Entering the 2010 season, it didn't seem likely that the Browns had finally solved their two-decade long quandary at the quarterback position. Despite the offseason jettisoning of Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson, combined with the veteran additions of Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, the longest-running unanswered question in Cleveland was still being asked.
If anything, only the choices changed.
Both Delhomme and Wallace arrived in Cleveland boasting different degrees of NFL experience. Delhomme, the former Super Bowl quarterback, appeared to finally be the stabilizing veteran QB the Browns have lacked since the final days of Bernie Kosar. Wallace was pegged as a versatile and knowledgeable backup, a player familiar with the offensive system that was once rumored to be emerging in Cleveland.
In terms of pure talent and production, neither veteran was likely to become a long-term fixture at quarterback. However, the offseason personnel strategy set in motion by Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert simply called for someone to emerge as a stabilizing force, or at the least, prove to be a competent presence for the 2010 season.
While injuries and an overall sluggish offensive identity certainly contributed to the team's 0-3 start, it appears that the riddle may be closer to being solved than any of us could have imagined.
Over the past month of the season, the answer to the Browns' eternal QB question could be the player who was never even considered as an option….even a month ago.
Despite the fact that Eric Mangini has not – and probably will not – name McCoy as his starting QB, it's becoming obvious that the rookie from Texas possesses the intangibles found in successful NFL leaders.
Obviously McCoy's limited time as a starter doesn't offer the kind of evidence necessary to annoit him as the team's franchise QB, or even as its current starter. However, clearly the Browns may have found something special in McCoy.
Although McCoy has definitely played above expectations during his first four starts, it's worth noting that there is still a lot of improvement to be had.
For example, McCoy has shown a tendency to sail some passes, especially those thrown down the field. In the case of last Sunday's loss to the Jets, McCoy missed badly on a downfield throw to Mohammed Massaquoi – a play that could have sealed the game for the Browns.
However, the point here is not McCoy's weaknesses.
So far during his short tenure as starter, McCoy has exhibited a mostly accurate touch on underneath passes – the kinds that have come to define the Browns' offense under Brian Daboll. Adding to McCoy's arsenal are an underrated mobility and great sense of balance.
But, to offer up McCoy as the long-sought QB savior, the greatest argument that can be made lies in the unique sense of leadership he has shown over the past few games.
After last Sunday's gut-wrenching marathon, McCoy offered the following:
"It was just a hard fought game. It really is. I mean, the Jets, you have to give them all the credit in the world. For me, there's certainly things that I feel I could have done better. You know, I should have made some plays when it counted. You know, especially in overtime. I can definitely stand up here and say I can take some of that. It's not Stuckey's fault. It's not anyone's fault on the offense. I was the one leading it. I need to make some more plays."
While some of McCoy's words could be considered as Texas-bred overinflated selflessness, the message he delivered was clear.
McCoy is easily the leader of this current team.
Simply because McCoy took up for his teammate – regardless of the validity of his statement – he has already shown that he truly understands what it takes to both act like and become a winning quarterback in the NFL.
Or, could you imagine the likes of Derek Anderson saying the following?
"I just told them look in my eyes and believe. We're going to go down and score and tie it up and we're going to win in overtime. They all looked at me and I told them one at a time, one play at a time, we don't have to do anything special. We have timeouts, receivers can get extra yardage. We have timeouts. Let's just play. And for the most part, we marched it right down and scored."
Or, how about his teammates actually believing it?
While the jury is still out regarding McCoy's potential as a starting QB, it's obvious that his on-field poise and off-field character are contributing to the Browns' recent swing of success. Regardless of whether McCoy is the starter for only next week, or next season, it is becoming clear that it's time to once again ask the age-old question.
Only this time, we may get an answer we like.