Mike Holmgren addresses Colt McCoy concussion controversy

Mike Holmgren addressed a restless Cleveland media today in a press conference about the controversy surrounding the Colt McCoy concussion from last Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, basically calling the criticisms “unfair.” McCoy had suffered a brutal hit from linebacker James Harrison that led to a one-game suspension for Harrison by the NFL.

The Browns did an internal review of the events following the hit on McCoy with NFL officials and representatives of the NFLPA yesterday. Holmgren disclosed that the Browns did not give McCoy a concussion test on the sidelines before he was put back into the game by head coach Pat Shurmer. The Browns did give McCoy the test after the game and McCoy passed that test, though he did complain about bright lights which obviously raised some red flags. It was only later that he experiences serious symptoms.

Holmgren said the review covered what happened on the field after the Harrison hit. The training staff was already swamped with several other Browns players who were hurt, so they didn’t see the hit on McCoy. When they went out onto the field, McCoy immediately complained about his hand, so they focused on that. He was not knocked out and he was responsive as he discussed his hand, so they didn’t see anything that would make them concerned about a possible concussion. This was also the case on the sidelines as McCoy continued to communicate with them about his hand.

The problem is that they didn’t see the hit, so they didn’t realize that this situation warranted a closer look and a possible concussion test. Many Browns on the sideline did not see the hit as well according to Holmgren, and nobody thought to go to the trainers and explain that they might want to take a closer look. This was the communication breakdown that led to McCoy going back into the game. The trainers told head coach Pat Shurmer that McCoy was good to go, so Shurmer sent McCoy back in. Perhaps Shurmer made a mistake here by not stopping and asking if they were sure considering the severity of the hit, but everyone needs to remember that the game was on the line, the Browns were on the 5-yard line with a chance to take the lead against the Steelers. Shurmer had other things on his mind, and McCoy looked fine to him as well.

Holmgren has taken a lot of heat from the Cleveland media on this one, which I think was an overreaction. Holmgren made a good point that even the NFL observer at the game didn’t intervene. Perhaps the protocol going forward needs someone from the NFL or the teams whose responsibility includes making sure that players subject to these kind of hits to the head get the concussion test. That would have solved the problem here, and I think this might be a step considered by the NFL in lieu of an independent neurologist.

Meanwhile, Holmgren’s relationship with parts of the Cleveland media is deteriorating rapidly. The writers at The Plain Dealer continue to treat him pretty well, but talk radio (as usual) is dominated by angry hosts who blow every controversy out of proportion. The antics of Peyton Hillis and comments by Josh Cribbs get endless airplay and hosts dwell on the last 11 years of misery in Cleveland. The pathetic state of the Browns offense and the 4-9 record hasn’t helped Holmgren’s case, but the facts are clear – the Browns have focused on defense in the past two drafts and have gotten some very good players. There was no offseason yet the Browns installed a new offense with a rookie head coach. Colt McCoy is young, and the offense has been suffered important injuries in the backfield and on the line.

We all know that Mike Holmgren knows offense, so most rational fans are willing to give him time to build something. But the talk radio crowd is ginning up resentment, and Holmgren’s combative news conference will only fan the flames in Cleveland. He chastised the media for arguing this was the “same old Browns” with their problems in the front office, as Holmgren took serious offense to that statement.

Holmgren made some very good points, but I think the Browns can use some common sense help in the PR area. Holmgren explained that he waited to talk to the media until the Browns had all the facts and met with the NFL and NFLPA, but they could have easily sent out a press release earlier in the week explaining this approach, and they would have avoided much of the unnecessary drama.

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