‘He’s Going To Fall’: Brady Quinn And Those Who Were There Tell The Story Behind His Unforgettable Draft Day Slide

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“With the ninth pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins select Ted Ginn, wide receiver, Ohio State.”

The look was unmistakeable. There was a mixture of surprise, terror, and a little bit of embarrassment when the pick was made, and Brady Quinn’s name wasn’t called. The Maxwell Award winner who finished third in the 2006 Heisman voting had completed a stellar career at Notre Dame, and it was all but assured he’d go No. 9 to Miami.

When the Dolphins passed on Quinn, it set off one of the most memorable slides in NFL Draft history. The image of Quinn moving to the Green Room and waiting for his name to be called as pick after pick was made was unforgettable. And the Browns – the team Brady had rooted for as a kid in Columbus – swooping in and trading up to No. 22 to end the fall and finally get their franchise quarterback should have had a storybook ending.

That’s not how it worked out, of course, but Quinn’s draft day story is still fascinating eight years later. It all started with a hat and a phone call.

It’s Not The Dolphins

“They needed a quarterback, and someone within the Dolphins organization had sent my college coach a Dolphins hat.”
~ Brady Quinn

The pre-draft process is a madhouse of rumors, misinformation, promises and interviews. Teams are courting players the same way those prospects are doing their best to make a good impression. There’s a mutual feeling out about whether there’d be a fit, and throughout it all, everyone is expecting 20-something kids to be as professional as possible. Anyone who’s been through a job interview at that age knows you’re saying words you don’t fully understand and are putting on a suit and playing pretend.

Quinn had four visits and two workouts leading up to his week in New York. The workouts were with Jon Gruden’s Tampa Bay team and the Miami Dolphins, who were coached by Cam Cameron at the time. Quinn also had visits with Detroit, Washington, Oakland, and the Cleveland Browns.

Following all those meetings, Quinn was convinced he’d be a Dolphin.

“The consensus from a number of people was that it would be Miami,” Quinn said. “I had a good workout. It made sense. They needed a quarterback, and someone within the Dolphins organization had sent my college coach a Dolphins hat and something else with a note kind of saying ‘I know you haven’t been a big fan of the Dolphins in the past, but I hope you will after tomorrow.’ Charlie Weis at the time was even indicating to me that it was going to be Miami based on that. That’s what my agent had said as well.”

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Quinn’s dream of playing for the Browns was tempered at the time, and it didn’t seem like Cleveland would have any shot at the Fighting Irish quarterback after passing on him at pick No. 3. The Browns were going with Joe Thomas, and general manager Phil Savage did something front office executives aren’t known for doing – he told the truth.

Savage called agent Tom Condon to let him know they would be going with the Wisconsin lineman so Quinn wouldn’t be disappointed in case he had any hopes of going to Cleveland in that spot.

“I actually called Tom Condon the night before the draft,” Savage, now the executive director of the Senior Bowl, said, “and told him, ‘Just so you know, there’s a lot of hype and expectation, but regardless of what happens in front of us at No. 1 and No. 2, we’re not taking Brady third overall. I just wanted to be able to put a bug in his ear and let his family know so that at least the shock of it, or if there was an expectation that he was coming to the Browns at No. 3, that just simply was not going to happen. Tom would tell you that’s the only time anybody’s ever done that in the history of the draft, giving them a head’s up that your client is not going to be taken.”

Quinn and Condon didn’t quite know what to make of it. That’s how rare it was to have a general manager say something like that the night before the draft.

“My agent said to me,” Quinn said, “‘I don’t know what to think of this. It’s either a smokescreen, or they’re being honest. I’ve never had anyone tell me that before.’ When that actually took place the following day on draft day, I kind of figured, I knew at that time that Phil Savage was being honest. He knew how much Cleveland meant to me and how badly I wanted to be there. I think he was kind of communicating to me, don’t be upset, don’t feel like we’ve wronged you in any way or led you on in any way.”

With the first three picks – JaMarcus Russell to Oakland, Calvin Johnson to Detroit and Thomas to Cleveland – out of the way, Quinn’s attention turned to the Dolphins, the team he had the best feeling about. The picks rattled off from there, Tampa Bay went with Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams, Arizona took Levi Brown, the Redskins selected LSU safety LaRon Landry, Adrian Peterson went to Minnesota, and the Falcons drafted Jamaal Anderson.

Then the Dolphins were on the clock. This was it. Brady Quinn would be in Miami, and he’d be able to start his NFL dream.

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Except Ginn’s name was called. Quinn hadn’t met with any teams outside of the top 10, so his destination at that point was completely unknown. Even the front offices of other teams were a little bit stunned that the Dolphins passed on Quinn. That’s how sure a bet it seemed.

