarterback derby in training camp, one thing is unfortunately going to come true: either Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson will struggle in 2009. This prediction is not based on any physical, mental or character aspects found in either of the two young quarterbacks. I solely base this glorified assumption on the fact that the team is undergoing some serious change on offense.
Currently, the Browns do not have an offensive identity that anyone can target. Clearly, this should change once training camp unfolds. However, as it stands now, the Browns' offense features exactly one playmaker, Braylon Edwards, an aging featured running back in Jamal Lewis and some turnover (albeit much needed) along the offensive line. Throw in a brand new coaching staff, offensive coordinator, philosophy and several rookies who will be counted on to produce, and the result could be a very long year for whoever lines up behind center.
While recent reports have suggested that Mangini wants to emphasize the running game in 2009, this is easier said than done. Besides the natural aging that Jamal Lewis has experienced in recent years, until the Browns' O line can begin to settle, the running game will likely struggle in the early part of the season. The Browns badly need to establish some balance on offense, which makes both the run game and passing attack vitally important in their own respect, yet equally dependent on each other.
Of course, struggles in the run game will put more pressure on the Browns' very raw passing game, which could further affect the play of either Quinn or Anderson. In a sour bit of irony, the winner of the quarterback battle will essentially become the loser. Unless Mangini and Brian Daboll can craft some serious wizardry in 2009, the Browns offense is going to be pretty weak. Much like in the early days of the reborn franchise, the Browns' quarterback is going to struggle due to the lack of talent around him.
In Brady Quinn's case, this is unfortunate. In a drama-filled offseason, which was highlighted by Jay Cutler's mile-high case of petulance, Quinn has established himself as a model of professionalism off the field (well, except for those questionable photos...). Despite his name being tossed around in a variety of draft day trades, Quinn has worked hard to soak up the new offense being established in Cleveland and through the self-discipline found in his conditioning and upbeat attitude, he has practically risen to the ranks of a team leader.
However, all of this maturity and hard work could still not be enough in 2009. I view the training camp battle as just the first round of competition to decide who will become the Browns' quarterback of the future. Basically, the entire 2009 season is a tryout to see who blossoms as Mangini's leader for the next 3-4 years. In this sense, if Quinn struggles in 2009 due to his own faults or based on the weakness of the overall offense around him, it is very possible that his short tenure in Cleveland will be over.
Perhaps I'm being a bit hyperbolic in my prognosticating, but Quinn may have to succeed at a level only familiar to elite NFL quarterbacks in order to firmly establish his role in Cleveland's football future. Despite the weaknesses around him, Quinn may be relied on to carry the weight of the offense on his shoulders. Quite the task for a player who only has three career starts.
However, if there is a player that you would want to insert into this situation, you could do a lot worse than Quinn. Certainly, Quinn is used to the pressure cooker environment of big-time football, having starred at Notre Dame. And if the initial stages of his NFL career have signalled anything, it is that Quinn can handle scrutiny and uncertainity better than most seasoned veterans.
As for Quinn's physical abilities, it still remains to be seen what type of NFL quarterback he can become. Based on the limited NFL evidence that exists of Quinn, he appears to be a quick decision maker, has good movement in the pocket and possesses a strong arm, if only shown by throwing shorter passes and medium out routes.
Watching Quinn in college and during his time in Cleveland, I'm often reminded of a classic, short-passing, West Coast style of offense, kind of like the one currently employed in Minnesota. I think Quinn could florish in a similar offense, especially compared with the more downfield variety used by the Browns the past two seasons. In terms of 2009, the coaching staff has hinted at using a variety of formations, including some five-wide sets, which could truly help Quinn by giving him some options all over the field.
Almost everything that has come out of Berea in the past couple months has suggested that the starting QB job is Quinn's to lose. Of course, this makes last year's starter, Derek Anderson, an expensive bystander. However, after watching Brett Favre torch the Jets in December of 2008 by going all Brett Favre on the field, it is apparant that Eric Mangini does not want a repeat performance in 2009 with his new team.
