Jake Goodbaum. 5th October, 2011 - 12:48 pm
Throughout his football career, Colt McCoy has faced criticism on an issue out of his control: his height. Despite being only 6-foot-1, McCoy starred at the University of Texas and finished as the winningest quarterback in the history of the NCAA with 43 career victories.
The Cleveland Browns were thrilled that McCoy fell to them in the third round (85th), and team President Mike Holmgren believed he could develop him just as he had done with Steve Young in San Francisco, Brett Favre in Green Bay and Matt Hasselback in Seattle. The Browns believe McCoy can be their franchise quarterback, a luxury they have not enjoyed since the days of Bernie Kosar from 1985 to 1993.
Because they are both small in stature and understand what it takes to win, the obvious comparison is to Drew Brees. Then again, it is unfair to compare McCoy to Brees this early in his career, as McCoy has barely scraped his potential, whereas Brees is a proven veteran, has already won a Super Bowl ring, and is in an elite class with the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers.
This offseason, the Browns decided to implement a West Coast offense that hopes to showcase the greatest strength of McCoy: his pinpoint accuracy. At Texas, he completed 70.3% of his passes, and as a rookie he was able to complete 60.8% of his passes. Despite the fact that he struggles to throw the deep ball, McCoy can thrive in this offense by making short, quick throws to keep the chains moving.
In his rookie season, McCoy was thrust into action after injuries derailed the seasons of Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. Although McCoy was only 2-6 as a starter last season, the Browns were pleasantly surprised by his leadership, his confidence in the huddle, and how quickly he gained the respect of his teammates. The highlight of his rookie season, and maybe the Browns entire season, was when they defeated the Patriots, Saints, and suffered a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Jets in a three-game span.
Last season, the stellar play of Peyton Hillis certainly helped the rushing game, but his 61 receptions were also a crucial part of the passing game. Furthermore, they say a tight end is the best friend of a young quarterback, and a team-high 68 receptions for Ben Watson helped alleviate some of the pressure off McCoy in his rookie season.
The Browns passing game cannot afford to continuously rely on their tight ends and running backs, and it is clear that McCoy needs a number one receiver to emerge going forward. Last season, the Browns were counting on Mohammed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie to became effective receivers, but neither of them managed to catch more than 40 passes. So far this season, the Browns receivers have yet to elevate their game.
In the first four games of 2011, McCoy has been plagued by inconsistent play. In their opening week loss to the Bengals, McCoy was unable to put the Browns in position to win late in the fourth quarter. Additionally, for the first 58 minutes of Week 3, McCoy struggled mightily against the Dolphins. Nonetheless, when it mattered most, McCoy led the offense on a thrilling 13-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Mohammed Massaqoui.
If the win against Miami proved one thing, it is that McCoy has a knack for winning and is able to make plays for his team in clutch situations. In a Week 4 loss to the Tennessee Titans, McCoy completed 40 passes, a franchise-record, and threw for 350 yards. However, his stat-line is somewhat misleading, as the majority of his production came in the second half when the Titans were nursing a double-digit lead, forcing McCoy to throw on almost every down.
Through four games this season, the Browns are 2-2, and McCoy has completed 58.3% of his passes, compiled 984 passing yards and has thrown for 6 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions. Heading into their bye week, McCoy needs to build better chemistry and trust with his wide receivers, which will help him get more comfortable within the West-Coast offense.
The Browns have not reached the playoffs since 2002 and have consistently finished in the basement of the AFC North. The winning ways of McCoy must translate into a winning record, which would instill optimism into a long-suffering fanbase.