Despite the Browns’ best efforts to keep it closed since the start of training camp, Pandora’s Box sprung open Saturday night.
Rookie Brady Quinn made his NFL debut and promptly led Cleveland on back-to-back touchdown drives — its first two passing scores of the preseason — in the Browns’ 23-20 loss to the Detroit Lions.
The golden boy from Notre Dame completed 13-of-20 passes for 155 yards and two TDs in two series, which were far and away the most impressive drives by Cleveland in eight exhibitions quarters to date.
“He just has a command in the huddle and he’s a born leader,” raved running back Chris Barclay, who shared the field with Quinn. “He gives you confidence when he looks at you and makes you want to try even harder because of it.”
Quinn’s fourth-quarter success was impressive and in stark contrast to the stumbling (Charlie Frye), bumbling (Derek Anderson) and irrelevant (Ken Dorsey) performances by the other three QBs on the Browns roster.
Admittedly, Quinn’s heroics did come against his fellow fourth-stringers on the Lions. But it also was accomplished with the help of many Cleveland players who will be out of the NFL in two weeks.
“I was just trying to get things going, but the end result is that we lost the game,” Quinn said as he was mobbed by reporters. “You take what the defense gives you — and they were playing a soft cover zone — that left a lot of room to work.
“I thought I saw the field decent, but I need more reps.”
And more reps Quinn will definitely get, beginning Monday when the Browns return to the practice field.
Frye (69.4 preseason passer rating) has been somewhat solid, but unspectacular in Cleveland’s win over Kansas City and loss to the Lions. He has done nothing to lose the No. 1 job, but also nothing to win it.
Anderson (54.3) was dreadful in the first half of both games before playing adequately against Detroit’s third-teamers. He has yet to lead the offense to a point.
Dorsey (90.1), who appears destined to be the Browns’ third QB in the regular season, has been better than their other two veterans. However, he has zero chance of driving up the depth chart.
That leaves Quinn (121.9), who now has injected himself into a competition that Cleveland general manager Phil Savage and coach Romeo Crennel do not want him to win. Not yet.
“Any one of those guys could have gone in and done what I did tonight,” Quinn said, pointing to the other quarterbacks’ lockers. “You’re just running a two-minute offense, and the defense is trying not to give up the big play instead of stopping you.
“I tried to be quick with my decisions and I know I will get better.”
If Quinn does continue to grow, the Browns’ hands will be tied. They can’t keep him on the bench if he clearly proves to be the best man for the job.
But if he merely outplays Frye, but doesn’t do so with the flair he displayed against Detroit, Savage and Crennel can justify letting him learn for a little while.
Quinn’s time as the face of the franchise will come soon enough. Trying to speed up that timetable is something the Browns are desperately trying to avoid doing.
“We now need to see if he can do that against first and second team defenses,” wide receiver Joe Jurevicius said. “Not taking anything away from him, it is what it is. He did a good job when given the opportunity.”
Contact Brian Dulik at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.