Brady Quinn strives to be more than Denver Broncos' backup quarter
By Mike Klis
The Denver Post
Posted: 08/19/2011 01:00:00 AM MDT
Updated: 08/19/2011 11:21:30 AM MDT
Not all business was hurt by the NFL lockout.
David Lee is in the business of coaching quarterbacks for going on 37 years. He once coached Tony Romo in Dallas, Chad Pennington in Miami and, this past spring and summer, after he took a job as the University of Mississippi's new offensive coordinator, Lee moonlighted his expertise with the likes of famous Ole Miss alum Eli Manning, his more famous brother Peyton Manning and Broncos backup quarterback Brady Quinn.
"I'm going to tell you this right now: Brady Quinn has a stronger arm than both the Manning brothers," Lee said. "No question. I worked them all out."
Not that the Mannings don't have a few things on Quinn. Like their combined two Super Bowl championships, and 545 more touchdown passes and 75,572 more passing yards. Quinn begrudges none of the Mannings' accomplishments. All he wants is a chance.
During the past month of training camp at Dove Valley, the buzz about the Broncos has been Orton and Tebow, Tebow or Orton. But while the Broncos' quarterback drama between Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow has generated virtually all discussion around the Denver-area coffee machines, it was Quinn who outperformed them both in the team's first preseason game last Thursday at Dallas.
Orton led the Broncos to a field goal during his only drive. Tebow generated two field goals in 1 1/2 quarters. Quinn not only led the Broncos to two touchdowns, both touchdowns came in the fourth quarter.
When evaluating quarterbacks, extra credit should be given to touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
"I feel like I can compete with anyone, given a fair chance," Quinn said. "I mean, heck, throwing to (starting receiver) Brandon Lloyd every play? Give me that chance."
With a little more patience, Quinn may get his wish. It's difficult to ask patience of a guy who didn't play a down with the Broncos last year and has made only 12 starts since he was a Cleveland Browns' first-round draft pick in 2007.
But Quinn is closing in on his desire to lead a team full time, if not yet at the threshold. Since his splendid preseason performance at Dallas, Quinn has been alternating second-team reps in practice with Tebow. If Quinn can have another strong performance in the preseason game Saturday against the Buffalo Bills at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, who knows how the Broncos' quarterback rotation will shake out?
With the NFL no longer forcing teams to make a No. 3 quarterback designation on game day, there's a chance Tebow would be used for the occasional "Tebow package" plays, but Quinn would get the longer-term backup role.
And as backups are constantly reminded, they're just one play away from playing. Orton has missed at least one start to injury each of the past three seasons. With patience, the opportunity may well be there for Quinn. And if it's there, Quinn, more than in any other year, appears ready to capitalize.
"I don't know why it is, or exactly how to explain it, but Brady is much better this year than he was last year," Broncos star cornerback Champ Bailey said. "He just seems much more confident."
It started with the lockout. Disappointed with how the 2010 season carried on without him and unable to have contact with Broncos coaches during the lockout, Quinn took the initiative.
He first sought counsel from longtime NFL and college offensive coordinator Paul Hackett. They looked at film of
Quinn's rookie year, which included a splendid preseason debut against the Broncos. Then they looked at film of Quinn's second year of 2008, when he made an impressive starting regular-season debut, again against the Broncos.
Then they looked at his third year, when Quinn's career moved beyond stalled and into a full-blown struggle.
"Paul went through process of where I was, what had happened, and why it happened," Quinn said. "I was contemplating making myself available for a baseball tryout, just for something to do during the lockout. I said, 'Hey, what do you think about this?' "
Hackett loved the idea. He wanted Quinn to play more golf, enjoy more leisure time, try out for the Rockies if he wanted.
"Good athlete, great character, leader, quarterback," said Rockies scouting director Bill Schmidt, who once used a 30th-round draft pick on a raw prospect named Michael Vick. "Yeah, we would have given him a tryout. I mean, let's be realistic, it's been 10 years since he played. I'm not sure how he would have liked riding the buses."
Quinn eventually dismissed the baseball idea. No matter how far away No. 3 on the quarterback depth chart may seem, it's closer to The Dream than the Single-A South Atlantic League.
But that wasn't the point. The point was, Quinn was thinking beyond his isolated quest of becoming not just a starting NFL quarterback, but a great one.
"Paul believes in developing a quarterback first as a human being," Quinn said. "How you live off the field is as important as what you do on the field. He was really good as far as helping me with the psychology of playing quarterback."
His mind free, Quinn's next step was to tighten his mechanics. This is where Lee came in. Lee is big on shoulder and footwork technique that brings out the best in a passer's velocity and accuracy. There was a mechanical tweak here — Lee says Peyton Manning has the best lower-body fundamentals of any quarterback who ever lived — followed by 12 to 14 more workouts in Fort Lauderdale with several past and present Miami Dolphins.
By the time the lockout ended and training camp began last month, Quinn was a noticeably improved quarterback.
"I'm telling you what, I don't care what's going on up there, but Brady Quinn is ready," Lee said. "He's ready to play. Brady Quinn is not going to go away. He is hungry."