The Browns' Decision—A Coach's View of Colt McCoy vs. Robert Griffin III
The Cleveland Browns are going to have to decide soon if moving up to get Robert Griffin III is worth the picks that they will have to sacrifice to make the deal.
That decision will be based on comparing Colt McCoy to Griffin, and the relative costs of each. While McCoy does not cost picks, he does not provide the fan excitement that the drafting of Griffin would generate.
The Rams are expecting multiple first round picks. Cleveland has the inside track because it has the fourth and 22nd picks in this draft.
Colt has good speed, and when he was drafted, had a good sense of the pocket. He has lost a lot of the natural protection clock, however, due to the number of times he was hit.
When he senses pressure, he has the ability to avoid a tackle. He will keep his eyes down field sometimes to find a receiver. At other times, he will just run. He has developed less of a tendency to look and more of a tendency to run after the disastrous season the O-line had last year.
McCoy throws the ball well on the move, but does not keep his eyes downfield as well as you would like. He is inconsistent at squaring his shoulders and throwing—that makes his throws inaccurate.
Griffin has excellent speed and a good pocket sense as well. He has a lot experience running from bad blocking. He does a good job of keeping his eyes down field and squaring to throw. He was often limited by the Baylor O to just one receiver on a roll-out. The result was he either passed to the one guy, or ran. He will be more effective in the NFL.
Arm strength has been the most talked about aspect of Colt’s game—realistically, he is below average in arm strength. While a QB can be a winner without above average arm strength, it is not the rule.
Colt can make a lot of the throws required by NFL teams, but he struggles to throw deep. His long throws do not have the ball speed to get to the receiver before coverage comes—they tend to be rainbows that limit the ability of the receiver to get yards after the catch.
There are ways to improve arm strength up to 115% of the original measure, and most QBs that lack good arm strength work on it. Even with that improvement, he would only have average arm strength.
A good part of increasing arm strength is developing proper footwork. Colt has developed footwork issues, which reduces the use of the body to help impact the ball speed. If he gets his arm developed and refines his footwork, he can get close to average throwing-strength.
In the pocket, almost every QB needs to find passing lanes between the bigs. Colt throws three quarters overhand most of the time. He needs to standardize his throwing motion to become more accurate.
Colt needs to get the upper and lower body together to become more accurate. His anticipation of pressure on every snap, even when it's not there, forces him into bad footwork. He will throw off his back foot, front foot or in an unbalanced position.
This is not going to get better until he feels he has decent protection on most plays. Frankly, that is not possible with the O-line that played most of the 2011 season. When you are running for your life, it's hard to concentrate on mechanics.
A more worrisome issue is McCoy’s development of “happy feet” in 2011. Happy feet are not that happy. He has developed a bounce—which is the last thing a West Coast Offense (WCO) QB should be doing. The WCO depends on timing passes being thrown on the third, fifth or seventh step. Colt, however, holds the ball way too long. Part of that is the fact that the receivers cannot get open, but the rest is due to his indecision.
That leads to a lot of sacks that are not the fault of the O-line.
Griffin has very quick release, with the best arm strength in the draft. He has outstanding balance, and he recovers quickly when play breaks down, throwing accurately down field. Usually, QBs with above average arm strength do not have the touch to throw a catch-able check down pass, but his short pass is very catchable.
His footwork is inconsistent, however, and when he is inaccurate, it is often because his footwork let him down. He has little experience with three, five and seven step drops. But he is extremely intelligent and coachable—he is more than capable of learning correct footwork. While he took some snaps under center most of those plays were runs.
Griffin is very solid on the upper body movement. He naturally throws overhand, but adjusts this throws to avoid getting passes blocked. He is also a natural at squaring the shoulders to throw, which is critical to long and intermediate throw accuracy. He holds the ball high looking for the open guy, and has one of the quickest deliveries I have seen in recent years.
In Texas, Colt had above average vision. Despite his size, he was able to see open players down field and get the ball to them. In 2010, he seemed to have much better vision of the field.
This year, however, he was staring down the receivers. A lot of that was due to a lack of protection—he did not feel he had time to go through his progressions. With better protection and more reliable outside receivers, the number of check-downs should be reduced next season, even if Colt is under center.
Griffin has outstanding field vision. He spots open players all over the field. While he is not a big progression guy, he is at his best when the breaks down. With a flick of the wrist he can throw the ball to any part of the field.
He will look off safeties to get them to move away from his intended target when he has time. He will stand in and let a receiver get open, even when it means he will take a hit. With his arm strength, he can hit any receiver he sees.
The measure of accuracy in a West Coast Offense is different than with almost any other system. The WCO demands the WR get to the spot.
