Aside from firing the head coach, the biggest change a team can make is switching quarterbacks midseason.
On the heels of a demoralizing 34-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in Cleveland, the Browns have officially announced that Brady Quinn will start at quarterback on Thursday against the Denver Broncos.
Unfortunately for the Browns, this change will have no impact at all.
The Browns went out of their way to prove that they have more problems than quarterback last Sunday.
Once again, the Browns displayed their inability to put their opponents away. After building a 14-point lead midway through the third quarter, the Browns players and coaches completely lost focus and watched the Ravens score 24 unanswered points to close the game.
This effectively shattered all of Cleveland’s hopes for a playoff run in 2008.
Every Browns collapse seems to include a miscue from mistake-prone wide receiver Braylon Edwards, and Sunday was no different.
Having seen their two-TD lead and all of their momentum disappear, the Browns had an opportunity to make a game-changing play. And they didn’t.
On third-and-seven from their 28-yard line, and the game tied at 24 early in the fourth quarter, Derek Anderson threw a perfect, in-stride 60-yard bomb to Edwards. The pass was…well, you know.
It was an error that the Browns cannot afford from their star receiver. Even if he had made the catch and didn't get into the end zone, the Browns likely would have been able to get three points out of the drive.
Did this play lose the game for the Browns? No way. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt, or that Browns fans shouldn't be enraged.
Still, this was just one play in a string of frustrating drives full of head-scratching play-calls that yielded no positive results.
Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski’s constant decision to call running plays on first down—particularly on the first play of a drive—makes me absolutely crazy. It could not be more predictable if a diagram of the play itself was shown on the Jumbotron before the snap of the ball.
The Browns started their first three offensive drives of the day with three running plays, picking up all of two yards. Those drives resulted in zero points.
On the first play of each of their next three drives, the Browns threw the ball. The result? Derek Anderson was 3-3 for 61 yards with the Browns scoring 10 points.
You don’t have to be Bill Walsh to recognize what works and what does not.
Of course, the predictability of the play calling is even more magnified when a team is sitting on a large lead, and the stupidity of the play calling is likewise magnified by the fact that Baltimore boasts the top-ranked rushing defense in the NFL.
When the Browns were up 14, Chud seemed content to run the ball up the middle for small gains on early downs and throw short of the first down markers on third down, which resulted in four consecutive, unimpressive three-and-outs.
Once the game was tied, the Ravens defense was able to settle in and do what they do best: stop the run. And they did.
By the time Chud decided to go back to the air on first down, it was too late. With the Browns trailing, Baltimore knew the Browns had to pass and teed off on them. Game over.
With a so-called "No. 1” wide receiver that can’t catch, a largely ineffective running game, predictable play-calling, and the team’s lack of a killer instinct, what is Brady Quinn going to do for the Browns that Derek Anderson could not? Sadly, not much.
Don’t get me wrong. I like Brady Quinn. He seems to be a very hard-worker with a great attitude. And for the sake of the Browns, I hope he is the long-term answer for the Browns at quarterback.
But there is a reason that Quinn never won a big game in college. There’s a reason Quinn was passed on in the draft by many teams in the 2007 draft. And there’s a reason Quinn couldn’t win the starting job until this season was, in all reality, over.
I called for Quinn to get his shot a few weeks ago, and for the sake of the long-term success, I agree with making the move.
Why not see what Quinn can do? The fact that the switch has been made should be seen as an indictment of the entire team rather than a referendum on Anderson or a vote for Quinn.
Incidentally, it has been reported that the Browns made the move to placate Browns fans and keep their support after they loudly booed Anderson on Sunday. Well, if this is true, then Browns fans that would stop supporting the team without the change aren’t fans at all.
The true fans aren’t going anywhere, regardless of who the QB is.
Sure, Anderson was anything but spectacular this year, but every player and coach in the Browns organization is equally responsible for the disappointing season. Anderson has taken an unfair share of the blame not necessarily because of his play, but because of the fans’ unrelenting desire to see Quinn in action.
Anderson was nothing more than a sacrificial lamb for the entire team’s woes in 2008.
And so when Quinn throws his first interception—hell, his first incompletion—I wonder if the people in my section at Cleveland Browns Stadium and those at Peter’s Pub will start chants for third-string QB Ken Dorsey, like they did each time Anderson didn’t complete a pass.
Or will all of Brady’s transgressions be forgiven? Will fans chalk up his bad decisions and poor throws to youthful exuberance and inexperience?
Who will now assume the role of scapegoat du jour for Anderson haters when Quinn struggles? If Quinn doesn’t lead the Browns to the win this week, will fans blame Romeo for putting him in on a short week?
And when Brady succeeds, will it be because he’s the stud we all hoped he was, or because opponents haven’t had enough time to study his game and figure him out, as so many people claimed was the case with Anderson’s success.
Make no mistake, I just want the team—the whole team—to play well and win, regardless of who is taking the snaps.
I just hope that Browns fans—namely, the Quinn-lovers among us—are able to take off their Fighting Irish-colored glasses and hold Quinn to the same high standards that, short of a Lombardi Trophy, Anderson could never have lived up to.