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Weeden vs. McCoy: Why the Cleveland Browns' QB Competition Is a Non-Story

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Weeden vs. McCoy: Why the Cleveland Browns' QB Competition Is a Non-Story
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Whatever the reason, