April 17, 2014

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Dan Coughlin: Quinn’s the best, so why not let him play?

I know that Romeo Crennel was joking when he chided the media the other day about their obsession with the quarterback job. Everybody is obsessed with it, including the Browns coaches and front office.
They’re also scared. They’re afraid to start Brady Quinn. A wise old head who’s been with the Browns for decades cautioned that starting Quinn in the opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 9 could scar him for life.
Pittsburgh’s defensive coordinator Dickie LeBeau will throw things at Brady that he hasn’t seen in his worst nightmare.
Maybe that’s true, but every Browns quarterback since the team returned in 1999 has been scarred for life. It’s part of the job. They’ve all been sacrificial lambs. And the damage hasn’t been only psychological. They’ve taken severe physical beatings. The Browns are 3-14 against the Steelers since coming back into the NFL and have lost 13 of the last 14 to the black and gold.
So they will sacrifice Charlie Frye to the Steelers in order to keep Quinn healthy and buy time until he’s ready.
I hear other opinions, however, that say that Quinn already is ready enough.
After Quinn’s baptism of fire in the second preseason game against the Detroit Lions, an old coach said defiantly: “I don’t care that he was running with the third-team offense and that Detroit’s third-string was playing a prevent defense, his composure, his command, his generalship was obvious. They responded to him and he moved the team. He’s their best quarterback right now.”
Quinn’s development has been astonishing. Since the organization insists that he’s the future face of the franchise, why postpone the future?
Troy Aikman started 11 games in 1989 for the Dallas Cowboys, who went 1-15. He survived the ordeal to win three Super Bowls and gain entry to the Hall of Fame.
Peyton Manning started every game for Indianapolis in 1998 and he went 3-13. He just won a Super Bowl and the next stop will be the Hall of Fame.
Bernie Kosar was thrust into the Browns’ starting lineup fairly early in his rookie season of 1985 when his mentor Gary Danielson broke an ankle. The Browns improved from 5-11 the previous year to 8-8 and inexplicably made the playoffs and almost beat the Miami Dolphins.
For every rookie quarterback success story, there has been a corresponding failure. You may remember Tim Couch, who became a rookie starter after the new Browns bombed in their debut game against the Steelers.
Romeo should stop fooling around with this decision. Stop delaying and rationalizing and flipping coins between Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson. If he can’t decide between Frye, who has played in 20 NFL games, including 18 starts, and Anderson, who has played in five games with three starts, then the coach doesn’t believe in either one.
He should step to the plate and open the door to the future. Everybody should believe in something.
Dan Coughlin is a columnist for The Chronicle-Telegram and a sportscaster for Channel 8. Contact him at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.