Why the Cleveland Browns' Quarterback Competition May Have Ended Before It Began

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Why the Cleveland Browns' Quarterback Competition May Have Ended Before It Began

There are more than a few quarterback competitions raging throughout the NFL, but none is gaining more attention than Brady Quinn vs. Derek Anderson in Cleveland.

Plenty of writers here at the Bleacher Report have given their opinions on why they feel the Golden Boy from Notre Dame or the Moose from Scappoose should be the man in charge of the Cleveland Browns offense. 

Some feel it's fate that Quinn leads the team he grew up rooting for, while others believe Anderson's long ball and Pro Bowl resume is more than enough reason to make him the starter.

Regardless of who's supporting who, coach Eric Mangini has already stated he is waiting until deep into the preseason to make an official decision on his starting quarterback.

However, while Mangini is notorious for holding his cards close to his chest, there are plenty of signs and indications leaving me to question whether there ever really was a quarterback competition to begin with.

As of now, Mangini claims the race between his two quarterbacks is dead even (yes, I said two quarterbacks, Brett Ratliff will not start for Cleveland). 

Honestly, though, I believe he's known the identity of his starter for quite some time nowBrady Quinn.

First off, let me state this will not be an article filled with Quinn praising and Anderson bashing.  There will be no "Quinn should start because he's awesome and DA is dumb" arguments.

Instead, I'm basing my stance on the fact that there are just too many factors with the Browns which do nothing but complement Quinn's style, while also highlighting Anderson's weaknesses.

The first thing to look at is what Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll are saying about their plans for the Browns offense.

Throughout the offseason, the coaching staff has claimed they are building a short-yardage, game-managing and run-first offense. The addition of bulk to the offensive line, along with Mangini's praise of backup running backs Jerome Harrison and James Davis, further solidifies this.

So, with the offensive coaches placing the running attack as top priority, it would seem as though Derek Anderson's flame-throwing ability will go underused if he's the starter.

Furthermore, Anderson has shown his struggles with short throws in the past. Many times in the last couple seasons, he's managed to be accurate with throws downfield, but oddly unreliable throwing screens or quick slant routes. 

In order to be an effective quarterback in a short-yardage game plan, these passes must be completed.

With Quinn, however, these routes are among his specialties. During his three games last year, he proved to be precise in hitting receivers and halfbacks running these patterns, even when he was flushed out of the pocket.

Another factor which leads me to believe Quinn may have already won the job is the criteria Mangini and crew are using to evaluate the signal-callers.

Mangini talked in a recent press conference about how he's looking for someone with huddle presence and command. He also wants a quarterback who can effectively run the two-minute drill and can keep his cool during these and other high pressure situations.

Again, the past has shown how Quinn comes out as the favorite in this category.

There were more than a few instances in the past two years where Anderson's helmet radio went faulty, causing him to have trouble hearing the call.  This, of course, is by no fault of his own. 

The problem was the fact that, instead of improvising and coming up with his own play, he instead wasted a valuable timeout so he could run to the sideline and get the correct call.

This is the NFL. Things go wrong at the most unexpected moments, and a quarterback has to be prepared for anything. If there is confusion with the play calls, it is up to him to think quickly on his feet and come up with the best solution to get the job done.

In regards to huddle presence, it has been documented that many players were unimpressed with Derek Anderson's ability to control the huddle. Some of his teammates have even been accused of insulting or yelling at Anderson as he attempted to call out the play. A quarterback cannot allow this to happen in his own huddle.

While Anderson has some issues with huddle presence, numerous teammates claimed Quinn was very effective in running the show. Kellen Winslow raved about Quinn's calming yet convincing demeanor, claiming he was able to effectively make sure everyone stayed focused. 

Winslow is no longer with the team, but many of the players from that huddle still are, and they can certainly attest to his sentiments.

This is yet another sign as to why Quinn could already be the Browns starter. When it comes to huddle presence, there aren't many secrets as to how effective Quinn and Anderson are (or aren't) at running the herd. 

If Mangini were to base his decision on huddle command, only to select Anderson, someone who has proven to struggle in this department, it would seem just a little hypocritical.

One of the most important and overall telling indications of who will start for Cleveland is the team's receiving corps.

With the inevitable severance between the Browns and Donte Stallworth, coupled with the trade of Kellen Winslow, Cleveland has suddenly become pretty depleted when it comes to downfield threats.

The Browns replaced Winslow with veteran tight end Robert Royal, who is known more for his run blocking than Hail Mary routes. The team then added aged receiver David Patten and Mike Furrey, both of whom seem to be possession wideouts. Rookie receiver Brian Robiskie is not heralded for his speed, and while fellow newcomer Mohamed Mossaquoi could be a future fade route target, word is he's got a lot of room to develop.

Since he is the only legitimate receiving threat on the team, Braylon Edwards will no doubt see a good amount of double coverage, and sometimes triple coverage.  Beyond him, the Browns have a who's who depth chart of untested rookies and veterans slowed by age. 

What does all this mean? 

Its simple. When looking at the receiving weapons available for either quarterback, the results favor Quinn.

Anderson can undoubtedly throw the ball for miles. The problem is there won't be too many Cleveland receivers waiting for him at the other end of the throw. 

Case in point, this receiving corps just doesn't favor a quarterback with a gunslinger throwing style. 

If you're going to start a quarterback based on your love of the long ball, you want receivers who can complement this. The Browns don't have these receivers, but what they do have is a group of wideouts who would be more useful in a short-yardage system with a dip and dunk quarterback, a la Brady Quinn.

So, if my hypothesis is true and the coaching staff has indeed decided amongst themselves to start Quinn, then why not tell the world? Why keep putting on this front of a head-to-head race to preseason?

It could be a number of things, really.

Perhaps Mangini feels Anderson has at least earned the right to compete for the position, since he has proven to be effective at times in the past.

Maybe Mangini had so much fun convincing sports analysts around the world just how "enamored" he was with former USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, even though he had no intentions of drafting him. 

For all one knows, the coach may just find great joy in jerking the chain of the sports media.

In the end, I know as much about this competition as everyone else. It could be that Mangini intends to focus solely on the imperfections listed about Anderson so he could be ready to start this season.

As of now, though, all signs point to Quinn, and I'd like to think the Browns coaching staff knows this as well.

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