Saturday, July 28, 2007

Give Quinn a Break

I'm on record as not being the biggest Brady Quinn fan who ever lived, but seriously guys, give the kid a break. There's no doubt that Quinn needs to be in camp, but a lot of what's going on the media right now strikes me as piling on.

Quinn's holdout was a major topic of conversation in this morning's papers. Terry Pluto (here) and Pat McManamon (here) both took potshots at Quinn in this morning's Beacon Journal for not showing up on time, while Mary Kay Cabot added her two cents in one of the other local papers. The media was egged on in its assault on Quinn by Phil Savage, who made sure to tell everyone with a microphone at camp yesterday that Quinn was hurting his chances to start -- not that those chances were good to begin with.

The Browns fan in me desperately wants Quinn in camp, but the part of me that remembers how the NFL treats its players and retirees sympathizes with Quinn and his agent. I don't think there are a group of athletes in this country who are less well represented by their union than NFL players. While I would hate to see the NFL go to the "inmates running the asylum" model that the MLB has adopted, I would like to see a little more balance between the players and owners when it comes to contractual arrangements. Until that happens, when there's a holdout, my sympathies tend to run toward the player.

NFL contracts are a complete joke. Aside from what a player gets up front, most of the money usually isn't guaranteed. Compared to baseball, the pension is miserly and many players' careers are too short to qualify for it in the first place. The players union couldn't conceivably be more in the pocket of the owners, and NFLPA President Gene Upshaw's disdain for any constituencies other than active players is well documented. Under these circumstances, a holdout is often the only leverage a player has with a club.

Brady Quinn has been a Browns fan since he was a little kid. My guess is that he wants to play QB for the Cleveland Browns just about as much as you or I would if we were in a similar position. On the other hand, this may also turn out to be his one shot to parlay all of the sacrifices he and his family have made for his football career into a shot at financial security. Why begrudge him that opportunity?

Quinn has made some bad decisions recently (the autograph thing was idiotic), and his "I know you picked me 22nd, but I'm really a top ten pick" bargaining position seems delusional. But on the other hand, fans shouldn't let the Browns front office get away with pointing the finger entirely at Quinn and his agent for this mess. As Pat McManamon observed the other day, a lot of NFL people think the Browns could have prevented this holdout with a five minute phone call to Tom Condon before Quinn was drafted, so he's not the only one who has shown poor judgment on the contract front.

Besides, the most important thing about this holdout is that in the long run, it's irrelevant. Brady Quinn just isn't going to be the starting QB for the Cleveland Browns this season, and that would have been the case even if the guy signed last April. Many people are very high on Quinn's potential as an NFL QB, but putting him behind center this season would probably be suicidal not only to his career, but to the careers of Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel as well.

Neither of those guys is stupid, and both of them (and especially Crennel), know that their job security depends on the Browns showing some improvement on the field this year. They also know that a veteran QB is likely to put them in the best position to do that. Tossing the keys to a new offense to a rookie QB is a big-time roll of the dice, and under the circumstances, I just can't see Crennel or Savage doing something like that.

So if Quinn and his agent want to play the holdout game a while longer, who cares? The big name rookies who the team is counting on this year are Thomas and Wright -- and Savage deserves a lot of credit for getting them both signed and in camp on time. My guess is that Quinn will be there shortly, but don't bust the kid's chops just yet. He's trying to get the best outcome that he can in a game that's rigged against him.

"Don't hate the playa, hate the game."


Joey Peeps said...


Erik said...

I'd rather have Quinn in camp, but maybe if this Quinn holdout becomes a nine-week fiasco, it will finally shed some light on the asinine way the NFL handles rookie deals.

Any system where holdouts and hard feelings are the norm can't be a good system. Just about every year, a Browns first-round pick holds out and is vilified in the press and by the coaches to some degree. The same thing happens in NFL cities around the country.

Maybe if slotting rookie salaries isn't an option, the NFL can have some kind of default deal that kicks in if a contract hasn't been signed at the time of the first training camp practice. Not only would it get the player into camp on time, it would ensure that negotiations keep moving because one side or the other would likely find a default contract unattractive.

After watching labor contract negotiations as a newspaper reporter, I know this much: Nothing gets done until there is a reason to get something done. Right now, not being in camp is the only negative for Quinn, and that apparently isn't enough to prod negotiations along.