Colt McCoy is the latest young quarterback to have the hope of Cleveland Browns fans placed squarely on his shoulders. It is a reoccurring and all-too-familiar saga. The final chapter has yet to be written and won't be until the team can find its franchise quarterback.
Since 1999, the question has been constantly repeated, with only a few minor tweaks. Is Tim Couch the guy? Is Charlie Frye the guy? Is Brady Quinn the guy? The Browns are 0-for-3. Couch and Quinn had moderate success in college. Frye and Quinn had the back story of a young Browns fan turned the team's starting quarterback.
All three failed in the NFL.
Eleven seasons after the Browns returned, the question remains in Browns town and in 2010 it is rephrased again: Is Colt McCoy the guy?
As McCoy digs into the batter's box, Browns fans are hoping he isn't another swing and miss. McCoy is not from Ohio like Frye and Quinn. He didn't grow up rooting for the Browns like Frye and Quinn. He had success in college like Couch.
Most importantly, could McCoy finally be the Browns franchise quarterback?
At the NFL Combine last winter, McCoy gave some insight into the type of leader he can be on the football field. McCoy spoke about his early experiences at Texas. He was a redshirt freshman during Texas' national title season of 2005. A year later, McCoy took over the offense. As a freshman, he had to command the respect of veteran players who just a season ago won the national title with Vince Young.
Four seasons later, McCoy holds nine school records and has the most career wins (45) by a starting quarterback in NCAA Division I history. He is the only college quarterback to have at least 10 wins a season during all four seasons.
Yet the talk entering last April's draft was whether or not teams should draft Tim Tebow because he was a winner. Tebow didn't win as much as McCoy. For all of McCoy's college success, he was not drafted until round three. Tebow went in the first round. McCoy is 6-foot-1. He doesn't have the strongest arm. He won't stretch an NFL defense. Maybe he is just a great college quarterback and that's it.
In his senior season, McCoy completed 70.6 percent of his passes for an average of 10.6 yards per completion. McCoy will never run a Peyton Manning offense. But he can run a Colt McCoy offense.
Under McCoy, Texas ran the shotgun spread offense. According to Kevin Flaherty, publisher of Scout.com's Longhorn Digest, "Texas thrived with a quick game that included an extensive two-man game to make one defender ‘pick his poison' so to speak. The Longhorns used concepts like stick plays (one receiver sprints to the flat, the other runs about eight yards and options either in or out, depending on the defense) to that end. They used double slants (witness McCoy's Ohio State game winner for an example) to attack man coverage. And they used plays like smash routes (outside receiver runs a curl and the inside receiver runs a corner route over the top) and four verticals (just like it sounds) to stretch the field deep."
After three preseason games in which McCoy struggled, the Browns offense against Chicago resembled his days in Austin.
McCoy started and played a little more than two quarters before finishing 13-for-13 passing for 131 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Granted, he was playing against the Bears scrubs, but the plays fit McCoy's strengths.
Here are all 13 of McCoy's completions:
Pass short left to TE for 6 yards.
Pass short left to WR for 1 yard.
Pass short left to WR for 16 yards.
Pass short middle to WR for 16 yards.
Pass short right to RB for 1 yard.
Pass short middle to RB for 12 yards.
Pass short middle to RB for 14 yards.
Pass short middle to RB for 12 yards.
Pass short right to TE for 8 yards.
Pass short left to TE for 7 yards.
Pass short right to WR for 15 yards.
Pass short left to WR for 10 yards.
Pass short middle for RB for 13 yards.
He spread it around, with five completions to wide receivers, five to running backs and three to tight ends. No doubt the Browns will look to highlight McCoy's strengths in game planning the Steelers. It will be a daunting task. This Steelers defense will not be like the Bears defense he faced last month.
If there are any positive signs, the question — once again rephrased — will remain in the conversation for at least another week.
Maybe Colt McCoy can be the guy?