Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For Browns, No. 3 can be best of all QBs

What I'll remember most about the Browns' 30-6 nightmare 11 days ago in Soldiers Field will be a pass play in the fourth quarter: Quarterback Derek Anderson, under siege in his end zone and trying to escape the rush, cocks his right arm and floats a pass nowhere near anybody wearing a Browns uniform.

Defensive back Charles Tillman dives for Anderson's floater, catches the ball while tumbling to the turf, scrambles to his feet and races toward the goal line. Tillman fends off tacklers along the way before rumbling into the end zone. It was another touchdown for the Bears, and another interception for Anderson.

More interesting to me, the pass was Anderson's last. Coach Eric Mangini, frustrated, pulled Anderson and replaced him with the prodigal son Brady Quinn.

It seems now as if Mangini's switch to Quinn will become permanent. He couldn't do worse than Anderson. For whatever else Anderson might be in life -- a good son, a solid citizen and a first-rate teammate -- he was a pathetic excuse for an NFL quarterback.

Look, Mangini could only trot out a disaster like Anderson for so long. At some point, the dour, dim-witted coach had to realize that a quarterback who ended a game with a QB rating of 10.5 wasn't good enough to stand behind center.

All of Anderson's performances this season had been noteworthy for their ineptitude, but his sorry play hit rock bottom against the Bears. In my mind, it was fool's thinking to keep using Anderson and then expect a better result.

To steal a few words from retired NFL coach Denny Green, Anderson was who I thought he was: a scatter-armed quarterback who couldn't hit the Gulf of Mexico if he stood on a dock in Key West, Fla.

I'm not, of course, an NFL coach; don't play one for TV either. What I am is someone who has watched and written about enough NFL games to know ineptitude when I see it. I have witnessed plenty of it while rooting for the Browns.

They have gone through more QBs than Madonna has gone through lovers. From Tim Couch to Trent Dilfer to Jeff Garcia to an endless line of others whose play fell below mediocre.

Browns fans have never made peace with mediocrity, despite the fact that's all they've witnessed since the team's rebirth a decade ago. They won't make peace with it now.

Their shouts to bench Anderson had been louder this week than they were in the bye week, and the tone-deaf Mangini couldn't ignore them.

Under ordinary circumstances, his decision would have been easier. He'd have let the job stay in Quinn's hands without much thought.

Quinn, no star in the marking, isn't the answer. He had opened the '09 season with the job, but he showed he didn't have the skills to hold on to it.

Did his skills somehow improve while tethered to the Browns bench? How much better is Quinn now?

Well, that's a separate question altogether, and the answer collides with a bigger concern for Mangini: using Quinn could end up costing the team $11 million in contract incentives.

On a team with more holes than a brick building in Baghdad, Mangini can't afford the salary-cap hit playing Quinn might cost the team. He won't do markedly better than Anderson, anyway. Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Tom Brady might be unable to play well for this collection of talent Mangini has at his quarterback's disposal.

Quinn isn't Manning, Brees or Brady. He never will be. Neither will Anderson, which is the damnable part of it for Browns fans. They want better, but better was never going to come with Anderson at quarterback.

Nor with Brady Quinn.

After observing another dispiriting loss, Mangini should keep Quinn on the bench next to Anderson and put his faith in Brett Ratliff, the team's No. 3 QB. Ratliff's the horror show in orange and brown that nobody has seen yet.


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