Peter King in Colt McCoy’s corner

Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy shows his frustration after being sacked against the Houston Texans in the first half at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas on November 6, 2011. The Texans defeated the Browns 30-12. UPI/Aaron M. Sprecher

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.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Michael Strahan vs. Peter King: The Tiki Barber Twitter War has begun

Ever since the news broke that Tiki Barber was coming out of retirement to play football again, most fans and media members have taken it upon themselves to ridicule him via blogs, Twitter and carrier pigeons. (One writer even compiled a list of 10 reasons why Barber’s un-retirement is a great thing, although the 10 reasons were all cheap shots.)

But at least one prominent media member is in Barber’s corner and that’s SI.com’s Peter King. His Twitter page reads more like a Tiki Barber fan page than a NFL reporter.

New York Giants running back Tiki Barber carries the ball against the Dallas Cowboys in the third quarter of their NFL football game in Dallas, Texas in this October 23, 2006 file photo. The all-time leading rusher, took the first step towards returning to the NFL on Tuesday and ending a four-year retirement. Barber filed paperwork with the league to remove him from the reserve-retirement list, according to a report on Sports Illustrated magazine’s website, clearing the way for a return. REUTERS/Mike Stone/Files (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

At start of 2011 season, Burress will be 34, Tiki 36. It’d be pretty interesting if the Giants bring Burress back but not Tiki.

One last thing on Tiki: If he wants to play, I think he still can. Retired healthy. No reason why he shouldn’t try. TB makes most sense.

RT @B_Frigo: Tiki did dirt when he retired, should have kept lips sealed … You’re wrong. At NBC, he was paid to call ’em as he sees ’em.

But it was this tweet that has drawn the most attention:

Strahan’s been critical of Giants on FOX. It’s like nobody hears that. Tiki criticized Eli’s leadership and Coughlin’s way. So what?

The Strahan that King is referring to is none other than Michael Strahan, a former teammate of Barber’s and someone who didn’t take kindly for King’s statements.

Strahan fired back via his own Twitter page:

@SI_PeterKing Why am I even in your conversation?? This isn’t about me so don’t make it so!!!

Regular readers know that I’m a big King fan, but I’ve got to side with Strahan on this one. When Barber criticized Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin, he was doing so because he wanted to make a name for himself in television. Barber wanted to be a TV star, which is one of the reasons he retired from football in 2007. He probably figured that he could cause a stir with his comments and thus, wasn’t shy about ripping his former quarterback and coach.

When Strahan has been critical of the Giants on FOX, it’s in a constructive manner. It’s not like he criticized Manning by saying his motivational pre-game speeches sounded “almost comical” like Barber did in an interview before the start of the ’07 season. Granted, I haven’t heard every single word that has ever come out of Strahan’s mouth about the Giants, but I’m under the impression that he keeps his comments related to the team as a whole and not about individual players.

In other words, I think King is reaching with his comparison between Barber and Strahan. One has fans’ respect, while the other has turned into the butt of jokes.

Why are Bill Simmons and Peter King talking about the Week 15 Giants/Eagles game?

New York Giants Matt Dodge dives for Philadelphia Eagles DeSean Jackson who returns a punt 65 yards for a touchdown with no time remaining on the clock in the fourth quarter at New Meadowlands Stadium in week 15 of the NFL in East Rutherford, New Jersey on December 19, 2010. The Eagles defeated the Giants 38-31. UPI /John Angelillo

I just listened to Bill Simmons’ post-Super Bowl podcast and he said that if the Giants had held on to beat the Eagles in Week 15, the Packers wouldn’t have made the playoffs. Peter King also said that the Packers have the Eagles to thank for their playoff berth.

Green Bay finished 10-6, the last Wild Card team and sixth seed in the NFC, by virtue of winning tiebreakers with the 10-6 Giants and 10-6 Bucs. We all know the Giants story: Up 31-10 over Philly at home with eight minutes left in the game, the Giants gave up 28 points in the last half of the fourth quarter and lost 38-31. The killer was punter Matt Dodge blowing the game and keeping a punt to DeSean Jackson inbounds with 14 seconds left in a 31-all game. Jackson returned it 65 yards for a touchdown. Who knows what would have happened if that game went to overtime, but that’ll stay a mystery.