“We just assumed and heard he was going to go up there,” NFL Analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. Jeremiah was a scout with the Ravens for the 2007 draft and was in the war room on that Saturday. “I don’t think we would’ve taken him if we had a top five pick, but the assumption was that we’ll never see him, cross him off the list, we won’t have to worry about that decision. There was a little surprise when he slid all the way down. We thought Miami would be a stopping point for him, and when they passed on him, there were a lot of teams that were picking defensive guys, we needed to make sure we were ready.”

Savage was so convinced the Dolphins would be taking Quinn that he had taken a break to get something to eat in the other room. When he heard “Ted Ginn,” he stopped everything and bolted back into the room.

“I turned around on a dime,” Savage said, “went straight back into the draft room and said, ‘Guys, he’s going to fall and we’re going to have a chance to get him.’ We literally called every team from 10 all the way into the mid 20s (except for Cincinnati and Pittsburgh of course).”

“Guys, he’s going to fall and we’re going to have a chance to get him.”
~ Phil Savage

Working The Phones

When the initial shock wore off, Quinn was only thinking about one thing: how badly he had to go to the bathroom. It’s easy to ignore when you’re anxious with anticipation, but when you get a second to breathe, that’s what happens if you’re sitting for hours on end.

“I was like, ‘Alright I’m going to wait around a pick or two, but at some point I have to go to the bathroom,’” Quinn said. “But I knew the next few picks weren’t going to be me because all those teams had quarterbacks. I was just waiting for a time that wasn’t too dramatic to be able to get up and leave and not have the cameras make a big fuss about it. I think I stayed for another three or four picks. Back then that was awhile because picks were 15 minutes long, so that was a whole different deal.”

Quinn was moved to a different room, and he continued to wait, and wait, and wait as defensive pick after defensive pick was made. After Marshawn Lynch was taken by the Bills at No. 12, there was a run of nine straight defensive players selected.

All the while, teams who hadn’t met with Quinn were trying to do their homework on the Dublin Coffman grad in case he fell in their laps. When it got to pick 22, Savage, who had continued working the phones, made the call to Jerry Jones, who was interested in Savage’s offer of a 2008 first and the Browns’ 2007 second-rounder.

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The move had to be made then or not at all, and there were rumors the Ravens were going to trade up for the Kansas City Chiefs’ pick at No. 23 to snatch Quinn up. The last thing Savage wanted was to see Quinn go to his former employer, and Cleveland’s rival.

“Phil was scared of the Ravens,” Zac Jackson of Fox Sports Ohio said. Jackson was a writer for the team’s official site and was in the Cleveland war room in 2007. “He was making this move now. He wasn’t as concerned about the Chiefs or whoever else was back there. But he wasn’t letting Ozzie [Newsome] get Brady Quinn, so he called Jerry Jones and away they went.”

With Dallas on the clock and the time ticking away, Quinn got a phone call. It was Baltimore wanting to talk to him.

Then-quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel had snuck into another room to watch some film on Quinn and do some last-minute research a little earlier, and Quinn spoke with Neuheisel, Newsome and coach Brian Billick. This was the first contact Quinn had made with Baltimore, who hadn’t evaluated him much outside of the scouts and the personnel department. Quinn said it was a bit of a “getting to know process” over the 10 or so minutes.

It was during this time that Savage was also getting to know Jones, and they were working out the deal.

“As this unfolded there were some teams down in the late 20s that were thinking there was no way Brady Quinn would ever make it to us,” Savage said, “and they had not really done a ton of homework on him because there was not an anticipation that he was going to slide that far. They were scrambling around trying to get him on the phone, and they were trying to decide if it was worth it for them to move up. Everybody was sort of targeting the Cowboys spot. They were the ones most willing to trade out. Ultimately with the power of that future number one, that’s what really turned the deal towards them doing it with us. That was about a three-hour project in terms of working the phones.”

The Trade

With about two minutes left on the clock for Dallas, Quinn got a call from a ‘216’ number. It was the Browns. They were going to take him, and his wait was finally over.

“I don’t think there was much surprise at all,” Jeremiah said. “We had a great relationship with everybody in Cleveland since Phil was in Baltimore, so we knew they were in the quarterback market, and we knew they liked Brady. As soon as it was announced the Browns had traded up, we knew exactly what it was all about.”

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“Everybody was content that this was the draft that was really going to turn the Browns around.”
~ Phil Savage

In the hours between Miami’s pick and when Cleveland finally made the trade, Brady Quinn had a lot of time to think. His mind drifted back to when he was being recruited and when he had to decide between Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame.

The reason he went to Notre Dame ultimately was because then-coach Tyrone Willingham never made any promises or guarantees. He just told Quinn he’d have the opportunity to compete. And that meant a lot to him. The NFL courting process was a bit like doing it all over again.

“During the course of those workouts,” Quinn said, “the visits and the combine, you’re told a lot of things. A lot of people say things to you, things they probably don’t need to say to you. You’ve got teams telling you they’re going to go up and get you, or draft you, or whatever else. So it was almost like in those next few picks, I was just kind of going back through how dishonest a lot of people had been to me throughout the course of it, which is funny because then when Cleveland came back around to get me, it was the one GM who had been honest with me all along in Phil Savage.”

