Anthony Brown Is Better Than You Think

Joshua Whitted Editorials 55 Comments

We need to have a conversation about Anthony Brown. The very mention of his name elicits a broad spectrum of opinions.

On one hand, the sixth-year quarterback has clear limitations as a passer, as evidenced by his mediocre-at-best 59.7 percent completion percentage, and the fact that Oregon’s passing offense ranks in the bottom half of the country. When comparing his talents to the quarterbacks on other title contenders — such as Alabama’s Bryce Young, Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, or even Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, who more than doubled Brown in passing yards in their head-to-head matchup — his raw numbers don’t exactly inspire confidence.

But on the other hand, we also know that numbers don’t always tell the full story.

Brown isn’t the crisp dropback passer that many elite college offenses possess. Despite that, he has managed to lead an offense that has elite potential with him at the helm.

Fans spent much of the offseason salivating at the thought of an offense led by Ty Thompson, a player who does possess superstar potential as a passer. Don’t let visions of future grandeur overshadow the impact that Brown, flaws and all, has made in the here and now.

The overlooked leader of the Ducks is masterfully operating Joe Moorhead’s offense, and he is proving that he is fully capable of being the quarterback of a championship-winning team.

The Brown-Moorhead Marriage

Brown doesn’t have the skill set to sit in the pocket and pick a secondary apart for four quarters. Oddly enough, most college quarterbacks don’t.

Wisely, Moorhead doesn’t ask his quarterbacks to do this. Instead, he utilizes their legs, nearly as much as their arms, and that’s right up Brown’s alley.

Tom Corno

Brown is a big-time threat in the running game.

Brown has plenty of necessary skills to succeed as a collegiate quarterback, but his best attribute is his athleticism and ability as a ball-carrier. Brown’s not a burner in the same way that Marcus Mariota was, but it’s clear from watching him that he’s a natural playmaker with the ball in his hands. He has enough speed to beat defensive ends to the outside as a scrambler or in the option game, and he’s extremely physical and has tremendous contact balance, which allows Moorhead to utilize him as a runner between the tackles.

Brown gives Oregon a rushing threat at quarterback that it has not had since the aforementioned Mariota, and it cannot be overstated how much that opens up the offense. Moorhead has the freedom to call his full range of designed quarterback runs and multi-level RPOs, which give defenses a terrifying amount to prepare for.

Is a defense loading the box and playing with a single-high safety all game like the Buckeyes did? Moorhead can give his running backs sweeps and pitches to the outside. Is a defense overcommitting to the perimeter? Moorhead can have Brown pick up easy yards between the tackles, while using his tailbacks as a decoy in the flats to occupy defenders.

Craig Strobeck

Brown’s legs open up the Oregon offense.

Having a quarterback as versatile as Brown allows Moorhead to play chess while defensive coordinators play checkers.

As for the passing game, while Brown might not have NFL potential, he does have traits that allow for Oregon to have a very efficient and mistake-free aerial attack. The first thing that jumps out when watching Brown throw the ball is how decisive he is. Brown doesn’t overcomplicate things; when defensive give him easy reads, he takes it.

This was on display time and time again against Stony Brook, when he took advantage of their consistent off-coverage by throwing quick outs. He did the same against Ohio State, taking advantage of their heavy cover 3 looks by making quick throws into the flats to his running backs early on. Those plays won’t make the SportsCenter Top 10, but they lead to a very efficient offense.

Perhaps most importantly, Brown’s decisiveness isn’t only present on underneath route concepts. With how well Oregon runs the ball, defenses certainly play their share of single-high looks against the Ducks, and that means one-on-one coverage on the outside. In order to alleviate the box, quarterbacks have to threaten defenses vertically and give them a reason to commit more coverage down the field.

Brown has taken shots down the field routinely this season, and although his accuracy in these situations has been shaky, he attempts them at a high enough rate that defenses have to consider it a threat. He has connected on a couple of vertical routes down the field, including a beauty to Johnny Johnson in Oregon’s win against Fresno State, and if he continues to take his shots when they’re there, more of them are bound to hit.

