How else can anyone explain Eric Mangini’s knee-jerk removal of Brady Quinn as the Browns’ starting quarterback on Wednesday?
Only three games into the 2009 season and the new coach has slammed down so hard on the panic button, it can’t help but cause waves of discontent and revive what had been a slumbering controversy.
People all around the pro football landscape have to wonder what in the world is going on in Cleveland. The wheels are coming off.
It has caught the attention of the national media and not in a good way.
It all began during the preseason’s quarterback competition when sides were clearly taken by the fans of Quinn and Derek Anderson. And when Quinn was declared the winner (to virtually no one’s surprise), the storm was calmed somewhat.
Even though the sniping continued among the fans as to who was the better quarterback, it was rendered moot because Quinn won the competition. And if memory serves, Mangini indicated the winner would not have to look over his shoulder.
Quinn was the man and Anderson’s job was to be ready only in the event Quinn got hurt. Period. Now let’s play the season.
So what happened?
Three embarrassing losses, that’s what. Three losses that have completely disgusted the fans. Three losses so embarrassing, some loyalists are beginning to have second thoughts about their loyalty.
In elevating Anderson to the top spot as the quarterback carousel spins out of control in Cleveland, Mangini has sent two messages.
With the first, he has told his team he’ll do anything to win games. And if he has to bruise egos, so be it.
With the second, he has told Quinn, “Nice try, kid. It just didn’t work out.”
If I’m Quinn, I’m on the phone with Tom Condon, my agent, demanding, “Get me the hell out of here.”
If his coach pulls the plug a mere two and a half games into a season with a team no one expected much of to begin with, it’s tantamount to admitting he made a mistake.
Whatever happened to that thorough and exhaustive quarterback competition during OTAs, minicamp and the exhibition season?
Nowhere along the way did Mangini give any indication Quinn, the winner, was on a short leash. In fact, he went out of his way to praise the youngster.
Even in naming Anderson the new starter, Mangini absolved Quinn of some blame even though the quarterback fell far short of his own expectations. “I’m not saying it’s all Brady,” the coach said. “Derek did some things that were positive and that’s what it’s based on.”
So if it’s not all Brady, then what is it? How about mostly Brady? Or a significant amount of Brady? Or maybe the truth. He picked the wrong man and doesn’t trust him anymore.
It’s not Quinn’s fault the defense, with the exception of the first 30 minutes of the season, has played as though the playing field was a minefield.
It’s not his fault the right side of the offensive line is in critical need of an overhaul.
And it’s not his fault that Brian Daboll, his offensive coordinator, doesn’t conjure up memories of Lindy Infante.
There is no way of knowing this for certain, but the Browns’ offense scores more than one touchdown – and that was a gift – if Anderson had been declared the winner. The team seems to move better when he’s under center.
Yes, he throws interceptions. He’s a gunslinger. He takes chances. That’s his MO, it's in his DNA. Interceptions happen with that kind of approach. But the offense functions more efficiently, relatively speaking, when he’s in there.
Quinn is the opposite. He’s almost too careful. He holds on to the ball too long and has paid a dear price. The Cleveland offense needs a laxative when he’s in control.
We’ll never know the reasoning behind Mangini’s original selection of Quinn because no one ever asked him what it was and he wasn’t about to be forthcoming.
At the same time, it wouldn’t be shocking if Quinn at some point this season regains his starting role. If for no other reason than that’s the way this mercurial coach operates.