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Browns reverse field, go to Quinn

November 04, 2008|SAM FARMER | Farmer is a Times staff writer.

When the going gets desperate, the desperate change quarterbacks.

If it's not the struggling Dallas Cowboys swapping Brad Johnson for the equally ineffective Brooks Bollinger, it's the Detroit Lions dusting off Daunte Culpepper in hopes that he might help them get their first win of the season.

And then this: Late Monday, after sending the message they're sticking with Derek Anderson, the Cleveland Browns conceded they're going with Brady Quinn as the starter against Denver on Thursday.

The QB-go-round in Dallas is just buying time until Tony Romo gets healthy. The Culpepper deal is irrelevant -- he had retired for lack of suitors -- and only shows the Lions are typically rudderless.

But the Quinn situation is intriguing because the 3-5 Browns have enough talent to stage a run in the second half, even though their schedule includes upcoming road games against Buffalo, Tennessee, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Fans in Cleveland have been dying to see what Quinn can do ever since the Browns traded back into the first round of the 2007 draft to select the Notre Dame star. It's more than curiosity, it's boiling frustration. And it bubbled to the surface again Sunday, late in a 37-27 loss to Baltimore when an errant throw by Anderson was intercepted and run back for a touchdown.

The chants started: "Bra-dy! Bra-dy!" pleas for a quarterback who has thrown only eight passes in two seasons.

The rationale: It has to be better than this.

After the game, Quinn shrugged off those chants: "We lost the game, really that's all that matters. That's something in the NFL, everyone always loves the backup. That's just how it is. It's not any different any place else."

Anderson, once a nobody on Baltimore's practice squad, had a dream season in 2007. He led the Browns to 10 victories, threw 29 touchdown passes and made the Pro Bowl. Cleveland rewarded him with a three-year, $24-million deal.

Though not on a Pro Bowl pace this season, Anderson wasn't embarrassing, either. He looked good in beating the New York Giants on "Monday Night Football" four weeks ago and, before that interception Sunday, he had thrown 132 without being picked off. He struggled running the two-minute offense, but a lot of young quarterbacks do.

ESPN's Trent Dilfer, who played quarterback for the Browns in 2005, disagreed with the switch, and blasted the Browns about it on the air.

"There are so many layers of dysfunction that this decision represents," Dilfer said on SportsCenter. "You never, ever bench a quarterback when you're a bad football team. You bench a quarterback when you're a good football team and your quarterback is holding you back. . . . It shows a total lack of discretion and wisdom at the very highest levels of the Cleveland Brown organization."

Maybe so, but a quarterback change isn't always an indication that an organization is dysfunctional. Look how well it has worked in Tennessee, where switching Kerry Collins for Vince Young has been a significant factor in the Titans' 8-0 start. Or in Arizona, where the flourishing Cardinals made the decision in training camp to replace Matt Leinart with Kurt Warner.

The Browns also need to know what they have in Quinn, even though they're not putting him in the best situation, with only two days of practice to prepare for the Broncos.

At least Brady can take solace in the fact there is something in the NFL sputtering worse than Cleveland's 28th-ranked offense -- Denver's 29th-ranked defense.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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