Six Points: A Cleveland Browns' Autopsy of the Brady Quinn Era

Christopher MaherCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2010

CLEVELAND - OCTOBER 04:  Brady Quinn #10 of the Cleveland Browns looks on against the Cincinnati Bengals during their game at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 4, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Browns 23-20 in overtime.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The fat lady has sung. It’s over.

The quarterback Phil Savage spent a first and a second-round draft choice on to move up in the draft to choose him after he had slid down to No. 22 in the 2007 draft was sent to Denver for a backup FB/RB, a sixth-round choice in 2011, and a conditional pick in 2012.

This may go down in Cleveland Browns history as the worst blunder of the Savage regime.

Six Points thought that quarterback’s trade value was more like a case of Myoplex, two McCain/Palin campaign buttons, a bottle of hair gel, a tube of lip gloss, a half-eaten Subway foot long, and a free car wash with an oil change at Ganley Chevrolet.

This development was hardly shocking, as the writing was on the wall.

Now, we move on.

1. Psychiatric Help, Five Cents

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified these five stages of grief, and while they follow each other, they often intermix as people deal with loss.

The healing process can, after all, involve regression.

Six Points is here to help fans of that quarterback work their way through those phases.

Denial: That mean Mr. Holmgren said he needed at least 32 starts, and he only had 12. How could he do this to him?

Reality: There are things called OTAs, drills, scrimmages, practices, 7-on-7s, and games. There’s something called “film” a coach or executive can look at to make an evaluation, and once in a while, they look at it.

Anger: I hate the Browns! They cut the man who will take Denver to the next Super Bowl! Those fools never gave him a chance! I’m giving all my Browns gear, including my pink No. 10 jersey, to Goodwill!

Reality: Largely irrational, but good call on the Goodwill donations. Goodwill Industries helps a lot of people in need, and in this economy, their work is more vital than ever.

Bargaining: I can still root for that quarterback if I become a Broncos fan.

Reality: Broncos fans will probably enjoy you polluting their boards as much as Browns fans enjoyed you polluting theirs, but Continental Airlines does have some great fares from CLE to DIA.

Depression: My life has no meaning! They cut Busty McDreamy!

Reality: Perhaps, looking at yourself and your irrational attachment to this person may help you work your way through this.

Acceptance: This was unfortunate, but it’s time to move on.

Reality: We had a very important breakthrough this session!

What were the stages Six Points went through after the crawl announced the trade on the monitor during a Cavaliers game?

Microbrew. Jameson. Hangover. Coffee. Article.

See, the healing process doesn’t take that long.

2. A Sunk Cost

Businesses often overpay for product lines or other companies based on a strategy of diversification or growth for its own sake.

Those acquisitions sometimes underperform, and after a period of time, they are sold for pennies on the dollar.

The selling company realizes the acquisition did not work out for whatever reason, and the initial inflated price, which will not be recouped, is written off as a “sunk cost.”

Let’s say that three years ago, you paid full sticker for a car because you just loved its styling. You loaded it up with options, and spent about $42,000.

After you took delivery, it spent more time at the dealer than the average crackhead. It’s now out of warranty, and you’re anticipating paying for all of those repairs out of your own pocket, and the payment book is not yet empty.

You go online to get its present value, and due to the model’s history of unreliability, that $42,000 vehicle might fetch you $12,000 if you’re lucky.

What do you do? You get rid of it if at all possible. You’ve dealt with enough underperformance and unreliability.

You put a fresh coat of wax and a “for sale” sign on it, and pray.

Phil Savage got suckered into buying the wrong car. Period.

And Mike Holmgren was left holding the title.

3. The Unpopular Decisions

Before the trade, Mike Holmgren put the writing on the wall, citing the need for “unpopular decisions.”

The best executives do just that, and aren’t hesitant to pull the trigger when it needs to be pulled. They do it quickly, and they do it when the business of the company will be least disrupted.

If done efficiently with the right timing, the effect of “survivor’s guilt” on the rest of the office is greatly reduced, and the company can get down to business faster.

While announcing the Browns-Raiders game, CBS analyst Randy Cross advised Holmgren to “tune out the noise” from the Browns fanbase going forward.

There’s still noise, but Holmgren is not dancing to it.

4. The Triumph of Marketing

There’s an underlying reason that spans generations why the Cleveland Browns have not won a championship since 1964.

