Audibles: Quinn takes center stage

November, 6, 2008
11/06/08
10:40
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Denver Broncos (4-4) vs. Cleveland Browns (3-5), 8:15 p.m.

The Brady Quinn era starts Thursday night for the Cleveland Browns.

 
 Michael Sackett/US Presswire
 Brady Quinn gets his shot as the starter Thursday night.

But why does it feel more like an experiment?

While Quinn leading the Browns has been in the works from the day he was selected in the first round of the 2007 draft, the circumstances of throwing him in the lineup against the Denver Broncos in a nationally televised game were bizarre.

"It kind of took me by shock," former starter Derek Anderson told reporters this week.

Here is a breakdown of how things unfolded:

  • Browns head coach Romeo Crennel told the media Sunday and Monday that he didn't anticipate a quarterback change. But just a few hours after the news conference Monday, ESPN broke the story that the Browns were changing quarterbacks and the team confirmed it by releasing a statement.
  • On Tuesday, after widespread speculation that Crennel was not calling the shots, the head coach told the media that it was indeed his call. But Crennel has been a staunch supporter of Anderson and stuck with him throughout his struggles. Just when Anderson is playing his best football of the season (seven touchdown passes, two interceptions in the past five games), Crennel said it's time to make a change.
  • The timing of this move is odd, considering Quinn gets only two full days of practice before making his first NFL start. Are the Browns giving Quinn the best chance to succeed? If Quinn struggles with just two days of preparation, is it really a good indication of his skills? Had Cleveland waited one more game to turn to Quinn, he would have had 10 days to prepare before the team's next contest Nov. 17 against the Buffalo Bills on "Monday Night Football."

But the Browns said they have their reasons. Whether it was the head coach's decision, the front office's decision or partly the influence of the fans, the Browns are going ahead with their new quarterback.

Cleveland is 3-5, and although the organization said it's not quitting on its season, giving the football to an inexperienced quarterback with no career starts is risky.

The Browns felt they had to do something after giving up 24 unanswered points in Sunday's 37-27 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. They hope Quinn provides the spark to an offense rated No. 28 in the NFL and a team that is an abysmal 1-3 at home.

This is an opportunity Quinn has waited for nearly all of his life. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio, approximately 140 miles south of Cleveland, and rooted for the Browns. There are pictures of him as a child wearing Browns gear to prove it.

Quinn is staying away from the hype. He praised Anderson and said he feels for him. And with the short week to prepare, Quinn also doesn't have time to think about the enormity of his first start in nearly two years (not counting preseason).

"It's been a little while [so] I need to dust off the cleats, shoulder pads and everything," he said, laughing. "It is going to be nice. It will be fun to get back out there. I am excited now and I will be once game time comes around."

Although this week's circumstances are unique, it was only a matter of time before Quinn got his chance. He was always the elephant in the room looking over Anderson's shoulder, regardless of how the former starter played.

Changing quarterbacks was the most drastic move Cleveland could make in an attempt to save its 2008 season. The Browns held on to the Quinn card for a year and a half before playing it. But will this card be an ace for Cleveland on Thursday night or a joker?

"Knock on wood. I hope the guy doesn't fall on his face," Crennel said.

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