Quinn working through early growing pains
At Browns minicamp, Brady Quinn has looked like a rookie trying to find his way, not the team's long-awaited savior, writes John Clayton.
BEREA, Ohio -- Charlie Weis prepared Brady Quinn for just about everything at Notre Dame.
Weis taught Quinn an NFL offense and gave him the ability to unleash it against college defenses. In some ways, Quinn was like a master's student in a classroom of freshmen. Quinn learned the West Coast offense from Tyrone Willingham. Weis took him to new levels with his imaginative schemes. He was a great student.
What Quinn wasn't prepared for was what happened since he left South Bend. Draft day was a disaster. He sat in the Green Room watching team after team pass on him. Although he was elated to be rescued by the Browns with the 22nd pick in the first round, he felt as battered as David Carr during a 70-sack season.
His first few minicamp performances have been filled with inaccurate passes, which shouldn't be a surprise. The Browns are installing a completely new offense, a copy of the Mike Martz-Norv Turner-Air Coryell system. Passes hit the ground more often in Browns minicamp than at most minicamps currently going on, but those incompletions aren't limited to Quinn. Receivers are also learning the steps, and Charlie Frye and others are adjusting to the terminology.
The problem for Quinn is that criticism of his accuracy was one of the reasons he slipped in the first round. Quinn is fighting an uphill battle in his role at Browns camp.
"I don't think I'm quite there yet," Quinn said. "It's hard to put down a percentage on it. There's a lot of time left. Hopefully, we'll have a better indication once training camp starts."
That's another problem for Quinn. To report to training camp, Quinn needs to sign a contract, and that won't be easy. Arguably, he lost $20 million to $30 million in guarantees by dropping from the top of the draft to the 22nd pick. He's in a slot that merits a five-year contract that would average less than $1.8 million a year. Quinn is on a team that paid a guard (Eric Steinbach) $7 million a year, and a tackle not expected to start (Kevin Shaffer) more than $6 million a year.
How can the future quarterback of the Browns lock himself into a deal in which he would make that much less than the blockers in front of him?
"I am just focused on what is front of me," said Quinn, who's leaving the finances to his agent, Tom Condon.
Quinn doesn't look like he doesn't belong, even though he's alternating with Ken Dorsey as the third or fourth quarterback. His footwork coming back from center isn't as precise as it will be once he's more comfortable with the terminology and the receivers around him. His passes aren't awful -- some are a little high. Some miss the mark, but part of that is due to the fact that the Browns' receivers aren't exactly among the NFL's elite. Most of them are long striders in an offense that works best with quick-footed receivers who get in and out of their routes quickly.
Browns coach Romeo Crennel summed up Quinn's situation best.
"I would say the experienced guys are the experienced guys, and you know, I favor those guys a little bit, and the rookie is still the rookie," Crennel said with a small smile.
What helps Quinn is his attitude. He's a good guy and his teammates like him. Returning offensive players favor Frye as the starter because he's been through the NFL wars with them the past couple of seasons. Local observers, though, don't discount Derek Anderson's chances of being the opening day starter because he seems the most natural of all the quarterbacks in dropping back, studying the defense and getting rid of the ball. Players like Quinn's demeanor and work ethic. He lifts with the offensive linemen because he's one of the strongest quarterbacks to come into the league in years. At the combine in Indianapolis, he benched 225 pounds 24 times.
"The toughest thing for Brady is just not being too hard on himself," wide receiver Braylon Edwards said. "The situation he is in, a lot is expected of him. He needs to try and please the people and the crowd. He had the first-round situation. He has the quarterback controversy, all of those things. All he needs to do is focus on the playbook."
Edwards understands because he was a high first-round pick with plenty of expectations playing on a franchise that has been operating under a cloud. The Browns haven't had a winning season since 2002. The offense has been stuck in neutral, averaging 17 points or less the past four years. In 2006 and 2005, respectively, the Browns scored 14.9 and 14.5 points a game.
The Browns' offense is operating on the assumption Frye will be the starter. Sure, players understand Cleveland football fans. They are rabid about their Browns. They also root for hometown heroes. LeBron James saved the Cavs. They expect the same out of Quinn, who grew up in Columbus and went to Dublin High School.
Frye also understands he's in a tough spot. If he struggles early -- and that is expected as the offense tries to come together -- fans will be calling for Quinn, who very well could be the third-string, inactive quarterback heading into the regular season. If Quinn has a long holdout, that could be a lock.
"Going into this offseason, I kind of expected a new quarterback was going to be added to the team," Frye said. "I just approached this offseason as if I am the starter and that is how I prepared. You have to prepare yourself that you are going to go out there and just lead this team and just to make strides."
Whether fans will be patient depends on the how the team starts. The pressure is on everyone to start quickly. The Browns have their three division home games and a game against the Raiders in September. If the team starts slow, Crennel might be in danger of losing his job by the team's Week 7 bye.
The offense is changing running backs with Jamal Lewis replacing Reuben Droughns. The Browns are breaking in a new left side of the line with Steinbach and first-round choice Joe Thomas. Quinn is trying to make the best of his situation before awaiting a tricky contract negotiation. It hasn't been easy.
"It was more like my senior year of college football with the ups and downs,'' Quinn said of his post-Notre Dame days. "In the end, it ended up, not necessarily the way you dreamt of, but you are in the right place and you are more than happy to be here."
Quinn loves wearing the Browns' colors. What Weis couldn't prepare him for is the struggle that came with earning that honor.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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