Browns move Quinn into starting lineup, replacing inconsistent Anderson at QB

Updated: November 4, 2008, 2:06 AM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

The Cleveland Browns benched quarterback Derek Anderson on Monday in favor of fan favorite Brady Quinn.

The switch was announced Monday by the team, just hours after coach Romeo Crennel said he had no plans to make a change.

"No, I haven't really [considered it]," he said. "I haven't had a chance to talk to the coaches or anything. With a short week, I told them to go ahead and get started on Denver. They haven't even looked at this game yet."

Crennel was then asked if Anderson was still his starter.

"Yes," he said, "as of right now."

The move itself wasn't a surprise. After eight games, Anderson was completing less than 50 percent of his passes for a 3-5 team that is now a long shot to make the playoffs.

The Browns must feel it's time to see what they have in Quinn, who didn't play as a rookie until the final game of 2007, when he came in for one series and led the Browns to a field goal. Quinn was 3-of-8 for 45 yards and had a TD pass dropped by tight end Kellen Winslow.

Quinn A Gamble

With a short week of preparation for Thursday's home game against the Denver Broncos, the Cleveland Browns are taking a risk by moving Brady Quinn into the starting lineup.

However, Quinn's athleticism and his support from the hometown fans should help him ease into the transition, Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson writes. Story

The problem facing Quinn is whether he can turn around the Browns and salvage something from this season. Unfortunately for him, Quinn doesn't have the benefit of a full week of practice. The Browns host the Broncos on Thursday night, so Quinn will have only one really good practice with the first team.

On top of that, Quinn inherits the problems that got Anderson benched. During the offseason, the Browns invested in a seven-year, $35 million contract to bring Donte Stallworth's run-after-the catch ability to the offense. Because of injuries, Stallworth has barely been able to run onto the field. He's played three games and has seven catches, leaving the No. 2 wide receiver a nonfunctioning part of the offense.

No. 1 receiver Braylon Edwards leads the league in dropped passes, which obviously dragged down Anderson's accuracy and frustrated fans. After catching 82 passes last season, Winslow hasn't been the same threat, catching only 26 passes in six games with a 9.7 yard-per-catch average, 3.8 yards less than last season.

Former Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer, now an analyst for ESPN, feels the Anderson benching was the team's knee-jerk reaction to fan backlash.

"Public opinion has made this decision for the Browns," said Dilfer, who was Cleveland's starter in 2005 before he lost his job to Charlie Frye. "I have spoken to coaches who have said, 'This is not Derek Anderson's fault.' In fact, at times he's played better than his statistics have showed. This is a function of the defense not getting off the football field; Braylon Edwards, a superstar receiver who's supposed to make all the plays to make you better, having 14 drops at least. It's about their playmakers, Kellen Winslow, not being there, not being dependable. It's about people not being at their best and Derek Anderson burdening the responsibility for this.

Bad, Bad Cleveland Brown

Derek Anderson has been benched after struggling mightily this season. He led the Browns to a 10-6 record in 2007.

Lowest Passer Rating in 2008
Minimum 200 Attempts
Player Team Passer Rating
Derek
Anderson
Browns 68.9
JaMarcus
Russell
Raiders 69.0
Kerry
Collins
Titans 72.9
J.T.
O'Sullivan
49ers 74.0
Joe
Flacco
Ravens 75.6

"This is an organization that I played for for a year and I saw very closely that the organization itself is highly dysfuctional and cannot make decisions that are good for the long-term growth of the organization."

Quinn will bring energy and excitement to Cleveland. He'll also have the benefit of playing one of the worst defenses in football, which can make an average quarterback look good.

Browns center Hank Fraley found out about the change when he got a text message during the afternoon from Anderson.

"I was surprised," Fraley said. "I've become real good friends with Derek and I feel for him. I told him to stay positive. He will. He's a team player."

The problem facing Quinn is if he has a bad game. Quinn is the hope of the Browns' fans. He's an Ohio native. Now, it's his team. For Anderson, he'll just have to await an offseason trade.

Anderson, who has been inconsistent this season, threw a costly interception that was returned for a touchdown in the final minutes of Sunday's 37-27 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The pick prompted Browns fans to begin chants of "Brady! Brady!" for Quinn, the former Notre Dame star who has thrown just eight passes in two seasons.

Fraley was asked if Anderson was the fall guy for the Browns, who were expected to contend for a playoff spot coming off a 10-6 season in 2007.

"That was the coaches' decision," he said. "Maybe they feel like he [Quinn] will bring a spark. It's tough because Derek is a great guy, a team leader and a captain. We just haven't been playing well around him. It's a shock to everybody on this team. It's their decision and we're going to have to live with it."

A team spokesman said Crennel and Quinn would not be available for comment until Tuesday.

Earlier, Quinn was asked for his reaction to hearing fans call his name.

"We lost the game, really that's all that matters," he said. "That's something in the NFL, everyone always loves the backup. That's just how it is. It's not any different any place else."

Fraley is confident Quinn will be ready to step into the spotlight.

"He's young, so you don't know what to expect but he has worked hard and he'll be ready," Fraley said. "Derek and the other quarterbacks are always together, 24-7. Brady is always prepared because as a backup you are always one play away. He's been doing it the whole season.

"I know Brady has been waiting for his turn and I'm not sure this is the way he envisioned getting it. We're going to play hard for whoever is back there, and now it's Brady."

Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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