CLEVELAND—Establishing a reputation for quarterback performance that football insiders have called "reasonable," Browns quarterback Brady Quinn silenced his critics and stunned his coaches, teammates, and family by performing competently enough in his limited play during preseason games to put the Cleveland Browns in 2007 post-preseason contention.
"I guess I can only say 'Wow,'" former Miami Dolphins quarterback and current Inside The NFL co-host Dan Marino said Tuesday following the announcement that Cleveland would advance to the regular season, playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in their first game on Sept. 9. "Wow. I think I speak for everyone when I say no one thought Brady Quinn could do it. To see him come into that preseason game against the Lions and just embarrass one of the best auto mechanics to ever play cornerback in the NFL…I admit it, I didn't think he had it in him."
"Quinn seemed possessed, like he was out there playing like it was the last game those other guys would ever play," added Marino, saying Quinn reminded him of a younger version of a quarterback who used to back him up.
In his first-ever preseason start against the Detroit Lions, Quinn defied the extremely low expectations when he did not run out onto the field with his helmet on backwards, trip over the yard lines, line up to take the snap behind a wideout, or attempt to roll the ball down the field towards his receivers.
"I couldn't believe what I was seeing," said Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King. "The conventional wisdom going into that game was that Brady Quinn was a huge mistake on the part of the Browns. But anyone who saw him will tell you he might not be all that big of a mistake after all."
This breathtaking display of basic knowledge of football fundamentals continued in a workmanlike display of quarterbacking against a group of men attempting to make the Lions, as Quinn threw for 81 yards while not falling into any random holes or stepping on any rakes that had been left lying around the field. And in the final game of the preseason, facing a Bears defense that almost certainly contained players who will make Chicago's taxi squad, Quinn threw only a single interception while conspicuously not lighting himself or his teammates on fire or tying his shoelaces together even once.
Predictably, Browns fans were ecstatic at the level of Quinn's performance.
"Mark my words, Brady is going to be one of our quarterbacks of the immediate future," said Ken Fairfield, a Browns preseason-ticket holder who said he would be camping out for regular-season Browns tickets long before they went on sale, if not for the fact they would almost certainly be readily available. "I can't believe people said he wouldn't even be an adequate field general. If what I saw in the second halves of those games wasn't adequate, I don't know what is."
"I'm completely surprised…I always felt that we could count on Quinn to totally blow it, but this is whole different side that we could never imagine," Browns head coach Romeo Crennel said. "I anticipated that he would hand off the ball to the first defensive lineman he saw. I even game-planned for it, keeping a fullback deep in the backfield to tackle him if he started running the wrong way. But then he goes and throws a basic little dump-off pass to Cribbs in the flat and it turns into a touchdown."
"I'm not saying we wouldn't have made it to the regular season without him," said Crennel, "but his play certainly didn't hurt. Which is one hell of a nice surprise, let me tell you."
Charlie Frye has been confirmed as the starter for the Sept. 9 game. Quinn is currently fourth on the depth chart, behind Frye, Derek Anderson, and strong-armed long-snapper Ryan Pontbriand.