Colt McCoy’s concussion is the hot topic right now, but the bigger question involves whether the Browns should stick with McCoy next season or draft one of the many quarterback prospects in the 2012 NFL draft. Peter King makes the case that the Browns should stick with Colt McCoy.
The Browns should build around Colt McCoy, not draft a quarterback in 2012 to replace him. I’d seen snippets of McCoy flailing around this year, but hadn’t watched every throw of a game. And so I watched Thursday night to get some sense of the near- and long-term prospects of the former University of Texas quarterback. And I came away thinking the Browns should stick with him and use a rich 2012 draft to finally build the kind of offense around McCoy that any quarterback would need to succeed.
Mike Holmgren is a disciple of Bill Walsh. I remember when Walsh was shown a few plays of Charles Haley rushing the passer at James Madison; he told his scouts he really wanted him. “If we see him make a few plays like this, we can coach him to do it all the time,” Walsh said, and he was proved a prophet — Haley became a top NFL pass-rusher for San Francisco and Dallas.
Well, on Thursday night, I saw McCoy, with limited help from grade-D skill players, make enough plays to convince me he’s not the problem. Now, I realize he made two or three idiotic throws in the second half — and you’re not going to win doing that consistently. But one of the bad throws came after he was concussed and should never have been put back in the game. And those throws have to be addressed.
But he did enough good things that I came away thinking: Use the three picks in the top 40 next April (Cleveland has its own first- and-second-round picks, plus Atlanta’s first-rounder from the Julio Jones deal last April) to help McCoy, not replace him. Three plays showed a mature quarterback making good decisions:
1. On the first series of the game, using play-action, McCoy set up, looked over his options and found tight end Evan Moore down the left side on a crossing route with a step on linebacker Lawrence Timmons. The high-arcing pass settled into Moore’s arms. Gain of 33.
2. Also on the first series, Josh Cribbs found a gap downfield in the left seam and McCoy made a great touch pass over cornerback Ike Taylor. Gain of 25.
3. In the third quarter, on third-and-eight, down 7-3, McCoy faced a five-man rush and moved up in the pocket. Feeling pressure, he threw the ball about five feet to the right of tight end Alex Smith, because that was the only window open to make the throw — Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark and William Gay converged on Smith and seemed ready to pancake him. But the throw was zipped in perfectly, Smith made a diving catch, and the Browns had a first down. Good judgment, great throw.
Of course, we wouldn’t be talking about any of this if McCoy didn’t make some brain-fart throws. But I believe he can be coached out of those — it’s what Bill Walsh would believe, watching him — and I believe some of that stems from the fact that the Browns are a poor offensive team as a whole.
McCoy has holes. He also has a coach, Pat Shurmur, who can correct those, and is in an offense he’s so well-suited to run. He’s well-liked and respected in the locker room. If I’m Browns GM Tom Heckert, I’m looking for an offseason upgrade at wide receiver (the Browns need two), guard, running back and tight end … before I even think about replacing the quarterback.
King makes some solid point. McCoy is a smart quarterback and he’s a gamer. The Browns have been focusing on defense in recent drafts and Tom Heckert has found some good players with Joe Haden, T.J. Ward, Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard. The defense is heading in the right direction.
The offense, however, has been a mess, and Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert will need to sift through the wreckage and figure out a strategy going forward. It’s obvious that there are personnel issues around McCoy. The receivers are mediocre, and while rookie Greg Little has shown some promise, he’s raw and he’s been dropping passes. The running back situation has been marred by the Peyton Hillis soap opera and numerous injuries starting with Brandon Jackson in training camp. Then you have the injury to left guard Eric Steinbach disrupted the offensive line. Throw in a new offense and no offseason to get ready, and it’s no wonder that McCoy and the Browns have struggled.
That said, it has to be tempting to consider Matt Barkley, Robert Griffin III or Landry Jones in the draft next year. This is where Mr. Holmgren needs to earn his huge salary. Heckert will do all the work on the draft, but Holmgren needs to make the big decision on McCoy. If they stick with McCoy, they will easily load up on receivers and other playmakers with all their picks next year. But they also might have a shot at a real franchise quarterback. It’s a tough decision.