The Browns drafted Colt McCoy in April of last year because Mike Holmgren and company knew how good he could be, and they were shocked that he fell to them late on the first day of the draft. McCoy was a constant winner at the University of Texas, as he ended his career there as a 4 year starter, originally starting as a true freshman to fill the void left there by the departure of Vince Young. All McCoy did was become the winningest QB in the NCAA’s long history. The fact that McCoy fell to the Browns in the 3rd round is actually pretty surprising. The Browns had no intentions of playing the rookie this season since they picked up veterans Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace to make sure that the youngster could just sit back and learn his rookie season. Well they should have known that this is the Browns we are talking about and that regardless of who the rookie QB was he would be pressed into action at some point this season. The Browns lost both Delhomme and Wallace to high ankle sprains and McCoy became the man in Cleveland.
McCoy did not shy away from the spotlight as he was thrown right into the fire, his first game was against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. And man, did McCoy show us something. The Browns immediately found the QB of the future. In that first game, a loss, he went 23 of 33 for 281 yards and a touch down. Sure, he threw 2 interceptions but I think we all forgave him for that since it was the Steelers and it was his first career game. Now the other two QB’s were still injured and the Browns had no choice but to keep him in for the next few games. The competition would not get any easier for the rookie, his next game would be against Super Bowl Champions, the New Orleans Saints. To say McCoy played well would really be an overstatement, but his mistake free game combined with the Browns shockingly strong defense and running game to provide a major upset in his 2nd career game.
What happened next would certainly be the exclamation point on McCoy’s rookie year, as well as the Browns season. The New England Patriots visited town, and suffered their final, and only 2nd, loss of the season at the hands of Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis. McCoy through 19 passes, completing 14, for 174 yards and had a 16 yard running touchdown. While the defense and Hillis again did most of the work, McCoy showed great poise and playmaking ability against the best team in the NFL. He went toe to toe with Tom Brady and won. Unfortunately that would be the last time that he would win a game. The Browns fell flat in their next two contests against the Jets and the Jaguars despite very strong performances from the rookie. McCoy would fall to a high ankle sprain in the waning minutes of that game against Jacksonville as he attempted to make a last minute game winning drive, he almost succeeded on one leg. He would miss the next two games, which would be sloppy wins for the Browns against Miami and Carolina. McCoy would return to face the division foes, Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
First up for the recovered McCoy was Baltimore and the Ravens were in full go mode against the Brownies on that day as they were fighting for a playoff spot. They came at McCoy hard and shut down the running game, which allowed them to get constant pressure on McCoy. He had his worst game of the season, posting a QB Rating of 27 and reminded us all of Derek Anderson with his 3 interceptions and 15 completions on 29 attempts for 149. After that disappointment the Browns hosted the Bengals and Colt bounced back. He had his best game of the year, throwing for 2 td’s, 243 yards and a QB rating of 132.6. The Browns fell just short of their 6th win of the year, and despite a valiant effort lost. Then Pittsburgh happened. We won’t talk about that game, but it wasn’t good for McCoy as he tallied 3 interceptions once again.
What was the overall impression of the young QB? Well, I think we were all impressed. He came in against 3 of the best teams in the NFL in his first 3 starts and won 2 of the games. He won the starting job by playing smart, controlled football and showed great ability and willingness to put the team on his back and try to win games. He showed us something at QB that the Browns have not had since Bernie Kosar. He brings a winning mentality and strong leadership, he can make plays with both his arm and his legs. Ultimately he went just 2-6 in his rookie year, but that is not indicative of his abilities. He was trotted out with a talent devoid roster and a injury list longer than pretty much any other in the NFL. Not that a losing environment is good for a young QB, and it was why the Browns wanted to keep McCoy off the field this year, but it might actually be good for his development. He is a QB that has a history of winning and a rough rookie season can only motivate a player like him. He showed a lot of the important intangibles that the great QB’s possess, a winning drive, he commands the respect and loyalty of his teammates who trust in him and his abilities, he is un-flappable under pressure, he can make plays, and he holds himself accountable for the performance of the team rather than blaming other players or coaches.
Having the QB situation seemingly solved moving forward is a big plus for the Browns. Despite the recent firing of Eric Mangini and the rough end of the season, the Browns at least have 3 of the most important positions filled. They have McCoy, Hillis at RB, and Joe Thomas at LT. The Browns certainly have a solid core to build around on both offense and defense and the new coach, whoever it is, just has the job of grooming the talent that Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert will hopefully infuse through free agency and the draft this year. If I were to put an overall grade on McCoy’s rookie year it would be a B. He showed a lot of potential, a lot of poise, and played much better than the other rookie QB’s who were supposed to have immediate impacts on their teams. He did make a lot of rookie mistakes toward the end of the year, but you really can’t expect him to be perfect. And as the season wore on the running game ran out of steam since the Browns didn’t have anyone to take carries from Hillis and make things easier on him, the Browns also have virtually nothing going for them as far as receivers. I think he did have a great rookie year, and he has definitely provided us all with hope for the future.