Scot Kelley

Johnson catches a strike from Brown against Fresno State.

Anthony Brown probably won’t win a Heisman Trophy, and he might not even be an NFL Draft pick when all is said and done. But there is more to being a top-level college football quarterback than NFL potential and awards. Brown is a perfect fit for Moorhead’s multi-faceted rushing offense, and his strengths as a passer team well with how the Ducks want to operate on offense.

Don’t expect him to lead the country in passing efficiency, but don’t discredit Brown’s role in the success of the Oregon offense. His play is a big reason why the Ducks are legitimate title contenders, and that’s not something many people, including yours truly, thought was possible before the season began.

Joshua Whitted
Morgantown, West Virginia
Top Photo by Tom Corno

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Bravo Joshua! Man it’s refreshing having such a young Man knowing this game as well as you do Josh. I agree with Brown and I figured if the Ducks wanted to compete for a NATTY he’d be the one getting it done. Well now we know quite certain that Thompson is advertised as good as he is and honestly I think they under rated the kid to much. He should have been a 5 star.


Jackson Dart is better than you think. Did any of you see what he did vs Wazzu? He was on the money with most, if not all of his deep throws. He made USC look like the old USC.

There are very few great edge rushers like Kayvon, but there are lots of good QBs out there. Even at the lower levels.


I have been a supporter of Brown starting this season. Trevor Lawrence was a freak – in that he could play so well as a freshman. Most others can’t handle the mental challenge without getting some experience first.

Of course, if you are QBing at Alabama, have world class receivers and your NFL line protects you on every play, it isn’t that hard either.


Yep, all that and… I watched his play in the last bowl game. He had a couple of slightly errant throws – nothing really bad. But he executed all his other plays that were there. He does his job.

And he is a threat with his legs.

Which is why I (and many others) want Ashford to get meaningful snaps. With Ashford running like a Dennis Dixon with a little muscle, he would tear up defenses and break off long gains. Which would make for one less defender glued in on Verdell.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Ashford to me, is Dennis Dixon at the same age; Dixon “Greyshirted” at Oregon, thus had more time to season. Even then…before he became a Heisman candidate–he could not beat out Brady Leaf his first year of competing.

I think Robby has that upside, but I doubt he has the patience that Dixon did, as it is a different time now.




This season has been an interesting one for QB’s. DJ is struggling at Clemson, Howell is off to a slow start at UNC. Stroud put up gaudy numbers against the Ducks, but lost, and hasn’t been great in their other games, Spencer Rattler was expected to be keep the Oklahoma QB/Heisman train running, but not so far. Meanwhile, the most impressive performance I’ve seen by a QB this season was Fresno States Haener against UCLA…and of course, U-Dud didn’t want him.


They didn’t want him going to UCLA either. That’s why he ended up at FS.


I too am a Brown convert. I was very vocal about playing for the future and starting Thompson. While I still think that would of been (and still is) a good move I have come around on Brown.

A lot of what I like about him is his demeanor. He is one cool cat on the field, and I am guessing it’s the same off the field. Makes it real hard not to root for and like him.

I admit that the Ohio State game flipped my perspective a bit. I didn’t think we stood a chance in that game. My take was we basically won because of Brown and McKinley’s leadership in that game.

Another thing I like about Brown is watching him initiate contact with smaller DBacks. He has definitely steam rolled a few dudes and there is a lot of satisfaction in watching that.

Great to see you are back writing articles, always some of the best offered.


Also I love being proven wrong. Anthony Brown could, and hopefully will be the next Tim Tebow. A qb who wins the national championship, and Heisman while just being a very good college qb, who knows how to win.

Much like Darren Thomas, a very good college qb, who led our team to greatness, or near greatness. I could see the cards falling into place and AB becoming an even better qb than we see now. In order to reach a Tebow level he does need to get his statistics up, but it is possible.

