Kansas City, Mo. It wasn’t long after Matt Cassel had sustained a concussion and Brady Quinn finished out a loss to the Ravens that the Chiefs’ backup quarterback got in touch with an old friend.
It happened to be Charlie Weis, his former coach at Notre Dame.
Quinn has kept in touch with Weis over the years, through all the ups and downs in both of their careers. Quinn has bounced around the NFL the past four seasons with little success, while Weis flamed out with the Fighting Irish and is now trying to resurrect Kansas.
Their conversations usually have nothing to do with football — might be to check in on each other’s family, or just to see how things are going, a couple of old chums with some history.
This one, though, was purely about business.
“He just told me to be ready to go,” Quinn said.
Cassel has not been cleared by doctors to participate in practice this week, so the Chiefs are planning on Quinn to start Sunday at Tampa Bay. It will be the first time that he’s started a game in the NFL since the 2009 season, when he was still with the Cleveland Browns.
Weis said he has a soft spot for both of the quarterbacks in Kansas City.
He helped tutor Cassel to the Pro Bowl a couple years ago as the offensive coordinator of the Chiefs, and he’s perhaps the biggest reason that Quinn developed into a first-round pick.
“I’m not rooting for one over the other. I’m a big Matt Cassel fan and I’m a big Brady Quinn fan,” Weis said. “As I told Brady, I talked to him the other night, I said, ‘Support Cassel as much as you can, and if they call your number be ready to go, and this is why you picked Kansas City.’”
Many people thought Quinn would be the top overall pick of the 2007 draft after leading Notre Dame to a pair of BCS bowl games. He won the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s top player, and a slew of trophies awarded to the nation’s best quarterback.
JaMarcus Russell ultimately was picked first by the Oakland Raiders, but Quinn was the second quarterback taken. He went at No. 22 overall to the Browns and their coach, Romeo Crennel.
“He was a good talent coming out, there’s no doubt about it. He had command of the offense he ran at Notre Dame, and the weapons he had with him,” said Crennel, now the coach of Kansas City.
Quinn struggled to get past Derek Anderson to become the starter in Cleveland, but once he did, he showed signs of brilliance. Quinn threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns in a game against Detroit, for example, but had his 2009 season cut short by a foot injury.
It’d be nearly three years before he started again.
He was traded to the Denver Broncos for Peyton Hillis, now his teammate on the Chiefs, and a couple of draft picks. He lost out on the starting job there to Kyle Orton, and Tim Tebow claimed the backup job last season, leaving Quinn searching for a place to play in 2012.
He wound up reuniting with Crennel and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who had just been hired by the Chiefs.
Now, it appears he’ll be pressed into duty against the Buccaneers.
“This league, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, you have to take things one game at a time,” Quinn said after practice Wednesday, “and that’s how I’ve continued to prepare myself.”
Crennel hasn’t officially ruled out Cassel for Sunday’s game, but it’s a long shot at best that he’ll play. Crennel said he only spent a short time at the practice facility Wednesday.
Cassel had been struggling mightily this season, completing just over 58 percent of his passes for 173.6 yards per game. He’s also thrown nine interceptions against five touchdowns, and has been credited with five fumbles, giving him 14 turnovers overall.
Only the Philadelphia Eagles have as many turnovers as a team.
So it’s possible that Quinn would have gotten a chance at quarterback even if Cassel had not been hurt. Now, the decision appears to have been taken out of Crennel’s hands.
“Quinn has to get ready to play. He’s going to take reps today. (Ricky) Stanzi is getting ready to play,” Crennel said. “We’ll go from there at the quarterback position.”