As teammates on the Cleveland Browns from 2007 to 2009, Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson were too focused on competing for the starting quarterback job for Anderson to comfortably serve as a mentor to a teammate two years younger than him.
Nine years later, plenty has changed.
Quinn is retired from football, while the Buffalo Bills Tuesday gave Anderson a chance to play in a 14th NFL season. And they did it primarily because they want him to be that coach-in-shoulder-pads Quinn is certain Anderson can be.
“He’s a great guy,” Quinn, a co-host for SiriusXM NFL Radio and an NFL analyst for CBS Sports, said by phone. “He's been around a lot of football and I think he’s probably transitioned now, at this point in his career, where he can help out Josh.”
Anderson, 35, spent the previous seven seasons with the Carolina Panthers. He appeared in 25 games and made four starts with the Panthers, but his main role was providing veteran counsel to starting quarterback Cam Newton.
Although the Bills’ free-agent signing of Anderson was anticipated since ESPN’s Chris Mortensen first reported Sunday that it was in the works, the Bills surprisingly have decided to keep Nathan Peterman as a third quarterback. To make room for Anderson on their 53-man roster, the Bills released safety Dean Marlowe.
“I feel like they want to get more of a veteran presence in there,” Quinn said. “At this point, (Peterman) feels like he could probably compete and try to play and he's not that same type of mentor and a guy who's seen it all, done it all. He's seen very little football and the little that he has played, it hasn't gone well. So I'm sure, somewhere in Peterman's mind, he wants the opportunity to play and play somewhere else.
“That's why the dynamic of the quarterback room is really unique, because as much as you say, ‘Well, it’s the job of the quarterback coach to make sure he gets the things he needs’ and all that. But those guys can only can spend so much time with the quarterback. And that’s why you need a third QB in there, a guy who has seen a lot, been through a lot and can talk to the (rookie) and spend time around him and help him grow as a quarterback and mature and understand the professional game because it is so different than college.”
A former Oregon State standout, Anderson entered the NFL in 2005 as a sixth-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens. He was with the Cleveland Browns from '05 to 2009 and was with the Arizona Cardinals in 2010 before joining the Panthers a year later.
Bills General Manager Brandon Beane was in the Panthers’ front office at the time and part of the decision that brought him aboard. Bills coach Sean McDermott saw plenty of Anderson in practice when McDermott was the Panthers’ defensive coordinator.
“After (Anderson) left Arizona, I think he realized the opportunity for him to be a starter was probably done,” Quinn said. “It was more serving in that role as an insurance policy and then when he could, going in there and mentoring a young guy while trying to help out in that capacity, so that that definitely was something he was accustomed to during his time in Carolina.”
Quinn had an up-close view of how good a quarterback Anderson could be. In 2007, after leading the Browns to a 10-6 finish, Anderson was named to the Pro Bowl. He made 15 starts for the Browns that season, completing 298 of 527 passes for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Quinn believes the physical similarities between the 6-foot-6, 235-pound Anderson and the 6-5, 237-pound Allen, as well as traits they share as players, make Anderson as ideal a veteran backup as the Bills could find.
“They both have strong arms, so (Anderson) can talk about anticipation and you want to try to fit balls in there, that kind of thing,” Quinn said.
Despite having been with Cleveland in ’09, when Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was in his first season in the same capacity with the Browns, Anderson won’t necessarily have a whole lot of deep understanding of Daboll’s offense to share with the rookie.
“I think the offense has changed dramatically in the past decade since he was last with (Daboll),” Quinn pointed out.
The Bills also announced they released tight end Keith Towbridge from their practice squad and filled that spot with cornerback Michael Hunter.