When the trade was done, and Brady Quinn was officially a Brown, there was a roar in the war room. The general sense was that the Browns had finally done it. They got their cornerstone left tackle and their franchise quarterback in one round.

“The whole building really reverberated because everybody was content that this was the draft that was really going to turn the Browns around,” Savage said.

The Browns website was shut down for hours due to the number of people trying to log on and read about Quinn and the trade.

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“I think Joe Fan wanted Brady Quinn,” Jackson said. “Look at the makeup of Browns fans. Columbus has lost the Browns to some extent now because the Colts are good, but back then? He’s a Columbus kid. How many Midwest Catholics are there? Everybody. Here was Brady Quinn. The face of the program, who had done all these things, an Ohio kid who was like a model. Every pre-draft story was about how great he was and how he never got in trouble. He was an awesome person and was everything he was advertised to be.”

After it was all over, Savage opened up his dress shirt to reveal a Nike Dri-Fit shirt – with a Ravens logo on it. He had worn it when he was in Baltimore and considered it a lucky shirt, never thinking for a second the first round would go the way it did.

Only In Cleveland

“If Brady had the support from within the organization directly to the owner, then I think his story could’ve turned out quite a bit differently.”
~ Phil Savage

USA Today‘s Jarrett Bell was also in the Browns war room in 2007, and he wrote an inside look at what went on throughout.

One quote sticks out among the rest:

“Five years from now we’ll be saying, ‘That was the day the Browns turned around,’ ” Savage said on Saturday night. “Either that, or ‘Boy, that was the day Savage screwed up the whole thing.’ “

Brady Quinn barely played in 2007, through no fault of his own. The Browns caught lightning in a bottle, at least as much as the Browns have been able to since they returned in 1999. Derek Anderson proved to be a capable starter for that year, allowing Quinn to bide his time and learn the offense, and Cleveland went 10-6.

The following season, things went off the rails. The Browns went a familiar 4-12, Savage sent that incendiary email to a fan, and following the season, Savage and Crennel were out the door. This proved to be a death sentence for Quinn’s hopes in Cleveland, as well. New regimes typically don’t want anybody’s holdovers.

“When you’re a quarterback especially,” Savage said, “if you lose your sponsorship, you’re fighting an uphill battle. I will go to my grave thinking if I could’ve survived in our organization – usually the rule of thumb is that a general manager is going to get two coaches, and I got one with Romeo – if Brady had the support from within the organization directly to the owner, then I think his story could’ve turned out quite a bit differently. He’s had other chances, and he’s been with other teams, but it’s been more of a tryout where he’s not the guy. There’s such a difference when you’re just trying to find your footing vs. being told hey you’re our quarterback. He’s the most star-crossed, high profile player who’s a good guy that I’ve ever been exposed to. We’ll never have the answer to why it turned out that way. He deserved better than what happened with him.”

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“All you can control is your attitude. I feel very grateful and fortunate to be drafted by the Browns.”
~ Brady Quinn

With Eric Mangini in as the new head coach, Quinn and Anderson would go through a highly-publicized quarterback battle. The Browns won five games, and Quinn was shipped off to Denver for Peyton Hillis and a couple picks in March of 2010.

“By now even the tainted innocence of 2007 is long gone,” Peter Pattakos, who runs ClevelandFrowns.com said. “There’s the small handful of exceptions to the rule (Thomas, Alex Mack, Joe Haden), but what we’re talking about is a dysfunction that’s cut across a decade and a half, and multiple GMs, head coaches, and ownership groups. At this point you hear something like, ‘that guy would be great as long as he doesn’t end up someplace like Cleveland,’ and it’s nearly impossible to say it’s unfair.”

After two seasons with Denver, Quinn bounced around the league, playing for Kansas City, signing contracts with Seattle and the Jets, playing for the Rams, and giving it one more go to try and make the Dolphins roster in 2014 after becoming an analyst with Fox Sports.

He participated in the veteran combine in March of this year, and there are still whispers he may try and make one more comeback.

Quinn still reflects kindly on his draft experience, and considers the move the Browns made to get him to be a highlight even if the draft itself is just one moment in a long and hard series of moments that lead to playing in the NFL.

“It’s a starting point,” Quinn said. “Everyone makes the biggest deal about it. There are a lot of things that are out of your control. You can’t control where you get drafted. You can’t control a lot of those sorts of things. All you can control is your attitude. I feel very grateful and fortunate to be drafted by the Browns. I grew up a Browns fan when I was young. To have that opportunity and to have them trade back up to get me was literally a dream come true. It didn’t work out the way I hoped it would, and that has a lot to do with the situation and circumstance, which is a lot of cases in the NFL.”