NEW YORK - The waiting is the worst. It is embarrassing and nerve-racking, crushing and humiliating. It has happened before and it will happen again, but yesterday, it was Brady Quinn's unfortunate turn to slide down the National Football League draft board.
It's never easy to watch a premier player tumble, and yesterday was no different. It is the worst kind of free fall - public and unexpected. Quinn never saw it coming, which made the hours of waiting to finally hear his name called almost unbearable.
The Notre Dame quarterback had wanted to be the No. 1 overall pick in yesterday's draft. He had said so repeatedly, without reservation. If not first, then at least third, to his hometown team, the Cleveland Browns.
More than four hours after the draft started, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell finally called Quinn's name.
"With the 22d pick in the 2007 NFL draft," Goodell said at 4:18 p.m., "the Cleveland Browns select quarterback Brady Quinn."
The crowd erupted. The Browns, who picked Wisconsin tackle Joe Thomas with the third overall pick, traded up with Dallas to get Quinn, giving up their second-round pick (36th overall), and a first-round pick in 2008.
"It felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders," Quinn said later.
And a large chip was put in its place.
Advised by his agent, Tom Condon, Quinn was so sure that he would be among the first few players picked that he was on site at Radio City Music Hall, in the green room with his family, four other players, and a slew of prying cameras recording moment after painful moment.
The first name Goodell called wasn't that big of a surprise: Louisiana State quarterback JaMarcus Russell. Quinn could handle that. And the second name Goodell called was palatable. Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson was, after all, the best player, regardless of position, in the draft.
But then it got tough. The Browns picked Thomas, and Quinn's stomach dropped. He went to see his first Browns game when he was 7 years old. His grandfather was a season-ticket holder. He had a Bernie Kosar jersey and helmet.
When Tampa Bay went with Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams at four, suddenly Quinn was the last one in the green room. Surely the Miami Dolphins, for whom Quinn worked out twice, would scoop him up at No. 9 overall.
But the slope was slippery.
Levi Brown. LaRon Landry. Adrian Peterson. Jamaal Anderson. Ted Ginn Jr. Amobi Okoye. Patrick Willis.
Marshawn Lynch. Adam Carriker. Darrelle Revis. Lawrence Timmons. Justin Harrell.
Jarvis Moss. Leon Hall. Michael Griffin. Aaron Ross. Reggie Nelson.
Can you say brutal? With each name called, Quinn lost at least a million bucks. After Miami passed on Quinn, Goodell offered Quinn his private room, away from the cameras.
No one wanted a repeat of the Aaron Rodgers humiliation from two years ago.
In 2005, Rodgers of California and Alex Smith of Utah were the top quarterbacks in the draft. Before draft day, like Oakland did with Russell and Quinn, San Francisco negotiated with Rodgers and Smith. The 49ers went with Smith, and Rodgers, who was on site, plummeted for the world to see.
Finally, Green Bay picked Rodgers at 24th.
Last year, Southern Cal's Matt Leinart fell to No. 10 before Arizona picked him. Leinart recently said that, if he could do it over again, he would not attend the draft in person. It was not fun.
When Quinn finally walked onto the stage yesterday, he looked up and blew air through his puckered lips. As he approached Goodell, Quinn pulled on a brown Cleveland hat and pointed to the sky. He chomped on gum while posing for pictures with Goodell and a Browns No. 1 jersey.
It was over. His NFL career could start.
Moments before, Quinn had thought he would end up in Baltimore. He was on the phone with the Ravens when he got another call. It was the Browns' triumvirate of owner Randy Lerner, general manager Phil Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel.
"We're going to come get you right now," they told Quinn.
And the Browns did.
Afterward, Quinn's father, Ty, broke down. He said he thought his late father-in-law, Scott Slates, had pulled a few strings.
"Grandpa is making his magic in mysterious ways," Ty Quinn said. "This could be phenomenal. We saw Leinart fall to 10 last year, and it worked out for him."
Yes, despite the wait, it could all work out for Quinn. In Thomas, he has a left tackle to protect his blind side. And he landed with a team that is less than 21/2 hours away from his hometown.
And he's got plenty of motivation to prove Oakland and Detroit and Minnesota and Miami and everyone else who passed on him wrong.
"I'd be lying if I said no," Quinn said when asked whether he had a chip on his shoulder.
It was a long wait for Quinn and his family, but it just might have been well worth it, no matter how painful it was.