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Surprising McCoy rare QB score for Browns

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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Browns head coach Pat Shurmur says he's  'excited about what we've seen' from his young QB. (US Presswire)  
Browns head coach Pat Shurmur says he's 'excited about what we've seen' from his young QB. (US Presswire)  

BEREA, Ohio -- Admit it. The Cleveland Browns were right about Colt McCoy, and everybody else was wrong.

At least, that's how it looks now. Because now the quarterback who didn't have the ideal size or the spring-loaded arm to play in the NFL not only is playing; he's starting ... only this time it's not out of necessity, it's by choice.

The Cleveland Browns know what they have in Colt McCoy, and what they have is a potential franchise quarterback -- the first time that has happened here since Bernie Kosar.

Yeah, I know, McCoy has an eight-game résumé, and let's not get carried away. Only watch him dissect New England and the New York Jets last season after Cleveland was forced to play him. Then fast-forward to this summer, where, through two preseason starts, he's completing 68 percent of his throws and producing a gaudy 132.6 passer rating, and tell me the Browns didn't nail this one.

Because it sure looks like it.

"There's something natural about Colt and his ability to play the position," head coach Pat Shurmur said. "It's a unique intersection of stuff. He understands how to play the position. He's a winner. And his arm is plenty strong enough.

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"In fact, I've been impressed with him physically. Now, take the skill and ability, and combine that with the fact that he works so darned hard at getting it right. It means something to him."

It will mean even more to Cleveland if he succeeds. The Browns have been through a slew of quarterbacks since Kosar retired, with predictable results -- only once since they rejoined the league in 1999 have they made the playoffs and only twice did they produce a winning record.

Much of that can be blamed on quarterbacks who fizzled. Tim Couch, Jeff Garcia, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Jake Delhomme, you name it, the Browns couldn't find someone to lock down the position.

Well, now they might.

It's not just that McCoy has the ability, the smarts and the temperament to play the position. It's that he's in the right place at the right time, with Shurmur's West Coast offense a perfect fit for someone who is accurate, excels in an attack based on timing and makes quick decisions.

Hey, it worked for the Rams' Sam Bradford, the first pick of the 2010 draft. I don't know why it couldn't work for McCoy, too. In fact, Shurmur said that had the Rams passed on Bradford and exercised their first-round pick on someone else, he believes they "would have positioned" themselves to take McCoy later, an indication of what they thought of the guy.

"I don't want you to get the wrong vibe," said the likeable McCoy, "but I do feel comfortable with what we're doing. I also know that I've got a long ways to go, a lot to prove and a lot to work on, but the concepts and the base ins-and-outs of our offense are all the stuff that I did in college.

"So I'm used to it. Now there's a lot of new stuff -- words, lingo, lots of freedom for me as a quarterback -- but I do feel comfortable, really comfortable, in how we're running it."

The early returns support him. In two preseason games, McCoy has four touchdowns and no interceptions, with one out of every seven passes a touchdown. By contrast, in his last two starts last season, he had one touchdown and six interceptions.

Of course, that was vs. Baltimore and Pittsburgh, two clubs headed to the playoffs. It was also after McCoy returned from a high ankle sprain that wasn't really healed.

But he's healthy again and on a team that needs him to play as he did before he was hurt. If that happens, Cleveland becomes a factor. I'm not talking about a playoff factor. Not now. But a tough out, as they were most of last season.

"This year is so different than last year for him ... good and bad," team president Mike Holmgren said. "The good is that, OK, he knows he's the guy. The bad is that what comes with that is the pressure that's involved when you start.

"I would see him in an effort to be perfect ... and no one's ever going to be perfect -- and I thought he was grinding a little too much. I just said, 'Hey, what are you doing?' There's pressure, sure, but you know what? You do what you can do."

What McCoy can do is make the Browns better. I saw it against New England. I saw it against the Jets. He made few mistakes, and the Browns made lots of plays. The experience was good for Cleveland and its fans, but it was invaluable for its young quarterback.

"I didn't want him to play last year," Holmgren said. "But, in hindsight, it will make him a better player this year because he had to play against really good defenses without a lot of practice time. And we learned ... as he learned ... that this isn't too big for him.

"He can do this, and that's something from a coach's standpoint you have to learn. Regardless of how talented the quarterback is, you don't know how he's going to react to the situation. So we know now. That question has been answered."

The question that hasn't been answered is this: How much better will McCoy be? He has that year of experience. He has an offense that seems suited to his talents. And he has the motivation that maybe, just maybe, wasn't there last summer when he was nailed to the bench.

"He has a tremendous desire to be great," Shurmur said. "He'll do what he has to do to win ballgames. He's not skewed by anything other than executing the offense and getting the team into the end zone. It's really what drives him."

That's one reason he reached out to Brett Favre this summer for help deciphering a new playbook. Puzzled by one section, he thought of quarterbacks who might help and considered Matt Hasselbeck, Joe Montana and Steve Young before settling on Favre. So he called, Favre was receptive, and the rest you know.

"That just says something about Colt and his drive to be good," Shurmur said.

It says something about the Browns, too. They knew what they were doing when they drafted McCoy in the third round. I don't know, maybe they gambled; maybe they didn't. All I know is they found themselves a starter. Better yet, they may have found themselves a winner, and hallelujah. It's about time.

"I thank the good Lord for the opportunity that I have," McCoy said, "and I'm going to bust my tail to be the best I can be. After that, I'll let things happen the way they're supposed to happen. Right now, my focus is on what we've got going on here. We have a lot of work to do, but we're having fun."

Tell me the last time you heard that around here. That tells me Cleveland got this one right.

"Let's just say I'm excited about what we've seen so far," Shurmur said.

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