A one-sentence analysis of Browns QBs
After treating the announcement with more secrecy and intrigue than the launch codes to our nuclear arsenal, just before kickoff in Week 1 the Cleveland Browns' new, no-nonsense coach, Eric Mangini, made Brady Quinn his starting quarterback in perpetuity, which turned out to last 10 whole quarters. Quinn was then benched in favor of Derek Anderson, who earned the starting job by passing for 92 yards, no TDs and three interceptions in a 34-3 blowout loss to Baltimore. "I just think Derek did some things that were positive," said Mangini, who was interrupted by the sound of Otto Graham rolling over in his grave.
Taking the advice of Common, who mocked Quinn from the stage during a recent show in Ohio, Mangini decided to stick with Anderson, for now, because, well, he "sensed a real sense of calm" in him during the Browns' 10th loss in a row, where they improved significantly by losing by only three points. One more note: Anderson's one saving grace was he had a connection with Braylon Edwards -- who was promptly traded to the Jets. (Quinn, the former Notre Dame golden boy from Dublin, Ohio, and 22nd overall pick in the 2007 draft, responded by guzzling another one of those shakes of his.)
Somehow, after all this, crazy Cleveland fans still longing for the 1940s and '50s, when the Browns were the Yankees of pro football, keep complaining that the quarterback position has been an absolute nightmare since the Browns rejoined the league.
Oh, come on.
The truth is, I can sum up the problems the Browns have had at quarterback since 1999 in one simple sentence
It's interesting to note that, recently, when things looked like they were at their absolute worst, former Browns quarterback Tim Couch, the No. 1 pick overall in 1999 and the guy who started this whole mess, stepped right back into his usual role with the team, managing, like he always did, to make things just a wee little bit worse by telling a local reporter last week that, heck, no quarterback could be successful with the Browns, even, say, one like Couch, a cannon-armed Heisman Trophy finalist at Kentucky who was paid $48 million over seven years by Cleveland and started his career in the third quarter of the 1999 season opener a very telling 0-for-3 with a pick in a 43-0 loss to the rival Pittsburgh Steelers, something we were told not to worry about because, heck, he had beaten out the likes of Ty Detmer for the starting job (6-for-13 for 52 yards and a pick against Pittsburgh) and the head coach was offensive guru Chris Palmer and, on top of that, the entire franchise had four years to regroup after being moved to Baltimore and renamed the Ravens (and trust me, the Browns had time on their hands, because I visited them during this stretch and they were so bored they were re-mowing the grass on the practice field); so, eventually, Couch worked through his 0-5 start to throw a Hail Mary to beat the New Orleans Saints 21-16 on Oct. 31, 1999, and then the hated Steelers two weeks later, 16-15, only to be sacked 56 times, which led to a broken leg and his eventual replacement by Detmer in Week 15; a pattern that would repeat itself in 2000, when a banged-up Couch was dumped for Doug Pederson -- a 12-year NFL journeyman and a really good guy who is best known as the ignominious backup to the Green Bay version of Brett Favre, the one quarterback who actually never needed a backup -- halfway through the season, a logical move followed by the bizarre decision to bench Pederson in Week 14 in favor of something called Spergon Wynn (which, I honestly thought, was the name of the sailboat on "Gilligan's Island"), a player, we should note, the Browns selected before Tom Brady in the draft, who would go on to a successful career (as a backup in the CFL) after proving Palmer's finely tuned instincts correct by throwing for 17 yards (I'm not making this up,
to achieve a passer rating above 80 for an entire season since Cleveland rejoined the NFL in 1999.
David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and the author of the memoir "Noah's Rainbow" and "Breaker Boys: The NFL's Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship." And his work will be featured in the 2009 Best American Sports Writing anthology. The Flem File appears every Wednesday during the NFL season with updates on Mondays and Fridays.
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