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Browns Browns Archive Without Controversy, Life Still Isn't Fair
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

Browns QB Jersey DuctTapeIf the seed of doubt can be planted, a controversy can exist.  Regardless of what Cavaliers fans might have once considered Mike Fratello’s Mark Price or Terrell Brandon dilemma at point guard to have been, the quarterback in the game of football is basically the only position in all of sports so directly associated with the word controversy.  Without exception, you cannot win without someone great at the position, so the seed of doubt is often planted.

We are no strangers to this, when it comes to the Cleveland Browns.  I’m guessing it’s been that way since Otto Graham called it quits; even Bernie Kosar wasn’t eternally immune to it.  We don’t need to re-hash those duct tape covered Tim Couch jerseys that most of us have seen by now, the ones where the names of every quarterback from Detmer to Delhomme (and perhaps beyond) have been scribbled on duct tape, then dismissed with a single dark black line through them.  In retrospect, years where the quarterback situation included the names Frye, Anderson, and Quinn were less controversial than they were just plain sad. 

Fortunately, the 2012 chapter of the Cleveland Browns does not include any pages on an official quarterback controversy.  That’s what they’d prefer to have everyone believe in Berea, but from Willoughby to Mansfield, not everyone is buying in to this concept.  I happen to agree with the stance of Pat Shurmur, not that he seeks my approval, in naming a starter going forward, just for the sake of not having the dreaded controversy take place.  I certainly don’t miss the ugliness of Browns fans when it came to discussing the merits of Derek Anderson over Brady Quinn (or Vice Versa).  It was all just a real-life version of South Park’s depiction of the election between the Giant Douche and the Turd Sandwich.

Fist PumpThe Browns made a decision in April that Brandon Weeden was going to be their starting quarterback in 2012, but waited until just days before their meaningless annual pre-season clash with the Detroit Lions a few weeks back.  For the record, I’m on board with the 28-year-old rookie assuming the role, so I guess that makes me a “Brandon Weeden guy”, but I’m not willing to have it come to fist-to-cuffs over that sentiment.  Yes, it’s obvious that this would be the Browns plan when they utilized their second first-round selection to take him on draft day, but this might just be a case of different being better.

Weeden’s vitals (6’4” 220 lbs) may dictate that he’s more the prototype than Colt McCoy (6’1” 215 lbs), but it just makes him a different type of player at the same position.  If the Browns were 4-12 with a physically large quarterback, we may have been pining for someone like the undersized Kellen Moore to take over (and I’m told he’s not faring so well).  However, McCoy’s size, and specifically his lack of arm strength are the knocks that put Weeden over the top in this discussion.  It all makes me wonder why any of this is really worth discussing, but people I like and respect have asked me to weigh in, and to hopefully co-sign that McCoy could still be the answer.  So, I’ve decided to open up my mind, and see if I’d even be able to talk myself into the idea of Colt McCoy, in terms of a successful Cleveland Browns football team.

When a young starting quarterback cannot pass the eyeball test, and offers up a 4-9 record without any type of track record that suggests he is better than his record, he should not be alone in Training Camp the following season.  At the end of the 2011 season, we didn’t know whether the Browns would address this quarterback situation via Free Agency, trade, or the NFL Draft, but it was obvious to most of us that he still had not earned the right to be a starting quarterback in the league.  Since the 2011 backup Seneca Wallace has been 1-6 as a starter in two seasons with Cleveland, the Browns needed something new, and found it with Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden in the first round last April.

What IfNow, I could play the “What If” game all day long, but if it’s all the same to everyone, I would just as soon leave that hypothetical nonsense at Ontario and Carnegie.  So, forget about Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Ryan Tannehill, Matt Flynn, or even the very unavailable second year vet Ryan Mallett of the New England Patriots.  They didn’t come to the Browns, and they very likely never will.  It’s counterproductive to discuss what isn’t so I’d like to maintain a focus on who the Browns actually have in camp; it’s “bird in the hand” kind of thing.

