Xs & 0s: Worried about Colt McCoy?

What do Colt McCoy's recent struggles portend? Is he a franchise quarterback or not? Doug Farrar takes a look at McCoy's picks against the Steelers to provide some clues.

Is Colt McCoy a franchise QB under development?

The first season of the Holmgren era was Cleveland was certainly an interesting one for Browns fans. Josh McDaniels was fleeced for a franchise running back, the offensive line played very well, and the defense had its moments. But perhaps most importantly (and this view comes from a national perspective), the Browns established themselves as a team that would not roll over for anyone … for the most part. That trend may have died with the season-finale loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but growth was still obvious, and it's quite possible that the Browns are ahead of the game now by virtue of the fact that they have a franchise quarterback in the fold.

At least that's what Holmgren, who's developed more quarterback talent than anyone else in the NFL, seems to believe. Holmgren doesn't just go with glamour boys, either – when he was in Green Bay, he saw enough potential in a sixth-round pick by the name of Matt Hasselbeck to being him along to Seattle in a trade. And though Hasselbeck hasn't played all that well of late, he's most likely starting a playoff game this week.

McCoy had it rough against the Ravens and Steelers in the season's last two games, but his three picks against the Steelers were an interesting array of actual fault. The first pick fell out of the hands of tight end Ben Watson and into the hands of Troy Polamalu, and the second was an ugly misfire to Steelers safety Ryan Clark that probably never should have been thrown. The third pick, which we'll detail today, was borne of McCoy's desire to extend the play more than a truly errant throw. The rookie is just going to have to learn when to live to fight another day.

On the third pick, the Browns actually set up well for production with a formation concept that is one of my favorites (and one that the Steelers use all the time) – motion into bunch. With a Twins right formation already set, Watson motioned out of the backfield and ran a little flare route. At the same time, Brian Robiskie ran a curl route from inside, and Mohamed Massaquoi ran a deeper route that attracted the attention of deep safety Troy Polamalu.

Great offensive concept against the Steelers' nickel under defense, but the problem was on the offensive right side, where end James Harrison (92) was implementing his own demolition project. He first shook the block of tight end Robert Royal, as left tackle Joe Thomas angled inside to double tackle Brett Keisel. Then, halfback Mike Bell (22) just flat-out whiffed a block on Harrison, and McCoy was in a lot of trouble. He scanned the field – right side, middle, left, and then back to the right – with seemingly no concept of what was going on behind him. Just as he was about to throw the ball, Harrison got to him and affected his throwing angle to the point that I actually don't know whether he was trying to throw the ball to Robiskie or Massaquoi.

Now that Holmgren is expected to implement the West Coast Offense, job one will be to get McCoy more familiar with the concept of hot reads and quick throws. It's an offensive system that demands discipline and precision. McCoy seems to have all the attributes for it, and the WCO doesn't require a quarterback with a rocket arm, so it's possible that McCoy has found the perfect situation for his NFL future. I liked what I saw from him in his rookie season – nobody expected him to start, and he showed some good things when he was finally put in that spot.

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