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Justice Is Served


March 9, 2010 11:36 AM

Do Browns see Wallace as Quinn's backup? No

I was sitting around the pressroom inside The Q last night with a handful of other sports journalists. It was halftime of the Cavs-Spurs game, and we were talking sports -- what else would sports journalists talk about: the Argentine 

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peso? -- but not a word was being said about the Cavaliers.

Now, we had an interest in how they were doing. I mean, they were playing Tim Duncan and the Spurs, and the Cavs were playing without LeBron James. But the Browns were what dominated our conversation.

We had just heard that team president Mike Holmgren traded a low draft pick for a quarterback, and we were discussing the merits of bringing another backup quarterback to Cleveland to compete with two quarterbacks who are, essentially, backups. None of my colleagues saw Seneca Wallace as an upgrade over Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn.

They reminded me that Anderson will be a former Brown before March turns into April -- a $2 million roster bonus will send D.A. into free agency, leaving Quinn as the team's No. 1 quarterback.


I had to laugh at the latter notion. For I can't imagine Holmgren brought a player from his old team to Cleveland as a backup. He had watched Wallace's maturation, and the athletic Wallace produced more than a handful of highlight moments in his fill-in roles with the Seahawks.

But he was never able to unseat Matt Hasselbeck, a quarterback that Holmgren had traded for and banked his fortunes on in Seattle. In dealing for Wallace, Holmgren looked to be following a similar script: pick up, at a bargain price, a talented, underused quarterback who couldn't break into another team's starting lineup.

That's the reason this trade makes sense -- the only reason. To look for a backup, Holmgren could have found a number of those on the open market. I mean, he could have kept D.A. if finding a warm body to back up Quinn was the objective.

To believe Holmgren traded for a backup QB would suggest he's comfortable with Quinn behind center; he can't be. For nothing people have seen in Quinn suggests he's Hasselbeck; nor can Quinn be seen as the next Brett Favre, a quarterback who won Holmgren a Super Bowl back in his Packer days.

Quinn has been a first-round bust, and if the Browns have any hopes of being a good team, they will need someone who has more to contribute to the offense than Quinn does.

Enter Seneca Wallace. 

He is everything that Quinn isn't: athletic, experienced and Holmgren-trained. A wise man doesn't raid his old team for backups, a lesson Browns fans should know well from watching coach Eric Mangini bring in every no-talent Jet he could.

Holmgren isn't Mangini, and Browns fans can be thankful for that. For Holmgren knows a thing or three about developing NFL quarterbacks. While he might not dismiss Quinn straightaway, Holmgren is unlikely to cast his lot here on a refugee from the failed regime he inherited. He's going to give Wallace, a player he's familiar with, every opportunity to lead the Browns.

That's what I told my journalistic brethren, too. They wouldn't listen.

I suspect they're still unfamiliar with how Holmgren does things. They seem to be using the same yardstick to judge Holmgren that they used to judge Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel and Mangini, and that yardstick measured a foot short.

None of the three had brought success here. None had the NFL credentials of a Holmgren, whom I wrote about when I was with The Seattle Times. He has built winners, and his building started with a dependable quarterback.

He couldn't have seen that quarterback on the roster he took over; he couldn't rely on Mangini to develop that quarterback either. Holmgren made a call that was bold and fraught with uncertainty. 

But is it any more uncertain than counting again on Quinn or Anderson?

No, which is why Wallace represents the team's future -- not Quinn and not Anderson.

To not see that is to misunderstand Holmgren. He's here to build a winner and to build it quickly. He has to see Wallace helping the Browns win more than either of the other two QBs on the roster.

If he were looking for a backup QB, Holmgren could have found some decent candidates for the job on the free-agent market. He didn't have to trade a draft pick.

He did, though. So isn't that a sure sign Holmgren has bigger plans for Wallace than carrying Quinn's clipboard?

Yes, I told my journalistic comrades. They weren't listening.

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