During the past offseason, the Cleveland Browns’ feelings about Colt McCoy changed more quickly than a teenage girl’s feelings about the cute boy sitting two rows away in English class. One day, the Browns’ brain trust fell all over themselves to praise McCoy.
Another day, the team openly discussed their failed attempts to trade up in the NFL Draft to select Robert Griffin III. The Browns’ true feelings about McCoy’s potential to be their quarterback of the future came to light on the first night of the draft, when the team selected Brandon Weeden with their second first-round pick.
Speculation began to swirl about the Browns’ future plans regarding McCoy immediately after the selection was announced.
Would the Browns trade McCoy, who led them to two stunning victories over the playoff-bound New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots during his rookie season but only post a 6-15 record as the Browns’ starting quarterback by the end of the 2011 season?
Would the Browns keep McCoy and trust that his quality character will allow him to be regulated to a backup role without complaint?
At this point, the Browns have opted not to deal McCoy. However, any football fan can attest that much can change between the culmination of the NFL Draft and the beginning of the regular season. With both McCoy and Weeden still on the roster and the front office continuing to give votes of confidence to Weeden, what should the Browns do?
Although this answer may seem like a recipe for disaster, the Browns should keep both McCoy and Weeden.
First of all, the Browns’ brain trust needs only to look one state westward for an example of what can happen when a team doesn’t have a solid backup quarterback. For years, the Indianapolis Colts didn’t give a second thought to the backup quarterback position and signed a forgettable cast of characters to fulfill this position.
The effect of the Colts’ neglect was shown during the 2011 season when Peyton Manning’s neck injury kept him from playing a single regular-season snap. McCoy knows the Browns’ West Coast offense and could easily step in if Weeden has to miss time with injury.
Secondly, competition will allow the Browns to learn if Weeden is indeed the quarterback of the future. Some have suggested that the presence of a former starting quarterback on the roster could undermine Weeden’s confidence. However, if the presence of a quarterback who posted a 6-15 record as a starter will undermine Weeden’s confidence, the Browns are in major trouble.
McCoy’s pedigree as a former starter is small in comparison to the crises of confidence that Weeden will face when he looks across the line of scrimmage and sees James Harrison, Ray Lewis, or any of the many defenders throughout the AFC North who woke up on Sunday morning with the goal of making Weeden’s life miserable all afternoon long. If the presence of McCoy on the sideline makes Weeden nervous, Browns fans should begin planning the “Bomb For Barkley” campaign immediately because this will show that Weeden doesn’t have what it takes to lead the Browns to the playoffs.
Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets have shown that a lack of competition can breed complacency in a quarterback, and the last thing that the Browns need is complacency in the leader of their offense. If the Browns keep both quarterbacks and Weeden ultimately fails, McCoy could easily retake the starting role in the future and utilize his experience to improve on his previous performance.
Lastly, McCoy can accept a backup role without open complaint. Anyone who has read McCoy’s excellent autobiography can attest that McCoy is a man of integrity and character who will put the team’s interest ahead of his own personal interests. If the Browns trade McCoy, they will be forced to turn to Seneca Wallace as their backup quarterback.
Yes, we’re talking about the same Wallace who openly stated that he did not help McCoy during the 2011 season because he believed that he should be a starter. While Wallace’s cutthroat Machiavellian ambition may be admirable to Browns fans who are hoping for a winner, his on-field performance during the end of the 2011 season showed that his talent and ability level does not match up to his ability level.
If the Browns are serious about developing Weeden, they would be well advised not to appoint a backup quarterback who would appear to be thrilled about an injury to or poor performance by Weeden. Instead, the Browns would be better off selecting a backup who would put the best interest of the team ahead of his own personal interests, which is exactly what Jake Delhomme did when he mentored and tutored McCoy after he took the starting spot from Delhomme towards the end of the 2010 season.
Keeping a former starting quarterback like McCoy on the roster while trying to groom a new rookie starting quarterback may not seem like the most orthodox move for a team who has made countless mistakes in the draft and on the field during the past several years. However, keeping both McCoy and Weeden on the roster will allow the Browns to prepare for the future while simultaneously ensuring that they do not jeopardize their ability to be successful in the event that Weeden fails or is injured.