"This is probably a day that's going to go down as the day the Browns' fortunes turned around," Savage said in a news conference yesterday, not long after he pulled off one of the most cunning moves in recent NFL draft history. "If we are going to do it, this will be one of those steppingstone days."
Savage passed on the Notre Dame quarterback with the third pick in the first round in favor of offensive tackle Joe Thomas of Wisconsin, only to circle around and take Quinn with the 22nd pick in the round.
Quinn, who had hopes of going first to the Oakland Raiders, spent four hours in free fall waiting to find an NFL home. When the Browns, Minnesota Vikings (seventh pick) and Miami Dolphins (ninth pick) all passed, it triggered an unlikely chain of events.
"I said before [the draft] that I was going to be open-minded and that's the tough thing," Quinn said at a news conference at New York City's Radio City Music Hall, where the 72nd college draft unfolded. "I was open-minded and I had a point in my head where I didn't think I was going to fall any further. Obviously it exceeded that."
Several quarterback-needy teams began rescue operations when Quinn dropped to the middle of the first round.
Both the Ravens and the Browns started trying to trade up to get Quinn, Cleveland from its second-round pick, No. 36 overall, and Baltimore from pick 29.
In the end, Savage outmaneuvered his former boss, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, by striking a deal with the Dallas Cowboys for the 22nd pick. But the cost of moving up was extremely high.
The Browns' winning offer was yesterday's second-round pick and next year's first-round choice. The Kansas City Chiefs almost certainly would have taken Quinn with the 23rd pick. They are about to trade veteran Trent Green and turn the offense over to journeyman Damon Huard.
When the Browns completed the deal and made the pick, Quinn said, "I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders."
The selections of Thomas, the best left tackle in the draft, and Quinn, the second-best quarterback, figure to elevate the Browns in the AFC North sooner rather than later.
The Browns gambled with their second-round pick, the 53rd overall, when they drafted Nevada-Las Vegas cornerback Eric Wright, who transferred from Southern California after sexual assault charges, which were dropped. In the face of the league's new personal conduct policy, Wright was a risk. But he is also considered one of this draft's best cover corners.
While there was immediate criticism that the Browns gave up too much to get Quinn, there were implications for coach Romeo Crennel, who has won only 10 of 32 games so far. Unless Quinn can beat out incumbent starter Charlie Frye right away, his arrival may not save Crennel's job.
"I think time will have to be the answer to that," Crennel said on an NFL Network interview when asked if the Browns overspent. "We felt we got a good player. We feel good about the trade, even though the numbers [on the NFL's value trade chart] might not match."
Quinn's plunge was more circumstantial than evidential. After Miami passed, none of the next 13 teams was in the market for a quarterback. In fact, after the Dolphins opted for wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. at pick 9 instead of Quinn, fans jeered new coach Cam Cameron at a draft party.
The Dolphins seemingly quieted some of that discontent when they chose BYU quarterback John Beck with the eighth pick of the second round.
Besides the Browns, two other teams stood out for their first-round dealing. The New York Jets made a nifty 11-spot jump to land the best cornerback in the draft, Pittsburgh's Darrelle Revis, with the Carolina Panthers' 14th pick.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said two of the three players he targeted were gone early. Soon after defensive tackle Justin Harrell of Tennessee went to the Green Bay Packers with the 16th pick, Shanahan made trade inquiries.
The Jaguars were receptive and Denver made the deal.