The 2012 NFL offseason is, for those teams not fortunate enough to earn a playoff berth, upon us. Let the quarterback controversies begin.
For the record, I'll state yet again that personally, I have no interest in giving up on McCoy at this point. At the risk of beating a dead Colt (er, horse), it isn't truly possible to accurately evaluate his potential with the current, let's say, troubled, surrounding cast he has on his offense. He also doesn't get much help from the guy calling his plays.
I also cringe a little at the overused term "franchise QB". It's a label that is all too frequently slapped on players prematurely as well as the root of endless speculation about young quarterbacks who are too green to have such a tag (even potentially) applied to them.
In reality it always goes something like, every guy is the franchise quarterback until he's not, then all of a sudden he's the Antichrist, when more likely, he was never anywhere close to either of those roles for his team in the first place. Over-hyping and then over-criticizing players of average talent is a huge problem when it comes to this particular issue.
But in spite of all that, because the Browns have yet to officially give any indication that they're willing to fully commit to McCoy in 2012, the possibilities of what they might do instead of putting their faith in McCoy need to be discussed.
Personally, I've yet to see an option presented at the position that looks solidly like a better alternative than giving McCoy one more season, but the Browns may have to take a risk on someone whose potential isn't clear to find that out, whether it's through the draft or free agency.
I remain firmly on Team McCoy, but until we know for certain that the Browns do as well, we have to take a look at the other candidates in the battle to become the next Browns' starting quarterback.
Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who is slated to become a free agent this offseason, is at the top of many teams' wish lists. Flynn is perhaps the league's best backup, and one of the few QBs on this winter's free agent market with starter-caliber potential who isn't a near lock to return to their old team. Whether he's as overrated as some people seem to think or not, Flynn will be a hot commodity.
Green Bay is expected to franchise Flynn and then trade him, driving up the price tag for would-be suitors like the Browns. To acquire him, the Browns would likely lose a second-round (or higher) pick for the 2013 draft (and possibly an additional later pick) and be forced into a long-term contract with him that would probably exceed $40MM.
In other words, it's a very high price for someone with no proven track record of success as an NFL starter.
The price on Flynn compared to the meager guarantees he brings seems far too high for the Browns to consider. That being said though, there is a solid argument out there that says that sooner or later, the Browns are going to have to take a chance on something if they want to compete. Just as they often do on the field, the Browns have often, in recent years, played the free agent/trade/draft market not to lose rather than to win.
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The real question here isn't about whether it's worth it to spend that kind of money to get a long-term solution in place at quarterback—the answer to that question is always "yes". The actual question at hand is whether Flynn could actually be that long-term solution.
The answer, frustratingly, is likely, "who knows?" Fans seem to be divided on the issue. Personally, while I understand that he has little experience to go on, I have to quibble with those who think the interest in Flynn is only about one game where he threw six touchdown passes.
I've liked Flynn's potential for a long time, dating back to well before the six-touchdown game. His value has been apparent in preseason contests, brief appearances in the regular season, and even in college. Anyone can have one good game. Flynn has actually had several. They just weren't games too many people paid attention to.
However, that being said, I don't think this makes Flynn worth the asking price. It's more than one game to go on for evaluation, but it it still isn't enough to justify the cost.
The one thing you can say for certain about Flynn is that he'll be the most expensive option at QB on the table for the Browns.
Flynn could well be worth the price, but the risk of money and future draft picks seems too great for a team with so many other needs to fill.
Let's just get everything out in the open right off the bat: I absolutely hate the idea of the Browns bringing in free agent quarterback Kyle Orton.
Orton has something in common with Matt Flynn in that he hasn't proven that he can be a viable long-term solution as a starting quarterback. What makes him even less likely to ultimately prove that down the road is that unlike Flynn, Orton has had plenty of chances to establish himself as such a player.
True, Orton has been thrust into a number of very bad situations in his career, and he's also shown some flashes of good play, but hey, so did Kelly Holcomb, and I'm pretty sure he mows lawns now.
All joking aside though, the point is that Orton might cost less than Flynn, but comparatively, he's more overpriced for what he likely has to offer.
Sure, Orton could come in and outperform McCoy initially, maybe have a really solid season or two. But would he be such a significant improvement that it would be worth the price? I very much doubt it.
