So, here we are. The smoldering rubble that is the Browns’ first three games are still on our radar, and in addition to the fact that the team has been outscored 95 to 29 we now are right back where we have been so many times before: two mediocre quarterbacks, one starting job.
Derek Anderson “lost” the job in training camp (because saying Quinn “won” it is a stretch), and yet after 10 quarters of lack-luster offensive (and I do mean OFFENSIVE) football, there was #3 under center in the second half on Sunday against Baltimore. If only he had done something to clear the waters. Three bad interceptions later, we’re right back where we started. No offense, no quarterback rising above the fray.
All of that having been said, DA has been named the starter this week against the Bengals. I started out writing this post before the announcement by wondering: “So, if you’re Mangini, what do you do?” I know a lot of you would say, “Fire yourself,” but we’re not here to debate that. What we ARE here to debate, however, is which QB really *should* start under center this Sunday and beyond.
In looking at the data, I myself couldn’t come to a conclusion. I’ve lobbied for Quinn all pre-season, and I think Mangini messed up big time by pulling him, if only from the standpoint of confidence and continuity. However, as the numbers will show, it’s not as though Quinn was somehow wronged egregiously by getting pulled. And, if DA struggles this Sunday, where do you go from there?
The Case for Quinn
NFL Experience: 3rd Season – 7 games played (6 starts)
Measurables: 6’3”, 235#
Career Stats: 93-for-171 (54.4%); 963 yards (5.63 yds/att); 3TD, 5INT; 64.5 RAT
Obviously, we have a small sample size on Quinn. I think his stats have been affected by the lack of talent on offense this year, but Quinn has certainly not risen above that by any stretch. He has been rushed in the pocket due to lack of consistent pass protection, and the overall lack of a consistent running game has made the coverages that much tougher to throw against (since the defense doesn’t have to cheat up to stop the run). But, these factors can’t explain away the fact that Quinn has looked skittish in the pocket, and has been unwilling to make a lot of longer throws (under six yards per attempt? Wow!).
The lack of touchdowns is not a problem unique to Quinn; in fact, the last two games in which the Browns scored offensive touchdowns (Denver and Buffalo last season – [edit, 3:27 PM] – no, I wasn’t counting the TD against the Vikings; it was the definition of a meaningless garbage TD. Also of note is that this article has been up for 4+ hours and no one called me on this oversight) were games that Quinn was the starter. That said, it is alarming that he has only three touchdowns in 171 attempts (a TD every 57 attempts). That said, the silver lining is that he’s been relatively careful with the ball (an INT every 34.2 attempts). However, what can perceived as Quinn’s greatest strength can also be a bit of a weakness. There comes a time when the QB needs to take some chances down the field. I can’t tell you how many times during the Denver game when the Browns were still in the game but were on the edge of falling out of it where I wanted Quinn to take a shot.
The PD’s Dennis Manoloff has been charting Quinn’s performances (h/t to reader Brendon Yarian), and the numbers from Sunday were startling: in his 8 pass attempts (yes, he only threw eight times in the half), he threw the ball a grand total of 32 yards beyond the line of scrimmage (four of his throws were actually behind the line of scrimmage when they got to the receiver). His one long throw (30 yards downfield) was incomplete.
Quinn obviously doesn’t have the arm that Anderson has, but he definitely has more athleticism. This isn’t to say that DA is a horrible athlete, but Quinn is certainly more mobile and is generally believed to be more accurate on the move and on the shorter, check-down passes. To that end, given the offense that Mangini would most likely ideally run (ball control), Quinn appeared to have a leg up. Now, not so much.
The Case for DA
NFL Experience: 6th Season – 32 games played (27 starts)
Measurables: 6’6”, 230#
Career Stats: 517-for-946 (54.7%); 6287 yards (6.65 yds/att); 43TD, 38INT; 73.7 RAT
I have long advocated for Quinn to start during this lost season due to the fact that we have enough of a sample size to know what we have in Anderson. I feel in the interest of being honest I should throw that onto that table at the outset; I tried to pull these numbers and look at this debate as objectively as possible. The fact remains that the situation was ripe for DA to come in and wrestle the job away from Quinn; I think that’s the main reason that Mangini made the move. He wanted to see if DA could take the job convincingly. DA did not do that, sadly.
DA obviously has the bigger arm, and the double-edged sword with DA is that he is willing to take more shots down the field than Quinn. This can be good, as he had more drives that moved the ball on Sunday, and for his career his TD/att ratio is better than Quinn’s (a TD every 22 attempts). It can also be catastrophic, as DA threw three bad interceptions on Sunday, one of which was on a deep ball where he threw into triple coverage while being locked onto his receiver the entire time. Compared to Quinn’s numbers of attempts per INT, DA’s is a much more alarming rate: an INT every 24.9 attempts.
DA’s accuracy has always been a concern; his proclivities for missing passes on shorter routes and throwing balls behind receivers are legendary. He missed a third down pass that sticks in my memory from Sunday where he had Mike Furrey on an out-route, and the ball was at least three feet behind Furrey (and was almost a pick-six the other way).
So, what does all of this mean? Basically, if we look just at the numbers and extrapolate both QBs playing 16 game and throwing 35 times (560 attempts), DA would throw 25 TDs and 22 INTs while Quinn would throw 10 TDs and 16 INTs. This obviously isn’t an airtight prediction; but it is indicative of the differences between the two QBs. With Quinn, you get a more careful, but potentially lower-scoring offense. With DA, you potentially get more points, but you get more turnovers.
The rub that doesn’t show up in the numbers, however, is that DA has almost always had a knack for committing his turnovers at the wrong time. Cincinnati in week 16 of 2007. Baltimore in weeks three and nine in 2008. Indianapolis in week 13 of 2008 (fumble for the only TD of the game for the Colts). It looks, however, as though the idea of actual points despite the potential for more turnovers is a risk Mangini is now willing to take. It won’t matter if you protect the ball more if you’re not moving it at all and not scoring.
Sitting at 0-3, it’s hard for me—as a Quinn supporter—to honestly argue with the move from that standpoint. Unfortunately, there’s no going back from here. Mangini HAS to stick with one QB, feast or famine. He can’t keep going back and forth.