He has a decent schedule ahead, but please stop running him up the middle! I want to be proven wrong.


If we are going to make the playoffs, I’d like to do more than just make it. I’d like to have a chance to win. There are one offs of serviceable QBs winning a championship, but that is far from the norm. I think AB can get us to an undefeated season, but he has serious limitations as a QB.

David Marsh

I see Brown fitting the role of a Masoli or a Darren Thomas. Neither were super star players but both were able to play point guard and get the ball in the hands of playmakers. Looking back at Masoli and Thomas, neither were terribly good throwers but they were good enough in the short and mid range passes to cause problems which allowed for a few down field throws to be effective. Brown is very much in the same mold.

Thompson or Butterfield are both better passers and they will be the future for the program. I do expect to see at least one of them play this Saturday against Arizona in truth whether or not Brown is healthy.


CJ Stroud finished, 35-54, 484 yards, 3 TD’s, but the 1 interception that sealed the win for the Ducks. Meanwhile Anthony Brown went 17-35, 236 yards, 2 TD’s, but 0 interceptions, and was awarded the Davey O’Brian Quarterback of the Week Award.

The Ducks accomplished the first objective of any defense; controlled the running game, made the Buckeyes pass. The Buckeyes never had control of the game, despite making the Ducks start from their 1 yard line line, 99 yard touchdown drive the first time.

This is why Brown got the start. If he’d had to throw 54 times, the Ducks wouldn’t have had a chance. But because he game managed perfectly, the Ducks were in command. It would be great if his accuracy picked up enough that the offense could take more advantage of the WR’s, and that could come about as the season goes on. For now, he’s a steady hand on an offense that compliments a defense that will be even more dominant when KT returns.


Great to have you back after a couple of months, and I love how you integrated analysis into your Op-Ed, giving us more reasons to accept your premise. (And we all learned something too–thanks!)

I have been a big fan of Anthony Brown, but I will admit to the talent oozing from Ty Thompson. I hope both QBs are utilized wisely!

Tomorrow Coach Boles will explain the winning play at Ohio State, why it worked and how it fits into the skill set of Anthony Brown as Joshua described. I did not plan this, but they are perfect back-to-back articles for us!

Yes, always so great to read a Joshua take.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

And a Jon Joseph comment…

All in the World is right again.

Joe Moorhead Spring 2021_Pac12 Video.jpg

Jon Joseph its good to see you’re back!! I atleast i hope? I was worried about you. I really enjoy your takes!


AB reminds me mostly of Masoli.


Jeremiah Masoli trucked people, he was like a supercharged bulldozer. He did not have the great passing arm, he was hit and miss. Masoli was a high 56+% passer and during his two year start was 20-6. His greatest achievement was taking Oregon to the 2010 Rose Bowl but losing to the Ohio State.

Darron Thomas, he got the ball to his playmakers, Jeff Maehl, Lavaseir Tuinei or David Paulson. DT passing may have been at 60+% in his two years starting he went 24-3. The first year he took them to the National Championship game before losing to Auburn on a last second field goal. His second year he took Oregon to their first Rose Bowl win since 1917.

AB is a good leader and runner. But to go to the next level, winning a National Championship, he will need to become a better passer if he expects to survive the grind of a full season. QB’s today, have to be a passer first and runner second. We have receivers that can take it to the house, if the QB can be accurate and on time. I hope he can do it but I am not encouraged. With AB, I believe we make a Rose Bowl game, winning it is a different story.

David Marsh

Masoli was basically a runningback who would throw the ball from time to time.

Thomas had a good completion percentage on the whole because the up-tempo spread offense was getting guys in space and causing teams some serious problems with coverage.

For both of these quarterbacks there were a lot of receivers running wide open all over the field. Brown I think may be a better quarterback than both of them … but he is going up against defenses that in this era know how to defend against the spread much much better.