The bottom line here is that the Browns already have two guys on their roster who are 50-75 percent of an actual quarterback. They don't need another guy who, at the end of his career, will likely top out at "gap filler between franchise QBs" for whatever teams he plays for.
Ultimately, this may not turn out to be true, but at the moment, the odds on McCoy being a viable, consistent starter are probably better than they are on Orton. If nothing else, Orton just isn't enough of an upgrade to be worth throwing more money at the position without finding a truly viable solution at the spot which will continue to be describable as viable for longer than one season. Thus it makes sense for the Browns to pass on Orton.
The same goes for all other free agent quarterbacks slated to come on the market in 2012 who would truly be gettable if the Browns were interested. Drew Brees will obviously never actually be available on the open market, and guys like Chad Henne, Rex Grossman and A.J. Feeley aren't even worth discussing.
The third option for replacing McCoy as the Browns starting quarterback is the internal solution, or what we might disaffectionately label as the "cop-out solution". That would be perennial back-up Seneca Wallace.
Let me start by saying this: I keep really trying to like Seneca Wallace. I want to like him, I really do. But then he always manages to get in the way of allowing that to happen.
Look at it this way: If you think McCoy is inconsistent, have a look at Wallace's track record. At best, he's about as predictable as a roulette wheel. At worst, he's proven he can put together three-game stretches that suggest to the world that he's the second coming of Todd Philcox.
It isn't that Wallace doesn't have his strong points—he does—he just has far fewer of them than McCoy does, and more importantly, there's no sense at this point in the Browns switching out one disappointing quarterback for another. Taking away McCoy's starting job and giving it to Wallace is at worst a downgrade and at best swapping deck chairs on the Titanic.
Wallace is a decent backup, but he's already occupying the biggest role on a football team that he can occupy successfully. Additionally, I don't like the idea of rewarding a player who pouted and whined about not getting the starting job this season despite not earning it and then going a step further by dragging his feet and refusing to mentor or help McCoy in any way.
Wallace is a perfectly acceptable backup, but he is in no way an upgrade over McCoy. If the Browns aren't looking to make a move externally at the position, they're better off keeping things as they are with McCoy as the starter and Wallace as the backup.
Just in case you didn't get enough Madden Curse this season, how about a Heisman Curse in 2012?
Obviously, the supposed Heisman Curse isn't a reason to assume a player will be a bust, nor is being a Heisman winner a reason to assume a player is a good draft choice. Just as there is little evidence to suggest a Heisman Curse truly exists, there is also little evidence to suggest that the Heisman is an accurate predictor or future success in the NFL.
This of course, brings us to the possibility of the Browns drafting Robert Griffin III with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
As tempting as the idea of drafting a first-round pick caliber quarterback to fix the problem is, it is far from a fool-proof solution to the Browns' quarterback woes.
Much of the appeal of Griffin is that his scouting report indicates that he is solid in areas where McCoy has fallen short. The problem is that he also falls below the desired level of ability and potential in other areas where McCoy hasn't. In an effort to fix the specific frustrations we have with McCoy, we might create other areas of frustration by drafting Griffin instead.
I will say that as options aside from McCoy go, this one certainly beats overpaying for Orton or giving Wallace his 300th chance to prove he isn't exactly who we already know he is. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean it's a truly smart move.
I won't say I hate the idea of drafting Griffin, but I can't really say I like it either. The Browns will have many suitors for that fourth pick among teams more desperate for help at QB than they are, and there could be a deal too good to pass up offered. There's also a chance (albeit a fairly small one) that Griffin will be off the board before the Browns pick.
Aside from Griffin, the draft doesn't look like a good place for the Browns to find a new starter this year. They aren't likely to find a replacement for McCoy in the third or fourth round (at least one who can take on the job at this point in time), and there is little else worth looking at in the first round.
With Andrew Luck off the board when the Browns pick, Griffin will be the best and only option for the Browns at QB in the first round. He probably isn't a good enough quarterback option to justify using the fourth overall pick when the team has so many more pressing, immediate needs at other positions.
Thus, for the time being, the winner of the race to replace McCoy is, well, McCoy.
There are plenty of options available that might ultimately pan out better for the Browns than McCoy will, but there are few if any that look promising enough to take a chance on given whatever their specific cost (be it money, trades, draft slot or contract length) would be to the Browns.
Perhaps a highly appealing solution will present itself sometime between now and the start of the 2012 season. But until that happens, In McCoy We Trust.