“We got him.” Browns select Brady Quinn
While many expect the Browns to use one of those picks on a quarterback, history shows that drafting a quarterback – especially one in the first round – has been an exercise in futility for the Browns
Since joining the NFL in 1950, the Browns have drafted six quarterbacks in the first round and none of them have worked out.
In Part One of our series on those six quarterbacks, we looked at Harry Agganis, the team’s first-round selection in 1952. Part Two featured Bobby Garrett, the first Stanford quarterback taken No. 1 overall in the draft. Part Three highlighted Mike Phipps, the All-American quarterback from Purdue taken in the first round in 1970. Part Four looked at the first No. 1 draft pick of the Browns when they returned to the NFL in 1999: Tim Couch.
Today, we take a look at Brady Quinn, the surprise first-round pick from 2007.
Heading into the 2007 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns found themselves in a familiar predicament.
Following the release of former No. 1 overall pick Tim Couch following the 2003 season, the Browns had gone through six quarterbacks – Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Kelly Holcomb, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson – in the ensuing three years.
Clearly, it was time to do something about the situation. There was just one problem: the 2007 draft class was not a memorable one for quarterbacks. JaMarcus Russell out of LSU was considered the consensus cream of the crop, but after that teams were looking at the likes of Kevin Kolb, John Beck and Drew Stanton.
Oakland selected Russell with the No. 1 overall pick and, after Detroit selected wide receiver Calvin Johnson with the second pick, the Browns were up. General manager Phil Savage made what was arguably the best draft pick since the team returned in 1999, selecting left tackle Joe Thomas.
After that, a strange thing happened. Eighteen teams went on the clock after the Browns selected Thomas and every one of them passed on one of the available quarterbacks.
Then Savage got what, both at the time and now in hindsight, was a really bad idea.
Misreading what was going on, Savage decided to make a move back into the first round so he could select a quarterback. According to a 2007 USA Today article on the draft, Savage started working on Buffalo (who held the No. 12 pick) and went down the list until he found a taker in the Dallas Cowboys.
Savage traded Cleveland’s second-round pick in 2007 and its first-round pick in 2008 to Dallas to move back into the first round and select Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn with the No. 22 pick.
After reaching the deal with Dallas owner Jerry Jones, Savage hung up the phone and said the immortal words, “We got him.”
Boy, did they ever.
In four seasons at Notre Dame, Quinn set 36 school records; won 29 games as the starting quarterback, tying a school record; and finished his collegiate career ranked in the top 10 in NCAA Division I history in career pass attempts, passing yards and touchdown passes.
He was also considered an NFL-ready quarterback after spending two seasons under coach Charlie Weis, a former NFL offensive coordinator. Some pre-draft analysis even went so far as to compare Quinn to Tom Brady.
Everything was in place for Quinn to come in and take over the Browns. His only competition in training camp was Anderson, who was coming off a season where he started three games (all losses), threw for 793 yards, five touchdowns and eight interceptions.
So what did Quinn do? He staged what had to be one of the more inexplicable hold outs in franchise history, missing 10 days of training camp and killing off any chance he had of taking over the starting position.
Quinn would only see the field for part of one game that first year – the season finale against San Francisco, where he completed three-of-eight passes in about a half of play.
That was the year, of course, where Anderson put up a fluke season, almost leading the Browns to the playoffs in a season that started out with Charlie Frye as the starting quarterback (before he was traded after a Week 1 loss to Pittsburgh), and ended with the Browns missing out on the postseason on a tiebreaker.
That off season, Savage made his next biggest mistake in the ongoing quarterback situation.
Anderson was a restricted free agent and the Browns would receive a first-round and a third-round draft pick if another team were to sign him. With Quinn – a first-round selection on the roster – the Browns were seemingly in a great situation.
“In terms of Brady coming in, it’s a pretty good cockpit for a quarterback to be in,” Savage said at the time. “I think he’s become a better passer. He’s an accurate thrower. There’s a definite comfort level for him. The mental part is probably going to be his best asset. He has all the ingredients to be successful.”
The stage was set for Quinn to take over; all the Browns had to do was let Anderson head off to Dallas. But when rumors started to swirl that the Cowboys intended to sign Anderson only to trade him to Baltimore, Savage panicked and quickly reached a three-year deal with Anderson.
Undeterred that their plan to land Anderson had been foiled, the Ravens selected Joe Flacco in the 2008 NFL Draft. Save to say, they have not regretted the decision.
As for the Browns, coming off a 10-win season and Pro Bowl appearance, Anderson was named the starter for 2008, which quickly turned into one of the stranger years in recent memory for the Browns. A preseason concussion got things started for Anderson, who would only play nine games during the regular season, eventually losing the starting job to Quinn, who lasted just three games as the starter before being benched at halftime of the third one.
The season ended with a 4-12 record and the Browns cleaned house, firing Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel, and inexplicably hiring Eric Mangini as head coach.
While Mangini had the unenviable task of picking a starting quarterback between Quinn and Anderson in 2009, he made the situation worse by his inability to pick one and stick with him. Nine starts by Quinn and seven by Anderson left the Browns with just a 5-11 record.
The Browns traded Quinn to Denver prior to the 2010 season, an end to his time in Cleveland every bit as disappointing as his beginning. Quinn left town with a 3-9 record as a starter, completing just 52.1 percent of his passes, while throwing 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Since then he has bounced around from Denver to Kansas City, the New York Jets and St. Louis.
And even though he has not played a down for Cleveland in more than four years, Quinn and the 2007 draft were back in the news recently as Quinn revealed that the Ravens were planning to draft him before the Browns made their ill-fated move.
“So, all of a sudden, with like a minute left (before the pick had to be made), I get a call from a 216 area code, which happened to be Cleveland,” Quinn told NFL.com. “And it was the Browns calling to tell me they were trading up to the 22nd pick. The Ravens were going to take me … so I wasn’t sure what to think.”
Savage even got in on the act, talking on ESPN recently about how it is a mistake for a team to trade back into the first round to take a quarterback who is falling in the draft. Savage’s thinking is that if you didn’t like the quarterback with your original pick, why would you like him later in the same round?
He couldn’t have figured that out back in 2007?
Following the failure of Quinn to take over the quarterback position, the Browns went back to their usual cycle of retreads (Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace), and mid-round draft picks (Colt McCoy) with typical results.
In 2012, they decided to go back to the first-round well once again in an attempt to solve their quarterback issue.
Next time: The Brandon Weeden gamble.
(Photo by Getty Images)