Mariota ran the same offense as Thomas. So his completion % is not valid either? To me, DT is the most under rated QB at Oregon in past 25 years. He was simply hot and cold. He made many an amazing pass, only to miscue on the next one. Replay that championship game, and we win. Sorry, I guess I was a huge DT fan.
AB has a weird throwing motion, but he can read a defense. A Heisman qb doesn’t guarantee anything. MM won one, but couldn’t beat tOSU. AB already done that. TT is the future. AB is more than enough for what we need now.


agreed re DT


I don’t think the coaching staff Cristobal and Moorehead picked brown due to his physical traits. His mechanics throwing the ball are plainly awful. He is quick but due to two acl injuries and surgeries he isn’t all that fast. They picked him because as a 6th year senior he has by far the best head on his shoulders. in the option game he is very consistently make the best reads. on top of that he is very very good at manipulating the pocket.

I would hope with our hardest games out of the way, that we really get game reps for our underclassman. Learning to make the right reads and do it consistently will take some live gameplay and I hope it isn’t all garbage time. Like give them them the 3rd and 8th drives of the game.

J Duck

Finding a way to put up a lot of points while your defense plays shut-down gives you a big lead and comfort to put a lot of younger guys in. We win out, we’ll make the playoff, we won’t need 56-10 victories for style, 52-28 will work (if the D gives up some late TD’s because 3rd string is in the whole 4th quarter). Developing the youth on this team (most talented in Duck history, potentially?) is worth it.

That said, let Moorhead rip, go up-tempo, pile on the points. Glad to see the pistol up the middle and 34 ppg go away

David Marsh

I do think we see a freshman take over starting some games this year at some point. Sooner if Brown is injured, later if he is not.


I don’t know much about quarterbacking, but your remark compels me to add that there’s another possibly familiar quarterback who often uses the same release: Patrick Mahomes.


3-0, ranked 3rd in the country, averaging 38 points per game…and people are complaining about the quarterback? Seems pretty crazy.

The thing that strikes me about AB is the pre-snap shots on tv; he’s absolutely calm and relaxed, scanning the defense like he’s done it a million times before. That poise and confidence and experience is worth a lot.


Our defense deserves a lot of credit for those wins. Thanks to the incredible effort of our defense, the Ducks rank 3rd in the turnover margin. Without the numerous turnovers in the Fresno State game and the one key interception in the OSU game, we arguably could be sitting at 1-2 than 3-0. This also does not take into account all the turnovers on downs. In both games, the opposing team outgained the Ducks in overall yards. Two of those vital turnovers in the Fresno State game, gave Oregon’s offense a short field to work with which led to an early 14 pt lead.

Although there were some missed calls and the infamous, phantom holding call in that OSU game, I would say that our offense did just enough to get the win in those two games, at times, sputtering. I agree that AB has looked collected and in control, but our offense has to be better going forward. As the 3rd ranked team in the nation and the only undefeated team left in the Pac12, the Ducks are going to have a target painted on their backs. The Ducks are going to get every team’s best shot, because for most of these teams, this will be their last shot at a signature win this year. I would hate for any of these teams to spoil Oregon’s chance at the playoffs. MC needs to make the team aware of this, and what is at stake.

Trent Dilfer won a super bowl by simply eliminating the bad plays.


Add Joe Flacco, Nick Foles, and Phil Simms to this list too?


Excellent, we’ll thought out article, Joshua.

This just in : Charlie Brewer has entered the transfer portal….leaving Utah after three games!

Jon Joseph

Thus, retaining his eligibility by playing in fewer than 4 games.

Jon Sousa

It looks like Rising is rising.


At least in each conference!


So far his limitations haven’t been too negatively effected by mistakes, or injuries. If he keeps it up he will be a very serviceable Oregon qb, something we aren’t use to.

Number one running between the tackles isn’t something we should see in our qb, that is for the RB’s! This is plainly to make up for his inability to make the pass. If you run between the tackles too often you will end up with another injury. We already saw him out the second half of SB.

