BEREA — To say Brady Quinn is confident in his abilities is an understatement. From the moment he ended his rookie holdout, he’s never wavered in the belief that he’s ready to be a full-time starter in the NFL.
The opportunity finally arrived Sunday, and Quinn struggled in a 34-20 loss to the Vikings. On Monday, coach Eric Mangini reminded everyone that Quinn’s career is in its infancy and there will be growing pains.
“I know he’s been in the league more than one season, but in terms of experience and starts, it’s a young career,” he said. “And as you grow and experience things, that continues to get better.”
Quinn made the fourth start of his three-year career. He’s thrown 132 passes in the NFL.
On Sunday, he went 21-for-35 for 205 yards, a touchdown, an interception, a lost fumble and a 74.1 rating after finishing with a flourish. He went 6-for-7 for 88 yards and a 26-yard touchdown to tight end Robert Royal on the final drive.
Mangini was most impressed with Quinn’s pre-snap decisions — whether to go with a run or pass play — and liked his composure against a difficult Vikings defense.
“For the opening game, I thought he showed a lot of poise,” he said, “and I thought there were times where he gave us a chance on some plays that maybe we wouldn’t have had a chance on and he made some adjustments that showed not only a lot of poise but a lot of awareness.”
Quinn’s longest completion was the touchdown and he spent much of the day checking down to running backs and tight ends, as he had just two completions to wideouts through three quarters. The few shots he took — a 34-yard touchdown to Braylon Edwards was reversed on a replay challenge, Edwards just missed a diving catch and a third deep ball to Edwards was intercepted when he broke inside — were down the sidelines and away from the safeties in the middle.
One of the perceived drawbacks with Quinn is that his arm isn’t as strong as backup Derek Anderson’s.
“I don’t look at it as us being limited in any way by what we can call offensively — by any stretch,” Mangini said.
Quinn had some nice throws, including a pass to Royal on the first drive as he was rolling to his right and about to get hit. But there were more misfires.
“There were some throws I really liked and I’m sure he really liked and some that I think that we can continue to improve on,” Mangini said.
Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield told reporters in Minnesota on Monday that Quinn has the tools to be successful, but the game plan limited him.
“It was surprising because they ran all the same stuff they ran in preseason so it was a pretty easy game for us on the back end,” Winfield said. “They really didn’t test us deep that much, didn’t throw any intermediate passes. But he’ll be successful.”
The Browns were the underdog and Mangini and first-time offensive coordinator Brian Daboll played it close to the vest. The plan was to run the ball, control the clock, avoid mistakes and have a chance in the fourth quarter.
Each time Mangini was faced with the option of playing it safe, he took it. The first example was a shovel pass to running back James Davis on third-and-9 that gained a yard and forced a field goal.
“What you always want to do is give yourself an opportunity to get the first down if you can, if it’s something that’s manageable,” Mangini said. “If not, make sure that you secure the points.”
After the touchdown to Edwards was wiped out, the Browns got the ball at the 6-yard line and ran three straight times, the final two by receiver Joshua Cribbs, who lined up at quarterback. They settled for another field goal.
“It was my decision and at that point I thought it would work, thought it would be successful. And it wasn’t,” Mangini said of the second run by Cribbs, which started at the 1 and ended on the 3.
The final conservative choice came in the last minute of the first half. The Browns were up 13-10, had the momentum and took over at their 39-yard line with 1:04 and a timeout left. After an incompletion under pressure and a dump-off to Davis for 7 yards, the Browns surrendered.
“Remember the preseason, somebody turned the ball over late and they kicked a field goal, I forget who it was,” Mangini said, referring to an Anderson interception against Detroit. “The risk-reward at that point … I’ve seen lot of situations where the Minnesota pass rush in that situation has forced a fumble, Minnesota gets quick points at the end of the half.
“We weren’t looking to give them the ball back at that point.”
The conservative play backfired as Adrian Peterson got going for Minnesota in the second half and Quinn committed both his turnovers. Despite the rocky start, Mangini has no plans of following Romeo Crennel’s lead and going to Anderson for Week 2. Crennel yanked Charlie Frye during the opener in 2007 and traded him the next day.
“No. No. What I’m looking for — what I’m looking for from the group — is for him to be able to identify those areas that need to be improved and then going out, working on it and seeing that improvement,” Mangini said. “Brady will continue to grow.”
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