Having prepared for every one of his team’s regular-season games the past two seasons without actually playing in one, Brady Quinn knows how this works. His job as the Chiefs’ backup quarterback is to be ready to play, and usually nothing more, so he’s trying to treat this week like all the rest.
“My job hasn’t changed,” said Quinn, who spent the past two seasons as a Broncos reserve in Denver. “I still go out there and support Matt (Cassel) and the rest of our teammates. We’ve got a lot of things that we’ve got to get better on. As a whole, as a team, we’ve got to play better complementary football.
“The only thing that changes is when you have an opportunity to go in and play. Besides that, everything is as-is. We continue to work hard, we continue to support each other and stick in our role.”
This week became different for Quinn at the start when coach Romeo Crennel raised the possibility he might bench Cassel in favor of Quinn during Sunday’s game against Baltimore at Arrowhead Stadium. Quinn may no longer be a Cassel injury away from playing, but a Cassel interception.
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Cassel threw three of them in the first half of last week’s game alone, so Quinn’s time could come soon. He hasn’t played in a regular-season game since he beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead while with Cleveland in December 2009.
Quinn spent the two years since in Denver backing up Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow without getting into a game. On Sunday, he could find out whether all that prep time was worthwhile.
“One of the biggest things you try to do is just take mental reps,” Quinn said. “A lot of times you’re back there kind of mimicking while the starting quarterback is going through the rep. You’re mimicking that rep as well to try to get that timing and sense of rhythm of the offense. Besides that, you’re staying after practice, throwing, working on extra things as well.”
While in Denver, Quinn stepped out of the seen-but-not-heard role the backup quarterback usually adopts. He took the job of the starter, Orton, and helped organize summer workouts last year during the lockout.
Orton and Denver’s other veteran quarterback at the time, Tim Tebow, skipped the workouts.
“I’m a quarterback and I’ve been in the league for awhile,” Quinn said. “Guys needed to work out together. We weren’t sure if Orton was going to be there when camp got started, so I just took it upon myself to get guys together and throw some routes.
“I just wanted to make sure we were ready when camp did start. I didn’t want us to fall behind other teams. We got some work in.”
That was a bold move for a backup. Otherwise, his teammates with the Broncos knew him as a quarterback who put in the time even if he didn’t get to play.
“He was always prepared,” said offensive lineman Russ Hochstein, who played with Quinn in Denver and is now a backup for the Chiefs. “He worked extremely hard. He’s definitely one of those guys who does a lot of studying on his own time. He’s always in that film room.
“I know he spends a lot of time throwing extra passes, working on routes.”
Crennel coached the Browns in 2007 when Quinn was drafted in the first round. He was a backup all of his rookie season and played in three games the next year before a finger injury ended his season.
Then, Crennel was fired. Quinn stuck around Cleveland for one more injury-shortened season, and then his career went on hold in Denver and Kansas City.
But Crennel was comfortable enough with Quinn to bring him to the Chiefs as Cassel’s backup.
“He’s a smart guy,” Crennel said. “He’s familiar with the system. He has good size. He has been a quarterback in the league and he has good experience.”
On Sunday, Crennel might need him.
“When you’re in a backup role, you always have to prepare like you’re a starter,” Quinn said. “That’s no different each week. If you don’t do that, you’re not preparing yourself to do well, but also for your teammates, you’re going to be letting them down. So every week you’re always preparing like a starter when you’re the backup.
“Everyone just has to continue to do his job, not try to play outside themselves. We’re going to get better. We‘ve put in some good work so far this week, and we’re going to continue to do that and work on some fundamentals and put some things together that make us more effective.”