Anthony Brown had a fumble against FSU and I am still not confident it won’t happen again, at an inopportune time. Against SB he was totally unaware of the sacks, which led to the injury and very likely, next time, a fumble. His lack of pocket awareness was exposed against SB.

DC’s have to be scheming to his weaknesses. Serviceable qb’s become less than serviceable once other teams figure them out. Great qb’s adapt and continue to stymie opposing defenses. I don’t think AB is going to do that.

The main thing is Oregon isn’t use to serviceable qb’s. We have had an NFL rookie of the year, a Heisman winner and now a serviceable qb? I like where you ended up with your analysis, but I am still skeptical of AB’s future as Oregon’s leader to the playoffs.

We still may see magic evolve in our backfield, it just may not be AB. You said you didn’t think the playoffs were possible under AB, I’m still not sure, yet.


IDK. Mariota fumbled. I don’t know of any QB that’s never been blind-sided. MC didn’t mention lack of pocket awareness when asked about those two sacks. So, the above feels a little unrealistic to expect from AB. If he never fumbles again, never gets sacked, etc. that would be a HUGE accomplishment.


I like AB, and have impressed with him so far. I often take a contrarian view, as these types of articles often create echo chambers. Although I like the article, and agree with many of Joshua’s points, I think it is important to question some what if’s. I knew it wasn’t going to popular.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

The AB criticisms are valid (IMHO) as Brown has had tendency to be casual in holding the ball, thus more fumbles then there should be.

I do think we will see more upside to Brown’s passing game, and a valid question to also ask is whether the troubles throwing downfield are attributable to Brown, or to WRs not getting separation? Unknown yet…

I agree with Hayward’s premise of how running inside the tackles exposes Brown to injuries, yet he got dinged back in the pocket this time.

Steven A

Agreed, and he also brings 6th year smarts.


You make some excellent ponder points concerning Anthony Brown and what he brings to Oregon’s offense. The QB runs in Joe Moorhead’s offense is a potent weapon. AB is an athletic runner!

However, I think the best thing AB possesses is a calm presence and sound decision making. I don’t think we will see panic from him like we did so much of last year with #12. Pass interceptions and fumbles kill a drive.

I do want to see the backup quarterbacks get more opportunities to gain experience. A change of pace can be nice at the appropriate time. Just like relief pitchers in baseball are effective. A running QB does need fresh legs.

Thank you Joshua for a good conversation starter today!


I agree with the change of pace comment. I see that when the RBs are switched up, as well. When Oregon rotates up to 3 RBs with different running styles, it seems to throw off the D for one or two plays.


I agree, Joshua. I think he sells the hand off during an option well. His short fast balls are strikes. He stays cool in big situations.

Jon Joseph

Thanks Joshua.

Brown is to Oregon and Moorhead as McSorley was to Moorhead and Penn State.

Like McSorley, Brown won’t play in the NFL. But Brown is a good college game manager,

For JM’s O and Brown to succeed, the OL has to play like it did in Columbus; not like it played vs Fresno and Stony Brook.

It baffles me how good the OL looked against a top drawer opponent, only to no show against an FCS opponent.

So far Brown has won two 1 score games. And so far he has been very good at not turning the ball over.

Oregon will be favored in the rest of its games. I do think Brown can get the Ducks into the playoff. But for this to happen the D has to get healthy and show up for every game. And the OL has to ball out not just when it feels like doing so.

I expect to see a lot more grind ’em out games and I do not expect to see many ‘sudden strike’ TDs.

No doubt that a team playing like this can win a lot of games. But it’s darn hard for any team to win every 1 score game.

Always a great read Joshua, thanks again.


Seems the OC went back to vanilla vs the FCS team. You don’t want to give it all away for the pac12 run. I think Josh is spot on. Poised and in command in the pocket. Lots of big games in the ACC (Clemson, etc) and now took out the Suckeyes. I like the idea of getting the lead with him and working Ty into his roll for next year.