Throughout the expansion era and during almost all of the ownership of Arthur Bertram Modell, the Browns have been run more like a marketing company with a football division.

From Mike Phipps to Mike Junkin to Gerard Warren to this latest fatality of underperformance, the Browns have brought countless heavily hyped busts onto the roster, and ticket sales may have been more of a driving force than performance in their selections.

Let’s play “fly on the wall” in a theoretical meeting prior to the 2007 NFL Draft:

Executive A: We have our left tackle (Joe Thomas of Wisconsin), and I think he’s going to be a fixture. Good kid, good program, good pedigree.

Executive B: Left tackles don’t sell tickets.

Executive C: You guys been watching ESPN?

A: No, why? We have our board set up.

C: This kid from Notre Dame, a QB, projected as a Top 10, is still on the board.

A: He’s not worth a Top 10. That’s why we took the tackle.

B: A Notre Dame quarterback? Know how many fans and alumni live here with their high household incomes? 

A: Can he play?

C: Look at this kid. Male model looks. Know how many jerseys and tickets that would sell?

A: I don’t think he can play.

B and C: Do we have to call Lew Merletti?

B: (Picking up phone) Phil, get it done. The Notre Dame kid.

5. The Fandom Menace

Why is that quarterback no longer in Cleveland?

Besides his lack of ability, one of the biggest reasons may be his fans.

Six Points goes back to the days of Municipal Stadium, and even in the darkest days of the Modell years, he has never seen a fan base this fractured.

Or at least, never as fractured as it was before Sunday, Mar. 14, 2010.

Six Points has had the misfortune of dealing with a few workplace proselytizers over the years.

You try to avoid them, but sometimes you can’t.

No amount of reason or factual information will dissuade them from their dogma, and fans of that departed quarterback weren’t much better.

Call Golden Boy out for his lack of talent, and instantly become a Notre Dame hater.

That departed quarterback never got a fair chance, had no one to throw to, was mishandled by the coaching staff, and had no line in front of him.

The other guy, the guy they hated because he kept Golden Boy from starting? Well, playing under the same circumstances, he just plain sucked.

Holmgren knew that whenever the signal caller going forward made the slightest miscue, Golden Boy’s acolytes would have chanted his name from the stands.

Thus, Holmgren had no choice.

It’s OK, people. Golden Boy will lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl.

And humans and dinosaurs coexisted fewer than 7,000 years ago.

And if Six Points goes to Hades for questioning the ability of a Notre Dame product, he'll make sure to dodge the ice floes. You told me it's cold down there.

6. What’s in a Name?

William Shakespeare once wrote, “A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.”

And, a bust by any name is still a bust.

In the 1980s, Chrysler Corporation stretched its K-car platform out, loaded the K-car with options, slapped a hefty price tag on it, and called it an Imperial.

Passers-by did not need an engineering degree to know it was, well, a K-car.

Six Points is about to invent a fictional quarterback.

Brad Quinlan grew up in Philadelphia as an Eagles fan, went to Rutgers, and torched the Big East, rewriting much of the Scarlet Knights’ record book.

Without the benefit of major-program hype, he was selected in the third round.

In three years, he could not beat out two of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. 

He got 12 starts in those three years, compiling a 3-9 record with a 66.8 quarterback rating while completing under 53 percent of his passes.

Of those 12 starts, the light only came on in two of them, one outing could have been considered above average, and the other nine displayed varying degrees of putrescence.

Those two promising starts, however, came against two of the league’s worst defenses.

He was inaccurate on short and intermediate passes, could not throw long to save his life, had “happy feet” in the pocket along with poor mechanics, and on 3rd-and-15, he’d check down to a running back for three yards.

Brad Quinlan would have been booed out of Cleveland. And his NFL prospects would have been as alive as Karen Quinlan.

Phil Savage, thanks for selling us a K-car.

We don’t know exactly how we’re getting around in 2010, but we need to do it better.

Extra Point: We Got Peyton!

No, we didn’t solve that problem, but the Browns may have gotten the best player in the trade.

Peyton Hillis, included from Denver in the deal, is a powerful, aggressive running back with adequate speed. 

At 250 pounds, he’s likely to serve well in a Jets-style “running back by committee” along with James Harrison and James Davis. 

A few videos of Hillis exist on YouTube, and they make Six Points reminisce about some guy named John Riggins.

He could be a great addition, especially when November comes, in the AFC North.


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