Why Brady Quinn Can Still Be a Franchise Quarterback

Kevin Roberts@BreakingKevinSenior Writer IFebruary 12, 2010

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 20:  Quarterback Brady Quinn #10 of the Cleveland Browns looks on during their NFL game against the Kansas City Chiefs on December 20, 2009 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. The Browns defeated the Chiefs 41-34. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Mike Holmgren knows what he's doing; I'll preface with that.

At least, I know that he thinks he knows what he's doing.

But we won't get into Holmgren and his less than masterful exit from Seattle. We won't get into his zero Super Bowl wins in the last 11 seasons.

No, Holmgren and his slightly overrated resume isn't on trial here.

The idea of blindly casting aside a legitimate franchise quarterback in Brady Quinn, however, is.

It's not necessarily that Quinn is perfect for Cleveland. And it's not that Kevin Kolb or Donovan McNabb (in trade rumors) aren't.

The thing that leaves a bit of a bitter taste in this non-Browns fan is that Quinn, like so many other young quarterbacks drafted by terrible franchise, simply hasn't been given a fair shake.

In quick summary, the briefest of overviews on his short three-year career can tell you the sad, sad story of what it's like to be Brady Quinn in the NFL .

His rookie season was a complete learning lesson (waste), as he sat on the bench and watched Derek Anderson have a brilliant (fluke) season.

Year two saw Anderson sink back to the level that he probably belongs at, giving Quinn his first crack at leading the Browns to a higher plateau in Week 10 of the 2008 season, and he delivered an unforgettable performance.

Quinn matched Jay Cutler pass-for-pass in an epic duel between young, skilled signal callers, as he used all of his weapons en route to 239 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions in a thrilling 34-30 loss to the Denver Broncos.

Quinn went on to suffer a pinkie injury in the next game, rendering him ineffective, forcing him out of the line-up, and sending him on injured reserve.

Still, in his brief time as the starter, Quinn showed an energy the Browns offense had been lacking, and while he didn't quite display the rocket arm that Anderson had, he developed solid chemistry with his receivers, particularly tight end Kellen Winslow.

In 2009, Quinn was healthy again and opened the season as the starter, although it wasn't known to the public (and no one knows if it was even know to Quinn) until days before the season's first game.

Quinn played well enough in the first half to have the Browns actually leading the Minnesota Vikings, 13-10, and finished the game with 205 yards and a touchdown, despite throwing an interception.

His effectiveness was hurt by several dropped passes, five sacks, and a huge touchdown pass to Braylon Edwards that was nullified due to the receiver stepping out of bounds during the play.

Quinn would get two more chances to prove his worth, facing stifling defenses (at the time) in Denver and Baltimore, and was then immediately benched by head coach Eric Mangini, ending his run as the franchise quarterback after just three starts (his fifth of his career).

Not exactly a vote of confidence. Not exactly a fair shake.

Oh, but there's more.

After Derek Anderson took over and stunk up the field even more than he had in the previous season, winning just one game in five starts, Mangini went back to Quinn, giving him presumably his final chance as the starter.

Quinn's first game back was against the Baltimore Ravens, the last team he started against before being benched, and Quinn had a terrible outing in a 16-0 dismantling, as he threw two picks and was sacked four times.

However, it was the following week against the Detroit Lions, where Quinn resurrected that 2008 form that everyone caught a glimpse of against the Denver Broncos, as he engaged in another heated duel with a young signal caller, this time with rookie Matthew Stafford.

With four touchdowns and 304 passing yards (and a blistering quarterback rating of 133.1), Quinn had the game won, until Stafford won the game on a last-second play, giving the game to the Lions, 38-37.

Yes, it was against the horrible Lions pass defense. And yes, they lost the game.

But four touchdowns is four touchdowns, and with zero interceptions and just one sack taken, Quinn (or anyone else, for that matter) could not have played a better game.

Quinn regressed a bit the following week, as he went up against an eventual playoff team and at times nasty pass defense in the Cincinnati Bengals.

The next week against the Chargers, Quinn regained the form everyone saw against the Lions, as he matched wits with Phillip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers, throwing for 271 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in a close 30-23 loss.

It wasn't pretty from that point on, as Quinn had a horrible statistical game (along with everyone else) in an atrociously ugly win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and led the Browns to another win over the Kansas Chiefs (despite not playing particularly well).

However, that would be his last game of the season, as he broke his foot on a 24-yard run, effectively ending his season.

So, what have we learned?

More than just a game recap or drips of written highlights, this defense of Quinn is out to prove one thing: you can't become a leader of a team in just 12 career starts.

You just can't.

The evidence supporting Quinn is actually astonishingly strong, so much so that it's quite sickening that so many people want him out of Cleveland, or worse, have already proclaimed him a draft bust.

Here are the facts, at least for 2009:

-His offensive line was average, at best, and was usually flat-out bad, allowing him to get sacked at least once in eight of his nine starts, while giving up at least four sacks in three of those contests.

-While Quinn didn't always display excellent accuracy, ball placement, or decision-making, there is absolutely no arguing the ineffective and downright ugly play of several of his receivers. Even after Braylon "Mr. Drop" Edwards was out of town, his replacements still did a wonderful impression of his worst ability, leaving Quinn (and Derek Anderson) out to dry.

-The overall lack of talent surrounding him as a whole was just a complete joke. A complete, utter joke. Seriously, the guy had two rookie receivers, Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie, a 30+ year old slot receiver in Mike Furrey, and a trade-acquired slot guy in Chansi Stuckey. Oh, and of course, the greatest receiver of all-time, Josh Cribbs.

Honestly, no one could have found success with these weapons. If they could catch, they couldn't make plays. If they were able to make plays, they couldn't catch. It was always something, and it was always ugly.

-The lack of continuity, confidence, and trust from his coaching staff almost ruined him, but despite Eric Mangini's best efforts, Quinn actually emerged from 2009 with two of the Browns' five wins to his credit (kind of), and he has two bonafide "elite" games.

-There is a sharp contrast between the Brady Quinn we saw in the first three weeks of the season, and the one who got his job back and had nothing to lose (except for more games) in the second-half of the season.

The most recent version of Quinn reminded us of the 2008 fiery, passionate leader, and was able to keep his team in several games, even with countless drops, sacks, hits, and poor passes/decisions of his own.

-Last, but not least, Quinn played in an unforgiving division, where he faced the Pittsburgh Steelers in ungodly conditions, took on the Baltimore Ravens twice, and traveled to Cincinnati with a date with a fairly solid pass defense.

There still isn't an answer for the question: Who will be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns in 2010?

But even if it's not Quinn, there are still some things that should have a pretty clear answer.

This kid isn't a bust. He's not all the negative things people say he is. He has talent, he has passion, and he has the ability to be a very good quarterback in this league.

It was just never going to happen with the Browns.

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