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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Calm, cool and collected, Quinn will be a winner

Calm, cool and collected, Quinn will be a winner
from www.msnbc.com
Brady Quinn’s career began on the night his team’s season ended. And all a Browns fan can ask after watching Quinn play with veteran aplomb is, "Why wasn’t this kid in there weeks ago?"
Nobody in Cleveland has any delusions that the Browns would be battling Pittsburgh and Baltimore for the AFC North lead if Quinn had been playing all along instead of Derek Anderson. The team has too many problems for one player to solve. A lot of them are on the other side of the ball with a defense that can’t put pressure on the quarterback and has a remarkable knack for fourth-quarter collapses.
The problems have to be traced back to the general manager and the coaching staff who should be expected to field a team that can pressure a quarterback and make big tackles. It’s also a coaching staff that kept playing an underperforming Anderson instead of switching to Quinn a month ago, when he may have made a difference.
Quinn isn’t Joe Montana or Joe Theisman yet. He’ll take his lumps, especially when he plays against a varsity defense instead of the porous Denver unit he picked apart Thursday night.
But he showed he has what it takes to play in this league. It wasn’t so much in the statistics, which were impressive enough: 23-for-35 for 239 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and zero sacks. It was more the way he approached the job.
He had one full day of practice for this game, and until Thursday, his NFL career consisted of three completions in eight pass attempts in one relief effort last year against San Francisco. But from the moment he was introduced to a crowd that has been begging coach Romeo Crennel to start him, Quinn looked and acted like a veteran.
He didn’t charge out of the tunnel when his name was called with adrenaline squirting out of his ears and his eyes wide with excitement. Instead, he took several purposeful strides onto the field, looked up to scan the crowd and offer the fans a wave, then trotted onto the field as if he’d been doing it all his life.
He missed his first pass, completed his second and was three-and-out on his first series. But on his second possession, he drove his team to a score. His first NFL touchdown pass was a beauty. It was third-and-goal from the 5, and with a defender about to crush him, he leaped in the air and drilled a bullet between two defenders into tight end Kellen Winslow’s arms.
It was the kind throw coaches don’t want their quarterbacks to make. He was in the air and he threw into double coverage. Most quarterbacks try that and they get picked because they can’t put enough on the throw.
He didn’t go nuts when Winslow hauled it in. And he didn’t go nuts when he threw his second touchdown pass on the next possession, again hitting Winslow, who broke two tackles and ran it in.
Quinn didn’t get confused on his play calls and didn’t have a single delay-of-game penalty. He didn’t fumble. He stepped away from the rush time and again and hit outlet receivers when he was in trouble. He was cool. He had presence.
Even after the Browns had coughed up their 13-point lead, giving up seven on a 93-yard Jay Cutler completion over blown coverage, Quinn brought his team back to take the lead again with just a few minutes left.
Cleveland’s defense had played well in the first half, but collapsed in the second. They gave up the lead for the final time with just over a minute left. Quinn said later it was plenty of time.
On fourth-and-1 at his own 42, Quinn threw a perfect pass to Winslow that would have kept the drive alive. And it went right through Winslow’s hands.
The tight end had a great game with 10 catches and two touchdowns, but he had a miserable second half. Earlier he had fumbled the ball away and negated a critical first-down pickup by committing a flagrant and senseless offensive pass interference penalty. Afterward, he took the blame for the loss.
“It was a routine catch,” Winslow said. “I let my team down."
That was in the locker room. In the interview room, Quinn, the guy who threw the pass that Winslow neglected to catch, refused to blame anyone.
“This is on me,” he told the media. “This loss is on me.”
That’s not the truth, but it’s what you want to hear. Quinn started his first game for the franchise he grew up cheering. He put 30 points on the board. And he did that without being asked to throw a single deep ball.
Cleveland didn’t win the game, but they got a quarterback for the future. Now all they need is a team — and coaching — as good as he is.

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