CLEVELAND — He was the perfect quarterback. He was cool, he was unfazed. He completed every pass he threw. Naturally. When the game was over, his uniform was still sparkling clean, and he took it off and strolled in for a shower as if it were just another day.
“How many of those have you thrown in your career?” someone asked Brian Brennan, after his big fourth-quarter strike to Herman Fontenot, the longest pass of this Lions-Browns game.
“Three,” he said, wrapping a towel around himself. “I’m three-for-three. I am 1,000 percent. Two for touchdowns.”
Three-for-three. One thousand percent. Two for touchdowns. The perfect quarterback. He pulled on his jeans and ran a hand through his wet curly hair and — presto! — it was neatly in place.
Was he nervous? someone asked. No, he said. Was he worried, someone asked? Of course not, he said. He is the man for the job, ready to throw with the game on the line. The perfect quarterback.
The wide receiver.
“Hey, nice passing, man,” yelled a teammate.
“Thanks,” he said.
The wide receiver? Best on the field Well, why not? This was the game for it. Wasn’t it? It was a Sunday in September that was hotter than July. It was a punter named Mike Black who punted like Mike Douglas. It was Lions playing like lambs. It was a touted Cleveland rushing attack that was in no rush at all.
So it’s no surprise that, for one play anyhow, Brian Brennan, wide receiver, was the best quarterback on the field. Eric Hipple was racking up countless five-yard completions, but missing when he went for the big gainer. Cleveland’s Bernie Kosar was throwing screen passes or incompletions, but nothing of any consequence.
Could they go long? No, they could not. Could they throw and not get clobbered? No, they could not. But in the final quarter, with the game close, Brennan — who gets paid to catch the ball, remember — took a pitch from Kosar at midfield and heaved a perfect spiral that rose like destiny and delivered itself right into Fontenot’s hands for a 35-yard completion. Two plays later the Browns scored a touchdown. One pass, one completion. The perfect quarterback. The wide receiver.
“What did Kosar, the real quarterback, say to you afterward?” someone asked.
“He said, ‘Nice pass,’ ” Brennan replied.
Do you remember Brian Brennan? He was once a standout quarterback at Birmingham Brother Rice High. He went to Boston College hoping to play that same position, but BC brought in another guy named Doug Flutie and that was that.
So Brennan went undercover, became the Clark Kent of the backfield, a mild-mannered receiver with a big red QB across his chest. When the moment is ripe, he tears away his tear-away jersey and reveals himself. He did it two years ago. He did it last year. He did it Sunday. Three-for-three. A thousand percent. Two touchdowns.
“Aren’t you worried one day, you’ll go out there and throw one incomplete?” he was asked.
“Incomplete?” he said, grinning. “Me? No way. I’m always on the money.” The one that got away Another teammate walked by in the locker room. “Nice pickup, man,” he said.
“Thanks,” said Brennan.
Oh yes, the pickup. In the second period, the Browns ran Kevin Mack on a pitchout, and he fumbled on the Detroit goal line. But there was another Brown just waiting there, like the perfect defender, and when the ball popped free in the end zone, he pounced on it and scored a touchdown.
Brian Brennan. Naturally.
“I was supposed to be blocking on that play,” he said. “But I missed my block. I just happened to be down there when the ball popped out and I jumped on it.” He grinned. “I was lucky.”
So let’s get this straight. He is a wide receiver, who caught two balls all day, neither of them important. But when the game ended, the scoreboard read 24-21, Browns, and Brennan had scored six of those points, and was the key to six more. A guy who grew up in Michigan, probably rooting for the Lions.
Is that right? Yes, that’s right. The perfect quarterback strikes again.
“So you’ve never messed up,” someone observed. “Never had a pass that missed the mark since you left high school?”
“Well, once,” he said, “back in college. We had a play where Doug Flutie threw me the ball and he went out and I threw it back to him. We tried it against Pittsburgh one year. I remember that one was an incomplete.”
He paused. “Actually, Doug dropped it.”