Given the lack of experience and talent at WR on the Browns’ 2011 roster, in my opinion it is impossible to judge Colt’s accuracy overall. He had a 60.8 completion percentage in 2010, which this year it fell to 57.2. Neither percentage is good enough in the WCO.
Colt is not accurate with defenders in his face, and that happened way too often in 2011. Most QBs hate pressure up the middle because it eliminates their ability to step up in the pocket. The two young guards that played for the Browns were turnstiles in pass protection.
When Colt did have time to throw, he was not as accurate as he should be, however. Part of that is due to mechanics, which I discussed already. The rest was due to him feeling pressure that was not there. When a QB is hit as often as Colt, he often feels pressure that does not exist.
Colt has lost his feel of pressure in the pocket, because so often he has not had any.
On the roll-out, he was equally inconsistent. There were times he made some outstanding throws. Other times, however, he missed open receivers. Again, he had very inconsistent mechanics, which did account for the differences in accuracy. At Texas, he was very efficient outside of the pocket; but he developed bad habits in 2011.
Colt was limited in his ability to roll out because the right side of the line was the least effective at pass protection. RT Tony Pashos played on one leg most of the season, and while he was a lot better than the starter last year—Jon St. Clair—he was a shell of the Pashos the team spent a lot of money to get.
The last and another major impact on his accuracy was the number of drops Colt suffered—in 2011, the Browns ranked among the top four in receiver drops. The combination of inexperience and lack of talent resulted far too many drops.
Griffin is extremely accurate both in the pocket and on the run. He does not anticipate throws but very few college QBs do. In the NFL he has the accuracy to anticipate the WR getting open and throwing the ball before the last cut of the receiver. The O game plan at Baylor did not involve that type of throw.
But Griffin has the ball speed to get the ball into the hands of the receiver in time to get run after the catch. He has the accuracy to throw the WRs open. He makes back shoulder throws and under throws to lead the WR away from the coverage. He puts the ball in the hands of the WRs and hits guys on the run by leading them to allow maximum yards after the catch.
Early in the season, Colt was scanning the field. In most cases all year he waited until a WR came open to throw the ball—an indication he did not trust his receivers to get open. The WRs were not able to get open in time, which led to him to hold the ball too long. Colt was more decisive in 2010, however, when he had better pass protection.
Colt also has trouble with the speed of the game. That is not unusual for a first year starter, and the game would have slowed down for him sooner with better protection. As the season wore on and he accumulated more hits, he tended to abandon the progression and just throw the check-down. That resulted in the offense’s inability to advance the ball.
By the end of his season, he was staring down his receivers. That not only reduces the chance of a completion, it also tends to get his receivers hurt.
He was not reading his progressions because he did not feel he had time. That resulted in more picks and defended passes, because the safety read his eyes and came to double the receiver.
I love Griffin’s mental strength. He played with one of the worst defenses in college football—he has the attitude that he needs to score a TD on every possession.
He never seems to get nervous, and he has the number one most important quality as a QB—he is clutch. His comeback against Oklahoma—leading the team to a TD in the last 57 seconds, after his D gave up a late TD—was just one example. He is never too far behind to make a comeback.
He was the leader of his team. I have always preferred QBs from lesser college powers—QBs out of Ohio State or USC almost always have the best players on the field. At Baylor, Griffin very seldom had the best roster.
Griffin is not a West Coast Offense guy, but he graduated and got his Masters in four years at Baylor while playing football for three seasons. He is very bright and is exactly the kind of guy you would like to be the face of any franchise.
It really doesn’t matter what we think about Colt—Holmgren and Heckerd will make the only decision that matters. I think they have decided they want someone else to be the QB.
It is possible that the team will trade up to get Griffin, but I doubt that. They will more likely bring in a low-priced veteran, or take a rookie in the third or fourth round of the draft. The problem is, the QB you get either has a great arm but no accuracy, or accuracy with a chicken wing for a passing arm.
I believe USC QB Matt Barkley is the guy they really wanted. He has a background in the WCO and has worked more under center than any other QB in this or the next draft. But he decided to stay at USC for the 2012 season.
I think Colt can be a moderately successful QB in the NFL, but is better suited to be a backup.
The Browns will have to trade up to get Griffin. In my opinion, he will prove out to be worth whatever it costs. There are the other four teams that might try to trade up to get Griffin.
I doubt the Browns will be willing to give up what it will take to get Griffin, but they should, unless it involves three first round picks. Manning being released will help keep the cost down, unless he goes to the Cardinals. Even if he does go there, the release of QB Kevin Kolb will be a possibility for one of the teams looking for a new QB.
That is what I think. Tell us what you think.
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Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He edits http://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on http://www.eBooks-Library.com/Contemporary/ and a non-fiction work at http://www.merriam-press.com/.