One of the biggest question marks going into the 2009 NFL season revolves around who will become the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. In other words, we will soon find out how Brady Quinn measures up in the world's best football league, and the questions and rumors will slowly begin to fade away.
There are opinion makers calling Quinn the next Joey Harrington, Tim Couch, or Chris Simms, while others still liken him to Hall of Famer Joe Montana. At this point, there seems to be much more of the former opinion.
Yet however bad or good you think Quinn may be, I tell you this: Do not bet against Brady Quinn.
Quinn, with minimal game experience, is as ready as any young quarterback to take the reins of his team and make things happen on the field. In fact, he was as ready as anyone coming out of college over two years ago, and although he is still lacking that crucial game experience, he is only getting smarter, stronger, and better.
Odds are as you sit here reading this, Quinn is throwing a football, working out in a gym, or studying the Browns' playbook.
This leads me to a comparison that to some may seem outlandish or even crazy, but one that I believe is true: Brady Quinn reminds me of Peyton Manning.
Quite clearly Manning is one heck of a quarterback, a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, and probably the best signal caller of his generation. I'm not making the case that Quinn will ever rise to the level of Manning, but there are many similarities between the two players.
Quinn is similar to Manning in that he has an extremely high football IQ and has the computer-like ability to scan the field for open receivers. Also like Manning, Quinn shows excellent pocket presence and an insatiable appetite for practice and film study.
While Quinn may not have the arm of Manning, he is still very capable of making every throw on the football field. Plus, Quinn is quicker and able to make plays with his feet while being perhaps the strongest quarterback in the NFL.
The comparisons between Manning and Quinn are not as far-fetched as you may believe.
It has been stated that Quinn played against inferior opponents in college, and on the flip side, that his tutelage under Charlie Weis' pro-style offense makes his transition to the NFL an easy one. People just can't seem to agree on anything regarding Quinn!
While playing at Notre Dame under Weis' system will help Quinn in the coming months and years, he still needs to adjust to the ultra-high level of NFL defenses. This much is true, but don't expect him to crumble under the pressure because he's never seen a good defense before.
As far as Quinn playing against inferior opponents in college, that accusation doesn't hold up when put to the test. Of course Quinn didn't have to play against the vaunted SEC defenses, but let's not pretend that every SEC defense is dominant or even very good, and that SEC teams don't play cupcake teams either.
So while Quinn played against weak opponents in college, he also played against some very good defenses as well. As it is, he still performed at a very high level even when his Notre Dame teams were outmatched.
From 2004 to 2006, Notre Dame lost 12 games while Brady Quinn was under center for the Fighting Irish. Given how he has been portrayed as the guy who couldn't win the big game (remind you of a certain player with a blue No. 18 on his jersey?) you would think Quinn wouldn't have played very well in these losses.
But over these 12 losses, Quinn amassed the following statistics:
261 for 478 (54.6 percent), 3,199 yards, 23 TD, 12 INT
While certainly not all-world numbers, those are pretty good stats for games in which Quinn's team never won. Also, keep in mind the Irish defense gave up over 35 points per game in these losses.
To look at it another way, let's pretend these stats were part of a winless 0-16 NFL season like the one the Detroit Lions just experienced:
348 for 637 (54.6 percent), 4,265 yards, 31 TD, 16 INT
Now, if Daunte Culpepper put up those numbers last year with the Lions and his team never won a game, would you be likely to blame him? You would probably deduce that his team didn't have much of a running game and that his defense was not very good, but you wouldn't think he was the problem.
Similarly, let's take a look at Quinn's numbers against Southern California in Notre Dame's three losses:
56 for 109 (51.3 percent), 643 yards, 5 TD, 1 INT
Once again, not mind-boggling numbers, but stats which clearly show Quinn was not the problem. Moreover, playing against one of the best defenses in the country (and in NCAA history), Quinn only threw one interception, and that was on the Irish's first drive in 2005, when a Trojan defender knocked Quinn's arm on his follow-through.
What these stats also don't show are the numerous plays in which Quinn ran for big gains and first downs, including the go-ahead touchdown with only two minutes to play against USC in 2005.
Someday soon, Brady Quinn is going to be a very good NFL quarterback, and he will prove all the naysayers wrong. While nothing is a given in the competitive landscape that is the NFL, don't be surprised if Quinn is among the league's best players in two or three years.
For now, he remains in a sticky situation in Cleveland, and almost everyone is saying he has to prove himself to win the starting job.
Brady Quinn will win the starting job—that much you don't have to worry about.
Still, there is the possibility that Quinn will not have much success in Cleveland, but that has to do with the overall team the Browns are putting on the field. Even if Cleveland only wins three or four games in 2009, don't expect many to point the finger at Quinn's play as the reason for their ineptitude.
Those who have watched Quinn closely over the past five years know he has all the tools to succeed. He is very accurate, has good arm strength (just watch the bomb thrown to Rhema McKnight against Michigan State in 2006 for proof), and consistently makes smart decisions.
What may aid his career the most in the NFL is his ability to escape pressure, make throws with people in his face, and elude rushing defenders, again all very much in the form of Peyton Manning.
Both players have the vision and footwork to slip out of a bad situation with a split-second shuffle of the feet and turned shoulders, ready to get the ball off to a receiver.
More amazingly, Quinn is as good as anyone I've ever seen at not so much making guys miss what looks to be a sure sack, but literally overpowering them and shrugging them off and getting rid of the ball.
With stronger and faster defenders in the NFL, this may not happen as much, but don't be surprised if Quinn is able to make something out of nothing when he has to. When you add up the entire package that Quinn brings to the table, the chance for success is very high.
So if you think the jury is still out, and you think he's a bum or needs to play more to prove his worth to you, just remember one thing:
Do not bet against Brady Quinn.