BEREA — As I watched the Browns and Colts battle Sunday in Indianapolis, I couldn't help but think about the quarterback position for both teams.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how bad the Colts are without Peyton Manning. Think about it, with Manning, many think the Colts have a shot to not only go to the playoffs, but deep into the playoffs. With essentially the same team, the Colts went 10-6 in the regular season and 12-4 the year before.
Without Manning, the Colts could be one of the worst teams in the NFL. Ironically, if they continue to play like they have in the first two games, they could be staring at Andrew Luck with the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Which brings me to my point — the position is more important than ever.
The 2011 season gives the Browns the chance to see if Colt McCoy is the franchise quarterback the Browns have yearned for since the 1980's.
No, I am not saying that McCoy needs to be as good as Manning for the Browns to be successful, but the importance of the position is obvious. I tend to blame the Colts for not having enough other parts to their team together to withstand as devastating an injury as they have — particularly with regards to a backup quarterback. Why is Curtis Painter on the team if he isn't good enough to step in when Manning went down?
As the Browns are trying to build something that will last, they have to be careful to not rely so much on the quarterback — whoever it might be — that the team completely falls apart due to injury to one guy.
In that regard, a guy like Seneca Wallace is a much better backup than what the Colts currently have.
McCoy has shown the leadership, poise and presence, even though he's played in just 10 NFL games. He has an 82.2 rating through two games and has been efficient. He's only turned the ball over once and was 69 percent accurate against the Colts. The jury is still out on the rest of his game, but he has shown thus far that he is best when he moves around and can make plays on the run.
Eventually, he needs to stay more in the pocket, but as he grows into the NFL game, it is a natural progression.
That's why I feel this year is about McCoy's development. If he can stay healthy the whole season, the Browns will have 24 games to evaluate him on. By the end of the season, most involved with the Browns, including the fans, will have a pretty good feel for him.
That's why the determining factor in 2011 isn't all about wins and losses. Remember, Manning was 3-13 in his first year at the helm of the Colts. The Browns currently have two first round draft choices in 2012 if they decide they need to go in another direction at quarterback.
I remember in Bernie Kosar's rookie year, even though the Browns finished the season 8-8, you had the feeling the Browns were on the rise as pieces started to emerge. Obviously, one of the key pieces was the quarterback. In three of the next four seasons, the Browns went to the AFC Championship game.
The hardest part of the evaluation process to me is the supporting cast. With the offensive line in transition because of injuries and no established go-to wide receivers, you can't totally evaluate whether McCoy has everything needed to be successful. The last time I checked the roster I didn't see the names Paul Warfield and Dante Lavelli.
Hopefully, the Browns line will mesh and keep McCoy upright. Also, if Greg Little, Josh Cribbs or Mohamed Massaquoi or one of the other receivers will emerge as a legitimate play-maker that will make the evaluation process easier.
If the journey goes well this year, it could be a ride the Browns are on for a long time.