Maybe I’m missing something here because, clearly, I’m not in the same league as Bill Simmons and Peter King. It appears that Simmons and King are counting the Giants’ win in Week 15, but aren’t considering the Eagles’ loss. If the Eagles lose that game in Week 15, they don’t win the East. The Giants win it at 11-5. Assuming Philly beats Dallas in Week 17 (a reasonable assumption since they didn’t play many of their starters in a 14-13 loss), the Eagles would have finished 10-6 and would have been tied with Tampa Bay and Green Bay for the 6th and final spot in the NFC. This assumes the Eagles would have still lost to the Vikings in Week 16, which is a fair assumption since they played their starters.

The first tiebraker between three teams is a head-to-head sweep, which isn’t applicable because the Bucs didn’t play either the Packers or the Eagles. The second tiebraker is conference record. The Bucs and Packers went 8-4 while the Eagles would have gone 7-5 (with a loss against NYG but a win against DAL), so the Eagles would have been eliminated at this point.

The next tiebraker is record in common games. Both teams were 2-3 in common games. The Packers beat the 49ers and the Lions, and lost to the Lions, Redskins and Falcons. The Bucs beat the 49ers and Redskins, and lost to the Falcons twice and the Lions.

The next tiebraker is strength of victory. I’m not sure how this is calculated or where I can find it, but acccording to CBSSports.com, that was the tiebraker that gave the Packers the No. 6 seed over the Giants and Bucs:

Green Bay is the No. 6 seed over the N.Y. Giants and Tampa Bay based on strength of victory (.475 to the Giants’ .400 and the Buccaneers’ .344).

So the Packers would have gotten the No. 6 seed over the Bucs. They would have played the Giants in the first round of the playoffs. Maybe they would have won or maybe they would have lost, but either way, they would have made the postseason.

So Bill Simmons and Peter King (and anyone else), please stop talking about the Week 15 Giants/Eagles game with regard to the Packers’ Super Bowl win. Thank you.

Blogging the Bloggers: Peter King, Braylon and the NLCS

CLEVELAND SCORES writes that Peter King has handed out some bad advice to Browns head coach Eric Mangini and GM George Kokinis regarding how the team should go to great lengths to draft either Sam Bradford or Colt McCoy next year.

THE BLEACHER REPORT writes that the fuss over the Dodgers and Phillies’ bullpens is complete bull.

SPORTSbyBROOKS downloads the message by Braylon Edwards to all Browns fans: Go Tweet Josh Cribbs.

DRAFT ZOO breaks down the best matchups on the Week 7 schedule in college football.

YARDBARKER (via Deadspin) put together a list of athletes that are going to hell for their off-field actions.

Peter King criticizes Vikings’ signing of Favre

Count SI.com NFL writer Peter King as someone who thought the Vikings’ signing of Brett Favre was a bad idea. In fact, King went as far to say in one of his recent articles that both Minnesota and Favre have made a mistake.

The perfect scenario would have been for the Vikings to see if Rosenfels or Jackson played well enough through a piece-of-cake early schedule (at Cleveland, at Detroit, San Francisco), and if the position was an Achilles heel, then reach out to Favre to see if he was interested. By doing it now, Childress tells his team he doesn’t trust Rosenfels or Jackson. That could come back to haunt him if Favre’s body breaks down.

Childress has looked like a desperate man throughout this melodrama. He made it known internally that Favre had to do at least some work in the offseason program or the veteran mini-camp to be considered. Favre never showed. Then he had to come by the start of camp. Favre didn’t come, opting for his third false retirement in 17 months. Now the Vikings let him come back after the team has gone through training camp. Favre’s the wishy-washiest player in memory — and the Vikings are his enablers. It’s ridiculous.

I agree with King that this situation was handled poorly by Childress and the Vikings, although in effort not to repeat myself, here’s a link to a post I wrote yesterday in which I go into detail about this saga. I break down how gutless Childress is for allowing Favre to dictate how the situation played out, how the signing was a slap in the face to Rosenfels, and yes, how the Vikings are a better team with Favre under center.

It would be ironic if Childress had to lean on Rosenfels at the end of the year if/when Brett breaks down. Rosenfels will probably conduct his business in a professional manner and put the team ahead of his personal feelings. But if I were him, I’d be livid about busting my ass in OTAs and training camp thinking I had a chance to start, only to be shoved to the backburner as soon as Favre was signed.

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