Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson to Compete for Browns' Top QB Spot Through Preseason

Casey DrottarCorrespondent IJune 4, 2009

A couple weeks ago, Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini made some noise after claiming Brady Quinn was getting the most reps with the starters during the team's mini-camp. 

He also stressed that it would be wise not to read too much into this.

So, by nature, many Cleveland fans joined the rest of the sports media world in believing this was a clear-cut statement on who would be taking the Browns' opening snap against Minnesota in the 2009 season debut.

However, Mangini has now claimed that the competition between Quinn and Derek Anderson isn't over just yet.

In fact, it seems as though Browns fans won't know who'll be running the offense this year for quite some time.

Talking with the Cleveland media, Mangini said he fully intends to have Quinn and Anderson compete all the way through the preseason schedule this August. 

"Definitely," the coach said as Thursday's OTAs began, "I want to go through the whole process, evaluate each phase, see it against other opponents."

For those of us Cleveland fans who've waited since January to find out just which quarterback Mangini wanted to run his offense, this is slightly upsetting. 

Since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999, the quarterback position has been a revolving door of draft picks, aged veterans, and all-out nobodies.

Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb battled it out back and forth during the early years, while vets like Jeff Garcia and Trent Dilfer came and went without producing more than eight wins combined.

Akron standout Charlie Frye was deemed "the future of the team," but several multiple-interception games lead to him being jettisoned to Seattle.

So when Mangini told both Anderson and Quinn how he intended to have an offseason competition between them, most fans just sighed, shook their heads, and quietly muttered, "Here we go again."

It's easy to be angry about something like this.

The quarterback is the face of the franchise, yet Browns fans have seen so many faces in the past ten years it feels like we're speed dating. All Cleveland wants to have is a winning QB they can rally behind, a la Bernie Kosar (who, sadly, was the last consistent quarterback the Browns have had).

However, it's also easy to see why Mangini is having these two quarterbacks throw down for the right to start this season. 

It's his first year with the Browns, and he's dealing with two QBs who don't exactly have stat sheets full of "starter" material. Anderson spent 2007 beating up on weak teams and 2008 getting beaten down by juggernauts. Quinn has three starts to his name, and while he went 1-2, in only one of these starts was he completely healthy. 

As you can see, this QB depth chart isn't exactly one you can solve with a coin toss (insert Romeo Crennel joke here). 

Mangini knows he doesn't have five or six years to turn Cleveland into a winner. The fans are restless and economic issues are certainly going to factor in to how many people pay to see the Browns this year.

However, Mangini's evaluation criteria certainly implies there is some method to his madness.

"The big (criteria) for me is huddle presence and the ability to run the offense, so who can most effectively run the offense, who can look at the defense, understand what the coverage is and throw to the right place, who can see a blitz look and put us in the right play, who can do the check-with-me's where you have two plays called and understand this is the better of the two selections," Mangini said.

"Those things are huge because there's always going to be some right answer and the ability for us offensively to get to the right answer in a short amount of time under pressure," he said. "That's what's going to drive us."

As unfortunate as it is to have another offseason QB battle in Cleveland, the fact is what coach Mangini is doing does make some sense.

Practice sessions can tell you a lot about a quarterback. They show you how well he understands the offense, whether or not he knows which routes the receivers are running, and how good he is at thinking on his feet. 

What it doesn't tell you, though, is how a QB will react to an opposing team's defense.

While Quinn and Anderson don't read defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's playbook, they'll certainly be less surprised by what the practice defense brings as days go by in camp.  By late July, there's a good chance both quarterbacks will know the basic patterns of the defenses they're going up against in practice, thus making it tougher to evaluate how they'll handle in-game issues.

This is why letting the competition last until the team is deep into the preseason is actually a smart idea.

As he said, Mangini is basing the majority of his decision on huddle presence, along with effectively running the offense and reading the defense. He also knows the best place to make such evaluations is during preseason, when Quinn and Anderson see three or four different defenses and work in an environment which isn't controlled by the coaches. Only here will Mangini get the best idea of who can run his team before he has to make the choice.

Taking as much of an unbiased look at this competition as I can, Mangini's evaluation criteria certainly suggests this job is Quinn's to lose.

Yes, Anderson has a much stronger arm than Quinn, and coaches can't help but get drunk off watching a flame-throwing quarterback. But the fact is, Anderson has had more than a few issues running a huddle and leading an offense. 

Several times last season, Anderson struggled during two-minute offense and wasted countless timeouts when he couldn't quite hear the play calls in his helmet headset.  There were also several issues regarding his ability to run a huddle, as there are more than a few reports of players yelling at him while trying to call a play. 

Quinn, however, has received praise for his ability to express command in the huddle, as Kellen Winslow stated last year how Quinn was able to calm his teammates down in pressure situations. Quinn is also known for being able to effectively improvise on the field, using both mobility and general football intelligence. 

Yet these facts certainly don't make Quinn the official starter. Anderson does have talent, and Mangini will no doubt try and fix his game-managing issues in order to use his long-ball for good. 

With this in mind, you can see why this competition is only in its initial stages. Mangini knows the preseason will be his best chance to make a fair and true evaluation of Quinn and Anderson. He also knows he's going to have to make his choice based on who will yield the best results.

So while patience isn't a characteristic best known with Cleveland fans, the truth is Mangini has every right to take his time in evaluating just who exactly he wants to run his team.


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