It was a classic spit take.
Upon reading the news of Brady Quinn's trade to the Denver Broncos for fullback Peyton Hillis and two late round draft picks, I proceeded to soak my laptop screen in soda. It completely caught me off guard.
What was surprising was not that Quinn got moved but rather where he got moved to. It was beginning to look like the Broncos were going to commit to Kyle Orton for the foreseeable future. Analysts thought the Broncos would ride Orton for a few years while head coach Josh McDaniels developed a draft pick.
A year ago, McDaniels stirred the pot by attempting to trade then-starter Jay Cutler to acquire Matt Cassel from New England. That didn't work. Cutler got mad and was on his way to Chicago while Orton was sent to Denver. Orton had not played in an offensive system like McDaniels'. Orton's play was a big question mark heading into 2009.
Even though he started out strong, Orton soon reverted to what he always will be as an NFL quarterback: solid but not spectacular and not good enough to lead a team to the Super Bowl.
Now enter Quinn for 2010.
I am not saying Quinn can lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl, at least not this season. What he already has for an advantage over Orton is this: he knows the offensive system better. Quinn played for Charlie Weis, McDaniels' predecessor in New England as offensive coordinator.
In other words, McDaniels finally got his Cassel. Just not THE Cassel. The job he started in 2009, he finished in 2010. He has what he wanted, so now it is up to him to coach up Quinn and help him realize his potential.
There is little doubt that Quinn's confidence is just about shot. Three seasons in Cleveland with two coaching staffs waffling on whether or not he is the quarterback of the future (despite less than a full season of games started under his belt) can't be good for a young quarterback.
It will be interesting to see if any teams start sniffing around Orton in the days and weeks ahead. If Orton signs with someone else, that additional first round pick would be coupled with the no. 10 or 11 (pending coin toss with Jacksonville) as well another first rounder from whomever lands wide receiver Brandon Marshall. That's THREE first round picks the Broncos could have. The question is if it is worth it.
Quinn's tenure in Cleveland and shutter, but let's not forget the Browns were one of the hottest teams in the league to end the season. Quinn did miss the final two games due to foot surgery, but Quinn was not turning the ball over like he was earlier in the season.
The bottom line is that for the first three years of his career, Quinn was stuck in a poor organization. The follies of the Browns are well documented and Quinn now goes to an organization with a head coach famous for his work with young quarterbacks. McDaniels turned Cassel into a solid starter, and Cassel hadn't started a game since high school.
Think of what he will be able to do with a quarterback who started in college and is already familiar with his offense.
So once again more drama arrives for the Broncos at the quarterback position. At least this one has to do with an arrival instead of a departure.