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Pat Shurmur: Browns 'moving forward with Colt McCoy' as quarterback

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer
McCoy needs help in Cleveland before he can be judged. (Getty Images)

Because Colt McCoy's not considered a franchise quarterback and because the Browns only invested a third-round pick in the former Texas star, there's a common belief that Cleveland's interested in upgrading at the quarterback position.

Not helping matters is a serious lack of endorsement for McCoy from the front office. Until Tuesday that is, when Pat Shurmur said that the Browns are "moving forward" with McCoy under center.

"At this point, he's our quarterback," Shurmur said, per Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "We're looking forward to him being our guy and I'm looking forward to seeing him improve. We believe he has a chance to be a fine player in this league."

OK, it's not exactly the most ringing endorsement in the world. And as Cabot points out, it's entirely possible that the Browns could draft a quarterback in April. In fact, GM Tom Heckert told Cabot that the Browns are likely to use their first pick (No. 4 overall) on an offensive player, though they would certainly consider LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne there.

"We don't think we're going to take a defensive guy, but it would be tough to pass on [Claiborne]," Heckert said.

Heckert also said Monday that the Browns are "most likely going to stay at No. 4 ... but there's about five guys we really like, so [they] would consider trading down."

Justin Blackmon and Claiborne were two players specifically named by Heckert that they're interested in. This could simply be late-March posturing; between now and April 26, there's more of that in the air than there is pollen.

Here's the thing about McCoy. In his (short) career, he's already been forced into early rookie action, he's had two different coaching staffs, one lockout-shortened season and almost zero help on offense. The Browns traded down out of their sixth-overall pick last year because the Falcons were aggressively pursuing Julio Jones, a play-making wideout.

To help McCoy, they added Greg Little. That's not much help. In 2010, Cleveland's two leading receivers were Ben Watson and Peyton Hillis, the latter of whom had a breakout year rushing the ball.

When Hillis production suffered in 2011, so too did McCoy's -- Little, Josh Cribbs and Watson were the leading receivers for the Browns last season, and Little was the only guy who had over 50 catches. (He finished with 61.)

Little had, per ProFootballFocus.com, 14 drops in 2011 (second-highest among wideouts who played 50 percent of their teams snaps) and a catch rate of just 54 percent (17th-lowest among that same group). He's just not a No. 1 wideout, and the Browns treated him as such last year.

So it's basically going to come down to this: if the Browns go out and get McCoy legitimate offensive help, he could show significant improvement in 2012. If they pass on helping him to draft another quarterback, his fate is already sealed, no matter what kind of non-ringing endorsements get thrown his way.

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