Finding the Quarterback Last?

OBR's Fred Greetham wonders if -- after the Browns' failed to trade up to take RG3 -- the plan is to now build around Colt McCoy.

I was out with Barry McBride (Digital Content Manager for Fox Sports Ohio and OBR Publisher) recently and we were talking Browns over lunch. We then started talking about how quickly it seems Colt McCoy has dropped in the opinion of fans and the media, both locally and nationally.

I heard one local sports talk show host say that McCoy might be the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. He might not have heard of Blaine Gabbert, Matt Moore, Christian Ponder, Rex Grossman or a couple of others.

Most observers of the team agreed the Browns had very little in the form of weapons surrounding McCoy, but by the time the off-season rolled around it seemed that everyone had given up on McCoy.

So if he had no weapons, how can the jury already make a ruling? He's only played 21 NFL games and will have his third offensive coordinator in three seasons this year.

No matter what the Browns top men are saying now, they played their hand when they tried to trade as many as three first-round draft choices and a second-round pick to move up two spots to draft Robert Griffin III.

That sure does that sound like a team that is committed to building through the draft. It sounds more like a team that is searching for the elusive ‘franchise' quarterback.

What if the failed attempt to get in position to draft Griffin III was just to light a fire under McCoy. Just maybe, Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert knew they wouldn't be able to make the deal and their plan all along was to give McCoy all of the motivation in the world to play for his football life.

I don't think that's what happened, but I'm sure McCoy has all the motivation he needs.

McCoy's situation is similar to what Alex Smith experienced in San Francisco when the 49ers were courting Peyton Manning. After Manning went to the Broncos, the 49ers came back and signed Smith to a long-term contract. The Cardinals paid Kevin Kolb a $7 million bonus once they decided they couldn't get Manning, either.

Facing the reality that unless they make a late trade for a veteran or draft a quarterback in the first round, McCoy will most likely open the season as the team's quarterback. Thus far through free agency, the Browns have done nothing to add weapons to the offensive side of the ball.

To date, they have chosen not to sign three starters in Peyton Hillis, Eric Steinbach and Tony Pashos. It appears they are putting much pressure on themselves to come through in the draft. As it stands right now, the team needs to find at least a starting running back, wide receiver and right tackle in the draft. For them to be called ‘weapons' for McCoy, they need to be able to immediately contribute and play at a high level.

To be fair, the Browns were in a similar situation on the defensive line last year as they didn't even have enough bodies to field a front four until the draft and Phil Taylor and Jabaal Sheard were the top two picks and they immediately stepped in and played well.

Most experts say that Justin Blackmon isn't at the same level as A.J. Green, so it's hard to count on any drafted receiver to immediately become the No. 1. Most fans felt the Browns would get a veteran receiver to be that guy, but it's looking more and more if they sign a veteran receiver, it will be more of a shorter term contract and it's doubtful he would be considered a No. 1.

Now, back to McCoy.

If he didn't have the weapons last year and he didn't have the off-season to learn the new offense, it would seem to make sense the Browns would want to see what he could do with weapons and a good handle of the offense. If he starts and plays poorly in 2012 there would really be little doubt what the Browns need to do in 2013.

McCoy showed enough promise as a rookie in eight games after he was thrown into the fire to be named the starter for the 2011 season after completing just under 61 percent of his passes and posting a 74.5 rating.

In 13 games in 2011, McCoy regressed in completion percentage to 57.2, but Browns receivers led the league in dropped passes, as well. He finished the season with a 74.6 rating and 14 touchdown passes with 11 interceptions.

There is no question that in the NFL today, team's need to have a good, if not great, quarterback. However, there is a school of thought that a team can build a great defense and have all of the weapons in place offensively, and then add the quarterback when everything else is in place.

Whether that is the Browns plan, intentionally or not, we shall soon find out.


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