OWINGS MILLS — The golden boy from Notre Dame is off to a tarnished start, and this ineffectual, robotic showing from quarterback Brady Quinn has led the Cleveland Browns to nowhere except a winless record.
To say Quinn is struggling after two games as the starter for the NFL’s last-ranked offense is a vast understatement. Beyond a collection of ugly statistics, including being the 28th-ranked passer in the league heading into Sunday’s game against the undefeated Baltimore Ravens, Quinn appears to be pressing and overthinking.
He has sailed throws. He has been sacked nine times, the second-highest total in the league. And he has thrown into the end zone just once in eight quarters and 66 throws.
Not to mention Quinn has averaged only 5.5 yards per passing attempt to rank 29th in the league with only three completions longer than 20 yards.
"It’s tough," Quinn said Wednesday. "I think any time you’re unaccustomed to certain things, you can do one of two things. You can question why and start changing the habits which have guided you to this point, or you can continue to persist, push through and persevere.
"That’s more the person I am. I’ve worked extremely hard, watching film and on the field, and I’m going to continue to do that, and we’re going to work through this as a team."
For now, Browns coach Eric Mangini is sticking with Quinn. The former first-round draft pick beat out former Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson during a preseason competition that seemed to be heavily tilted in Quinn’s favor from the start.
As tough as it’s been for Quinn thus far, things could get even worse for him this weekend at M&T Bank Stadium against the Ravens’ intimidating defense.
"Well, we’re not going to make it comfortable for him hopefully," Ravens All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis said. "I just think we need to come out and play our type of football game and not let this young quarterback sit back there and be able to pick and choose, which is always going to be hard in our stadium. I just think we really need to make him very, very uncomfortable sitting back there.”
The Ohio native is already out of any comfort zone he built during the offseason.
With the exception of Braylon Edwards, who’s prone to drops, the Browns have no established receivers and are experimenting with Pro Bowl returner Josh Cribbs as their second receiver. And they have yet to involve second-round wideouts Mohamed Massaquoi or Brian Robiskie much at all.
Quinn has completed just 39 of 66 passes for 366 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for a 66.9 quarterback rating.
"Yeah, we’ve got an uphill battle," he said. "We’re just doing our best to prepare ourselves for a tough game."
Quinn has been receiving plenty of advice, unsolicited and otherwise. That has even included two cents from his mom.
"She doesn’t know football that well, but she knows the difference between winning and losing," Quinn said. "She always lets me know that. My dad, my uncle, my core group of friends, they’re always pretty blunt and honest.
"They’ll always be tough about things. The people that are closest to you, they want the best for you. They’re going to try to push you just like anyone else has in my life."
Brady’s self-assessment hasn’t been kind, either.
Not with only one touchdown pass and a general rough operation with four turnovers, including one bad snap that was chalked up to a fumble on him.
“Obviously, not the way I’d like to play," Quinn said. "Again, there have been some good things. But I think as a whole, we need to get a lot better. Myself, I need to work on not having those turnovers and converting more on third down. I think it’s been a problem for us and something we need to get the chains moving.”
Brady has exhibited a conservative tendency to check down, avoiding deep throws even when receivers have been wide open.
The frustration is beginning to kick in, and there have been several overthrows.
"It sailed a couple times when I think I didn’t get my feet set in order to make a more accurate throw," Quinn said. "I think I might have been pressing during those particular throws. Outside of that, I don’t feel I’m pressing so much. I’m just trying to take what the defense gives us and not force bad decisions."
"Sometimes it’s hard to get completely meshed in with things when you first get into it. When you don’t have years of playing with the same wide receiver, like Peyton Manning, they’re able to kind of have that non-verbal communication down a little bit easier than when you’re coming into your third game with a wide receiver."
After being shredded for 436 passing yards by Philip Rivers in a win over the San Diego Chargers, the Ravens have every intention of applying some heat to Quinn to force him into miscues and get him worried in the pocket.
"I think you can get in the head of any quarterback if you hit him enough times," defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "I think that’s the key. You want to do the same thing you do to all quarterbacks. You want to hit him enough times to know that if he holds the ball, he’s going to get hit."