An Elite Endeavor

Does the Browns cavalcade of quarterbacks end with Colt McCoy?

You're not supposed to begin a speech with "The definition of…" but this isn't a speech.

In an ESPN.com article from Sept. 4, 2010, John Clayton defined an elite quarterback as, "one who can complete better than 60 percent of his passes, has the potential to throw for 4,000 yards and has fourth-quarter comeback ability."

As we are all well aware, an elite quarterback has not come close to wearing orange and brown in a long, long, LONG, time.

Last season, rookie Colt McCoy showed he has the potential to meet those criteria. Does that mean McCoy is elite? It's too early to tell. Can he be a functional NFL quarterback? Maybe. In eight starts as a rookie, McCoy completed 60.8 percent of his passes and threw for 1,576 yards.

For now and let's focus on that magical number of 60 percent completion percentage. Accurate passers are highly coveted in the NFL as well as in the Browns' new style of offense, the West Coast Offense. McCoy, who completed 70.3 percent of his passes at Texas, appears to be the right fit.

Yet 60 percent completion percentage does not guarantee success. Actually, the Browns have been down this road before. Looking back through the list of quarterbacks the Browns have had since 1999, it was not uncommon for Cleveland's signal caller to reach that 60 percent mark.

•Tim Couch twice completed more than 60 percent of his passes in 2000 and 2002. In the Browns' playoff season of 2002, he completed 59.9 percent.

Kelly Holcomb was around 60 percent for the last three years (2002-04) of his four-year stint with the Browns.

Trent Dilfer's only season with Cleveland was 2005. He played in 11 games and completed 59.8 percent, but won only four games.

Charlie Frye started five games in 2005 and completed 59.8 percent. The following season he completed 64.3 percent in 13 games started.

Then, we arrive at Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn.

•Anderson never completed 60 percent of his passes. During his Pro Bowl season of 2007, Anderson completed 56.5 percent, and the following season in which he started nine games, he completed 50.2 percent. He's a career 52.6 percent passer.

•Quinn entered 2009 as the Browns Quarterback. He completed 53.1 percent of his passes.

None of those quarterbacks became "elite."

Will McCoy be different? No doubt he is an accurate passer, but what stands out was McCoy's performance against the New York Jets on Nov. 14, 2010. The Browns were down 20-13 with less than three minutes, and took over on the Jets' 41-yard-line. McCoy led the offense on a 10-play drive culminating in a 3-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Massaquoi. Although the Browns eventually lost in overtime 26-20, the late-game drive against one of the best defenses in the NFL was impressive nonetheless.

This offseason, McCoy has embraced the leadership role. He has personally orchestrated a handful of "Camp Colts" to keep the players working and preparing as much as possible.

All signs point to McCoy returning to his starting role for the coming season. The sample size is small, but he proved he can lead, he proved he can be an accurate passer, he proved he can lead late-game drives, he proved he isn't Derek Anderson, or Brady Quinn or Spergon Wynn or Eric Zeier or …

And in this town, that is as elite as it gets.


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