If Anderson is anything, it is erratic. Even during the Browns' offensive renaissance of 2007, DA struggled down the stretch with his decision-making and accuracy. Much like his favorite target of 2008, Braylon Edwards, DA tends to let mistakes bother him, which leads to further struggles. Basically, if you compare DA to Quinn in the area of mental toughness, the winner is obvious. Although several of DA's turnovers in 2008 could be traced to poor receiver route running, his inability to recover from mistakes cost the team.
However, a lot of DA's faults can be traced to one of the most awkward throwing motions in the league. Although DA has excellent size and arm strength for an NFL quarterback, he has absolutely zero touch on his passes. Watching DA lead a receiver is a strikingly similar experience to witnessing the Summer Olympics, when the shot putters waddle onto the field. Or, perhaps using a more appropriate Cleveland sports reference, DA's touch passes have the grace of a Chris Dudley free throw attempt.
As for other intangibles, there have been several rumors in the past year that have suggested that Browns players have more of an affinity for Quinn's leadership than DA's. Of course, all of this talk has to be taken lightly, and also considering that the entire roster has experienced a lot of turnover heading into 2009, these comments may have become irrelevant.
However, if you view DA's body language during games, both on and off the field, or listen to him during an interview, he may appear to be either completely relaxed or utterly displaced. Either way, after a year and a half of the DA experience, it seems like he is not the natural leader the team sorely needs at the moment.
Rounding out the position is the intriguing Brett Ratliff. Why is Ratliff intriguing? I have no idea...other than the fact that he has some familiarity with Mangini and Daboll and he is a young, inexpensive quarterback prospect. Ratliff has good size and decent arm strength, at least evidenced by last year's preseason game against the Browns. However, Ratliff has very little playing experience, outside of one starting season at Utah. Yet, there is something that Mangini must like about the young QB, as the new coach has claimed that Ratliff could be considered the selling point of April's draft day trade with the Jets.
How Ratliff performs in training camp and preseason could have an effect on the Browns' QB situation moving forward. If Quinn can establish himself as the starter early on and Ratliff can show that he is capable of filling a backup role, it is possible, although still unlikely, that the Browns could try to unload DA, perhaps to a team that has suffered a QB injury.
Quinn enters camp as confident and prepared as he has appeared to be in recent months and quickly establishes himself as the team's starter. Quinn continues to improve as a passer, and as the offense slowly begins to gel, the passing game becomes effective during the second half of the year. DA rebounds from his poor 2008 season and effectively serves as one of the ideal backups in the league. Brett Ratliff shows his potential in pre-season and challenges DA for the #2 spot, which solidifies the depth at the position heading into 2010. Finally, Quinn does not snap his biceps throwing a screen pass, as the result of an all-night, EAS-fueled lifting party.
Quinn's production as a starter will reflect the team's shortcomings on offense. Quinn confidently assumes the role of offensive leader, but presses to make plays, which leads to inconsistency and turnovers. Playing behind a bulky, but somewhat unathletic offensive line, Quinn is banged up throughout the year, leading to DA filling in. DA does not pick up the nuances of the offensive scheme and continues to make poor decisions, leaving the Browns out of options at the position. Brett Ratliff impresses during pre-season, but is still considered a work in progress. Finally, Shaun Smith finishes the job he started last year, by sitting on a shirtless Quinn while
blasts throughout the Browns' training facility.
The quarterback position will be fascinating to watch in 2009, as not only the immediate future, but the long-term prospects of the Mangini era could be decided based on Brady Quinn's performance. As much as myself and most other Browns fans want to see Quinn succeed, it is unfortunate that his extended job interview will be shaped by the raw offensive talent surrounding him. However, the intangibles Quinn brings to the position could prove to be the answer the Browns have been searching for since the days of Bernie.
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