The Browns just finished another double-digit loss season and questions abound throughout the roster. Are the Browns heading in the right direction? Do the Browns have a core to build around?
Starting today, the OBR is going to break down the Browns current roster position-by-position, starting with arguably the most important position of the team—the quarterback.
Heading into the off-season, the quarterback position is one of the biggest question marks for the Browns heading into 2012. It is unknown what direction the Browns will go in that regard because neither Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert or Pat Shurmur declared Colt McCoy the starter going into the off-season leading to speculation that any of a number of options could transpire.
One option would be to sign an undrafted free agent or trade for a veteran like Kevin Kolb. The pre-free agent buzz has been mostly surrounded around Green Bay's Matt Flynn. However, Heckert said it was ‘highly unlikely' the Browns would go that direction.
If the Browns deem that trading or signing a free agent isn't viable, the draft would be the next logical venue to acquire a quarterback. Most of the early draft talk buzz has been about Robert Griffin III (aka RG3) as it is a foregone conclusion that Andrew Luck would be selected with the first overall pick. The Browns have the 4th and 22nd picks in the first round and could select a quarterback with either one of those picks or use the ammunition to make a trade in the draft.
Holmgren said the Browns will most likely add a quarterback to the competition, but they could also choose to draft a quarterback in rounds two through seven.
Another option would be to stay the course with McCoy and Wallace and add offensive play makers to the attack. If that is what the Browns choose to do, let's examine the current players on the roster.
McCoy finished the 2011 season completing 265-of-463 passes (57.2 pct.) for 2,733 yards with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He ranked 27th in the NFL with a 74.6 QB rating and was ahead of Tim Tebow, Rex Grossman, Sam Bradford, Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert. His rating was tied with Josh Freeman of Tampa Bay.
McCoy's 79.3 rating in the fourth quarter was good for 20th in the NFL ahead of Joe Flacco (78.7), Cam Newton (78.4), Michael Vick (77.7), Ben Roethlisberger (74.1), Philip Rivers (73.4) and Andy Dalton (59.4) to name a few. McCoy finished 19th in the NFL in rating on third down.
McCoy started the first 13 games of the season before suffering a season-ending concussion at the hands of the Steelers' James Harrison.
The Browns have to decide if McCoy's play and the offense's ineffectiveness was due to the cast of characters around him or because of him or a combination of the two. McCoy had no off-season in preparation for the 2011 season and was trying to learn a system that Holmgren said takes up to three years to master.
One factor to consider is that Browns receivers dropped a league-leading 43 passes. Obviously, all quarterbacks have passes dropped, but if those passes that were ruled catchable, McCoy's statistics would've been markedly different as his completion percentage would've jumped from 57.2 to 66.5. The only NFL quarterbacks higher than 66.5 percent this season were Drew Brees (71.2) and Aaron Rodgers (68.3). Tom Brady was 65.6.
McCoy played without the benefit of a running game for much of the time he was the quarterback as Peyton Hillis missed eight of the 13 games that McCoy played. Montario Hardesty missed time and McCoy had free agent Chris Ogbonnaya carrying the load with Hillis and Hardesty out.
Wallace was 55-of-107 (51.4 pct.)for 567 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and a rating of 65.4. Wallace started the final three games and lost all three to give him a career record as a starter of 6-15.
Wallace was well versed in the West Coast offense but did little to mentor McCoy seemingly feeling that he should be the starter based on his late season comments. He has been a valuable backup quarterback, but didn't do much more with the offense than McCoy did.
Lewis did not play in 2011. Shurmur liked Lewis from his days as the quarterbacks coach with the Rams enough to cut Jarrett Brown at the end of the preseason. The only reference for game action Shurmur had on Lewis was recalling a preseason game against the Patriots while he and Shurmur were with the Rams.
Bottom Line: McCoy wasn't named the starting quarterback going forward, so it is hard to know what the front office is thinking. If the Browns bring in a quarterback through the draft, McCoy could be the starter next season and the rookie could be brought along and replace Lewis as the third quarterback. If a quarterback is taken in the first round, McCoy could still start the season, but would be in position to take over in the not too distant future. If the Browns choose to spend big money in free agency for a quarterback like Flynn, then he would immediately be the starting quarterback.
The Browns might be keeping their options open to see what trades or free agent options become available to them. The draft is also an area the team will explore. Holmgren said he found the franchise quarterback in year one while he was in Green Bay with Brett Favre and the Packers won the Super Bowl in Year Five. He said it was year three in Seattle that the Seahawks found Matt Hasselbeck and the team went to the Super Bowl in Year Seven. Whatever direction the Browns go, it is imperative they find ‘The Guy' to lead the team forward.
(Next: The OBR's Fred Greetham will breakdown the Browns' running backs)