When I first heard this news late Sunday evening I was green-at-the-gills hungover after a long weekend of St. Paddy’s Day celebrations in Salt Lake City. The trade actually made me a bit nauseous and angry – not because I think Quinn is some sort of loser young quarterback but because I was afraid that head coach Josh McDaniels’s deal would create yet another off-season full of starting-quarterback drama. I just couldn’t deal with another episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County-Denver Broncos style.
But then I remembered that Kyle Orton is our starting quarterback now and not that pig-headed ball of raging hormones Jay - “I am the biggest bust in NFL history”- Cutler. As that thought crossed by throbbing head, I realized that Orton is a professional and that getting a hold of Quinn is really a win-win situation.
For 25-year-old Notre Dame graduate Quinn, Denver traded fullback Payton Hillis and two draft picks to the Browns. I liked Hillis in the 2008 season when the Broncos couldn’t keep a healthy running back on the field. He is a hard-nosed, hard-running fullback and it showed during the 2008 season. But under McDaniels, Hillis really didn’t play all that much – and when he did play, he had trouble holding on to the ball. So trading Hillis isn’t too big of a loss.
And for the two draft picks? Not too big of a loss either. The Broncos have given up a sixth-round draft pick in the 2011 draft and a conditional pick in the 2012 draft. Frankly, I am not sure the Broncos will be able to pick up a better player than Quinn in either of those drafts, so the Broncos have played it safe in this trade. The team received a young quarterback who has not quite found his NFL groove yet, and meanwhile gave up nothing that will affect the team too much. Overall, it’s a good, safe trade.
Quinn was Cleveland’s first-round draft pick in 2007 and has since played in just 14 games for the Browns. Last season he played 10 games and threw for 1,339 yards with eight touchdowns and seven picks. Whether or not he will ever be a great NFL quarterback is basically a big question mark. Quinn’s athletic ability gives him promise but he has been very fragile at the same time. He finished last season on injured reserve with a nasty sprain in his left foot, requiring him to wear a walking boot for eight weeks. The Denver Post reported that Browns president Mike Holmgren doesn’t think Quinn’s injury would require surgery. Securing Quinn for the trade depended on him successfully passing a Broncos physical, which he did on Monday.
McDaniels hasn’t really come out and said why he decided to trade for Quinn. But really, what starting QB Orton needs right now is some competition for the top quarterback spot – something Cutler couldn’t handle. Orton has been good as a starter, I really have no complaints. (He does have a tendency to really look slow and clumsy when the game is on the line, if I must say anything.) Having Quinn compete for the starting position will hopefully sharpen Orton’s game and help him go from good to great. Compared to how Cutler dealt with the possible trade for Matt Cassel, Orton is handling the trade (at least publicly) very well – like a professional.
“We’ve made a lot of great moves this off-season, and this is another one,” Orton told The Post. “He’s a great player, and I’ll be happy to work with him.”
I think everyone in Broncoland right now can simply thank Orton for not handling the trade the way Cutler did, by holing up in his expensive Denver home, frantically searching the Internet for open quarterback positions.
Perhaps the best thing to come out of this trade is the subsequent cutting of backup QB Chris Simms, which was made official on Monday. To have Simms as Orton’s backup last year was a hellish nightmare. I may sound too harsh here but when Orton went down with an injury and Simms got the start, it would have been better to go without a quarterback and direct snap to the running backs in some form of the “wildhorses” formation. It would have been better to have Simms not handle the ball at all. He played in three games and made one start for Denver last year and passed for just 23 yards and threw one interception. Good riddance.
With Simms gone and Quinn in the house, Denver definitely got stronger last weekend. Even if Quinn doesn’t beat Orton out for a starting position, Orton will now have a sense of urgency to become a clutch quarterback and if Orton goes down with some unforeseen injury, Quinn will have the chance to take the reins. That is so much better than giving the reins to Simms.
Happy March Madness.