Colt McCoy will be 25 when the Eagles return to Cleveland a week from Sunday, and he’ll have 21 NFL starts under his belt.  Granted his 6-15 record with the Browns, identical to what Seneca Wallace has done in Cleveland, is nothing to write home about, but it means something.  It goes up against Weeden’s zero wins and zero losses in the NFL a lot more than his 45-8 career at Texas compares to Weeden’s 22-3 record at Oklahoma State, in his two years as the full-time starter.  There are plenty of Colt Brennan and Greg McElroy types that made headlines on Saturdays, but remain nothing more than footnotes in NFL-speak.  I’m sorry, but performances and the statistics related to what a quarterback does playing against college students has to be taken with a grain of salt.  Four years of game tape, combined with the Draft Combine and private workouts, only equals what we in the real world would consider a job interview.  However, we can address Sunday experience at face value, which may or may not work to McCoy’s advantage.

The third year quarterback’s don’t hold water on their own, even with the bar lowered to accommodate a team as far behind the curve as the Browns have been.  Only the mitigating circumstances surrounding Colt McCoy’s short career with the Browns make this a viable discussion.  Even the best carpenter cannot do his job well without the necessary tools, and to say that the Browns have given Colt a butter-knife instead of a flat-head screwdriver would actually be an understatement. 

McCoy in 2010In 2010, a season that saw him go 2-6 in relief of Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, he wasn’t supposed to see the playing field, if you listen to what Mike Holmgren has to say.  If memory does not serve vividly on that situation, I can remind you that credit in those miraculous victories over the Patriots and Saints is largely due to Eric Mangini’s effective game planning; McCoy did just enough not to lose those games, but he did an outstanding job staying out of Peyton Hillis’s way.  That already seems like ancient history these days, doesn’t it?

Entering 2011, there was little doubt that this was the year that would determine whether he was, or was not, “the guy”.  A 4-9 concussion shortened season proved to be inconclusive at first glance; perhaps, the cupboard was simply to bare to really know for sure.  Maybe, the fact that the right side of the offensive line was an ensemble of late-round draft projects and retread journeymen hindered McCoy’s ability to lead these Browns to an AFC North title, or even a winning record.  It’s possible that an NFL starter shouldn’t be expected to shine when the team’s top two backs are either disgruntled or injury plagued, and its receiving corps features some formidable Tight Ends, some obvious draft busts, an outstanding special teams player, and a rookie with potential who had not played since 2009.  It’s true that McCoy hasn’t been given the supporting cast, and I don’t think anyone would argue that, but no once could argue that McCoy’s star shine bright enough to elevate that supporting cast in any way.

McCoy DownThat doesn’t mean that Weeden will be any better, but the unknown commodity gets the edge here.  It’s a case of life not being fair to Colt McCoy, considering everything he’s been through in his brief tenure as the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback.  The excuses go beyond this losing culture that exists with the Expansion Browns.  His mis-treated concussion and the consequences that stemmed from it, the lockout-induced disintegration of a viable off-season with a new coaching staff, and the growing pains of basically being a rookie QB playing for a rookie Head Coach have indeed made it unfair for Colt McCoy early in his NFL career.

That sentiment echoed from Radio City Music Hall to Stillwater, and back to Cleveland or wherever Colt McCoy happened to be on April 26, 2012.  The first-round selection of Weeden, a guy who must play immediately because of the age concern, told McCoy that they weren’t looking for his under-study, or someone to compete with him, but they sought his replacement.  Life isn’t fair for Colt McCoy, but speaking on behalf of Browns fans everywhere, life hasn’t done much in the way of being fair to us on Sunday afternoons for the last two decades.

WeedenWhat is fair to say is that Brandon Weeden can do things that Colt McCoy cannot do because he has a stronger arm.  In having three extra inches in the height department, the former New York Yankee farmhand possesses a physical attribute that the younger, more experienced signal-caller will never have.  The bottom line is that Mike Holmgren saw something in Colt McCoy that made him use a third round pick in 2010, but saw enough in two years to use a first round pick to replace him.  It may have been the tiniest seed of doubt for the Browns President to pull the trigger on a controversial prospect like the “old man” from Stillwater.

However, if Weeden’s date of birth proves to be the biggest controversy on the airwaves, we might someday consider ourselves lucky to be Browns fans.  If some of us feel that justice isn’t properly served or worry about the feelings of Brad, Case, and Colt McCoy, I wish you luck in your struggles to sleep at night.  As for me, I’d rather have a Quarterback than a Quarterback Controversy.

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