At the Top, Not as Easy as 1, 2, 3

Rus­sell, John­son Go First; Quinn Feels the Wait

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sports - By Mark Maske

NEW YORK, April 28 — The NFL draft be­gan pre­dictably enough, with the Oak­land Raiders us­ing the top choice on quar­ter­back JaMar­cus Rus­sell and the Detroit Li­ons tak­ing wide re­ceiver Calvin John­son sec­ond. But not ev­ery­one fell pre­cisely into their ex­pected places af­ter that, with a se­ries of small sur­prises be­ing ac­com­pa­nied by the stun­ning drop of Notre Dame quar­ter­back Brady Quinn through the first-round or­der.

Quinn, af­ter be­ing con­sid­ered by the Raiders as a can­di­date for the first pick, spent an ag­o­niz­ing few hours back­stage at Ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall be­fore fi­nally be­ing se­lected by the Cleve­land Browns with the 22nd choice. The Browns traded back up into the first round to get Quinn and, af­ter choos­ing Wis­con­sin left tackle Joe Thomas with the draft’s third pick, emerged with two play­ers who widely had been con­sid­ered among the best half-dozen avail­able.

“What can you do?” Quinn said soon af­ter his or­deal fi­nally ended. “I had to sit back and wait. . . . I’m learn­ing life lessons like pa­tience, I guess.”

Some tal­ent eval­u­a­tors re­garded Quinn as a more NFL-ready quar­ter­back than Rus­sell af­ter be­ing coached by Char­lie Weis, for­merly the of­fen­sive mas­ter­mind of the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots, at Notre Dame. But Quinn wasn’t cho­sen un­til about four hours af­ter Rus­sell. The Raiders had kept ev­ery­one in the league guess­ing un­til a cou­ple hours be­fore the draft be­gan Satur­day, when it be­came clear that Rus­sell would be the top pick.

Rus­sell, who played at Louisiana State, showed up wear­ing Raider­s­like garb — a black suit with a black shirt and black tie. But he said later, “It’s just a co­in­ci­dence.”

The Raiders had ne­go­ti­ated dur­ing the week with the rep­re­sen­ta­tives for Rus­sell, Quinn and John­son but didn’t sign Rus­sell be­fore the draft be­gan, as NFL rules per­mit the team with the top choice to do. Rus­sell said he didn’t hear from the Raiders on Fri­day and didn’t know he was their pick un­til just be­fore the se­lec­tion be­came of­fi­cial when it was an­nounced by NFL Com­mis­sioner Roger Good­ell. Now he must try to turn around a team that went 2-14 last sea­son and was par­tic­u­larly fee­ble on of­fense. The Raiders emerged with the quar­ter­back with the stronger arm and, by most ac­counts, the greater po­ten­tial.

“I kind of had faith in it,” Rus­sell said. “Ev­ery­body’s been talk­ing about it for a while. It’s a dream come true.”

The Li­ons used a top 10 choice on a wide re­ceiver for the fourth time in five years. John­son, who played at Ge­or­gia Tech, fol­lows Charles Rogers, Roy Wil­liams and Mike Wil­liams. Among the other three, only Roy Wil­liams has be­come a stand­out NFL player. But the Li­ons felt they couldn’t pass on a player as gifted as John­son, who said he was un­daunted by the club’s re­cent his­tory with first-round wide­outs.

“It may not have worked out in a cou­ple cases,” John­son said. “But I’m sure in my sit­u­a­tion, it will. ... There’s no dis­ap­point­ment [not be­ing picked first by the Raiders], go­ing into the sit­u­a­tion that we’re go­ing into. I don’t think any­body knew ex­actly what was go­ing to hap­pen ex­cept for the Raiders. . . . I think this is the best thing for me.”

Quinn and Oklahoma tail­back Adrian Peter­son were re­garded as can­di­dates for the lowly Browns with the third pick. Quinn is a Dublin, Ohio, na­tive who at­tended his first Browns game when he was 7, watch­ing them beat the ri­val Pitts­burgh Steel­ers. But the Browns went with Thomas, who had de­clined the league’s in­vi­ta­tion to at­tend the draft in or­der to take a fish­ing trip with his fa­ther.

Quinn soon would end up wish­ing that he were else­where, too. The quar­ter­back-de­fi­cient Min­nesota Vik­ings passed on him at No. 7 to take Peter­son. Quinn later said he thought he wouldn’t slip past the Mi­ami Dol­phins at No. 9, but they went with Ohio State wide re­ceiver Ted Ginn Jr. A run of teams that didn’t need quar­ter­backs came next, and Quinn knew he was in free-fall. He ac­cepted Good­ell’s of­fer to move him­self, his fam­ily mem­bers and his agents to a private room so their ag­o­niz­ing wait would not be cap­tured by television cam­eras in the back­stage com­mon area.

The Bal­ti­more Ravens called and said they were go­ing to pick him, Quinn said. Then he got an­other call and clicked over, and was told by the Browns that they’d moved into po­si­tion to se­lect him. The Browns traded a sec­ond-round choice Satur­day and their first-round pick next year to the Dal­las Cow­boys to get the se­lec­tion that yielded Quinn, a bold move for a sag­ging fran­chise. The suc­cess of the deal might de­ter­mine how long Gen­eral Man­ager Phil Sav­age and Coach Romeo Cren­nel keep their jobs.

Quinn ex­haled and pointed sky­ward in re­lief when he fi­nally took the stage and was con­grat­u­lated by Good­ell. He’d been booed by the crowd of about 3,000 spectators when he’d been in­tro­duced be­fore the draft. He was cheered when he was cho­sen.

“I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoul­ders,” he said.

Quinn was forced to re­live the draft-day mis­ery of Aaron Rodgers, the Cal­i­for­nia quar­ter­back who was con­sid­ered for the top pick by the San Fran­cisco 49ers two years ago but lost out to Alex Smith and fell to the Green Bay Pack­ers with the 24th choice. Quinn, like Rodgers, lost mil­lions of dol­lars on his rookie con­tract, but he took that in stride.

“Peo­ple kept say­ing I was los­ing money, [but] I was sit­ting back there with my wal­let,” he said. “I have, like, a dol­lar in cash, and it’s still in there. I didn’t lose any money.”

But while Rodgers got stuck be­hind Brett Favre in Green Bay, Quinn at least will have a chance to play quickly in Cleve­land, and with the added in­cen­tive of try­ing to prove some­thing to the teams that passed him up Satur­day.

“Who knew it was go­ing to work out like this?” he said. “That’s the draft. . . . You place that chip on your shoul­der and you re­mem­ber how this day went.”

BY FRANK FRANKLIN II — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Quar­ter­back Brady Quinn lets out a deep breath af­ter fi­nally be­ing se­lected with the 22nd pick by the Browns.

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