Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nothing to lose

It has been 10 days since the Browns' stunning victory over the New Orleans Saints and the glow is finally beginning to wear off. Hard to shake the feeling. That's how profoundly unexpected surprises can affect a fan.

Maybe that glow remains a large part of the reason I still believe Colt McCoy must remain as the starting quarterback of this team for the rest of the season.

When the rookie became the Browns' starting quarterback by default a few weeks ago, the prevailing feeling was the experience would be way too much, way too soon. Just another case of bad timing when he became the man.

His first two starts couldn't have been any tougher or more demanding. The dreaded Pittsburgh Steelers, still owners of one of the best defenses in the National Football League, and the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. Both were road games.

To be honest, I feared the worst. Two outstanding defensive teams. He doesn't stand a chance. He'll be overmatched. What a terrible way to inaugurate your professional football career. He'll be scarred forever.

I was wrong.

Sure, it's only two games. Certainly not enough upon which to build a portfolio. The National Football League is just starting the McCoy dossier. No need to get excited yet, right?

Uh, no.

McCoy shows every indication of being an extremely resourceful quarterback, one who has the superb tendency of overachieving. He's small by NFL standards, does not have a strong throwing arm and won't overwhelm you with his skill set.

Kind of reminds me a little of Brian Sipe, who came from practically nowhere in the late 1970s and early 1980s and provided some highly entertaining football for Cleveland fans. Sipe, too, was small, did not have a strong arm and didn't overwhelm you with his skill set. All he did was make plays. And win.

Against the Steelers, McCoy racked up nearly 300 passing yards. Not many quarterbacks can boast those stats against Pittsburgh. In the Saints victory, it's not so much what he did. It's what he didn't do.

He didn't do anything that would have contributed to another loss. The Browns, for one of the rare times in the last several seasons, turned in a zero-turnover effort. Someone has to take credit for that. It might as well be McCoy.

For a team that has died way too many deaths because of turnovers, that is a significant statistic. It cannot be emphasized enough that the team that best takes care of the ball wins more often than not.

And when a time-consuming drive was needed in the fourth quarter against the Saints, McCoy stepped up and delivered.

Now that's he's got his foot in the door and it wasn't chopped off, it's time to squeeze the rest of him through that door. At the risk of sounding repetitious, it's time to see what he can do on more than just a hit-or-miss basis.

Yes, Seneca Wallace is healthy and ready to go. But he's not the future of this team. He and Jake Delhomme, also not the future, were not brought here to be McCoy's babysitter. If they are here to teach, then something is missing because until he took over, all McCoy learned was how not to win ball games.

Mike Holmgren has to be excited at what he sees from the kid. And yet, he throws up a caution flag. "Before anyone anoints anybody, he's played two games," the Browns' president said recently.

Who's anointing? McCoy still faces a long road. All I'm saying is that he's gotten off to a rather surprising start. Who knows? He might very well fall and stumble if he starts against the New England Patriots and New York Jets the next two Sundays.

But if he doesn't start, we'll never know.

Again, what does Eric Mangini have to lose by starting McCoy? Another game? So what. He's already 1-4 with Delhomme and Wallace as his starting quarterbacks.

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