Finally to the fun position.
It's the one that the media and fans hitch their wagons to. The quarterback is the guy who gets the most praise when a team is winning and the most criticism when they are losing. He is either savior or scapegoat. Right now in Cleveland, the starter finds himself playing the role of scapegoat.
I don't need to go in to explaining the lack of continuity and success out of the quarterback position since the return of the franchise as it has been well documented. Before you write off my analysis of Colt McCoy, understand these two things: 1. I wanted the Browns to draft him in the early second round and 2. I feel like he must perform better to remain a starter.
Colt McCoy is certainly a polarizing figure in the Cleveland sports world because on one side, there is a guy who is easy to embrace: Colt the young man, the leader who won more games than anybody in college, the high-character guy who seems to be willing to work harder than anybody in football to be the best he can be.
On the other hand, you have Colt the quarterback, who at times flashes brilliance and toughness, but at other times looks lost, makes bad decisions and under throws receivers.
One thing is certain: To win a Super Bowl it takes a powerful sports car, and you don't let just anybody drive it. Choosing a quarterback who can orchestrate the offense, take care of the football and lead his teammates in the midst of adversity with a calm and confident demeanor becomes instrumental.
It's time to evaluate Colt McCoy, but to do so we'll make the assumption that the other positions of need have been addressed. This allows for a fair evaluation that can determine whether Colt can be, or should be the guy for this team.
This characteristic has been beaten to death when talking about McCoy. He shows leadership, charisma, confidence and passion. In a quarterback, you want all of these things. Colt seems to possess all of the intangibles you could want at the position, but intangibles alone do not produce touchdowns.
In a pass heavy league, it is important to be able to throw the ball accurately and with velocity in order to fit it into tight windows. NFL secondaries are simply too good at closing on the ball to afford a quarterback enough time to throw the ball without velocity.
This is not so much an issue of being able to throw the football far as opposed to hard. With the amount of time a quarterback is typically given in the pocket to survey the field, there is rarely a need to complete a pass of over 50 yards through the air.
This is certainly something that happens from time to time, but while many question Colt's arm strength, he is capable of throwing the ball far enough. The real issue is that when throwing the deep ball, Colt does not throw the ball with great velocity which gives defenders the opportunity to recover and close on the football. That makes it difficult to complete the pass, especially to average or below average receivers.
This is probably the second most often discussed weakness of McCoy, and it does have at least some merit. It is important for a quarterback to be able to see over the offensive line and throw over the outstretched hands of defensive linemen.
Being tall is not an absolute necessity, as Drew Brees has demonstrated, but it does help. Shorter quarterbacks must find ways to see passing lanes, perhaps by moving side to side in the pocket. While quarterbacks such as Colt McCoy and Baylor's Robert Griffin III lack above average height, they are mobile and have excellent footwork to create opportunities to find open receivers.
There are a number of directions the Browns can go with the quarterback position. Tom Heckert has stopped short of committing to McCoy absolutely. Instead, he chose to state that right now Colt would be the starting quarterback. This leaves room for adding another quarterback through free agency or the draft.
There are really only three ways the draft can go. Obviously the first would be to spend the No. 4 overall pick (or trade up) to draft Robert Griffin III. If Heckert believes that Griffin is far and above a better player at the position than McCoy, it will be worth every penny to take him this high.
On the other hand, even if he is only slightly better, it presents the economic problem of spending a high pick on a quarterback, which means the team cannot address other positions such as receiver with a Top Five talent.
If Heckert believes McCoy can be a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, it would seem more prudent to let another team draft Griffin even if he too is a Super Bowl caliber quarterback. If McCoy can be the guy, there is the opportunity to trade down from the No. 4 pick to a team looking to take Griffin, and while they certainly do not want to drop out of the Top 10, they can demand a high price to a desperate team looking to move up even a few spots.
The second scenario is to draft Ryan Tannehill, perhaps with the No. 22 pick or trading up a few spots. While drafting Tannehill will not cost the Browns a Top Five pick or as much cap space, it does create a situation where the team must look toward starting their first-round rookie quarterback without the luxury of knowing if he is ready to step in right away.
Tannehill is a curious prospect because he is physically gifted but rough around the edges. This option could be potentially hazardous—the possibility of Colt McCoy being the better option is more likely. Still, a team can never have too many good quarterbacks because they hold value through the trade market and coming off the bench.
So if Heckert feels Tannehill is worth a first-round pick and available, it is certainly worth considering.
Finally, there is the option of drafting a quarterback in a later round. This would cost far less and allow the team to address other needs with earlier picks, but this would replicate the draft in which Colt McCoy was drafted in the third round in the first place. A later round quarterback could have the potential to be a Super Bowl-caliber guy, but it is less likely and would undoubtedly require more patience in developing a raw prospect.
This year, the Browns have a considerable amount of cap space to work with. The option of free agency is at least in play at the quarterback position. Green Bay backup Matt Flynn is by far the most sought after free agent quarterback—unless Peyton Manning is released by the Colts, which at this point seems unlikely.
On one hand, free agency allows the Browns to acquire an experienced NFL quarterback without wasting a draft pick. On the other, it means paying a hefty price as a result of teams trying to outbid each other. If Green Bay applies the franchise tag to Flynn, it would cost the Browns a valuable draft pick anyway and there is no guarantee that his limited appearances will translate to winning a great deal of games in the league.
Stick with Colt
This option is very possible and for good reason.
While this past season saw McCoy seemingly backslide, it can in part be attributed to the injury to Steinbach which hurt pass protection as well as the running game, a new system being put in to place without a full offseason to develop it and key injuries to Peyton Hillis which made it difficult to run the ball effectively and control the time of possession.
Sticking with Colt only makes sense—if given the right circumstances, he can win a Super Bowl. As we've already discussed, the only way to win football games consistently is to score touchdowns.
With a healthy offensive line, an upgraded right tackle, a deep threat receiver to keep defenses from stacking the box with safeties, a steady running game that will benefit from the return of Steinbach and the threat of a big play receiver which keeps the defense from playing up to stop the run, Colt McCoy could potentially win a lot of football games.
On top of this, sticking with McCoy means having the extra cap space and draft picks to address other needs. This holistic approach to solving the offensive woes only works if Colt McCoy is capable of being a Super Bowl quarterback under the right circumstances.
To put it in other words, either the Browns need to get an incredibly gifted driver to operate an upgraded Ford Mustang or they hope the driver they already have can do more behind the wheel of a Ferrari.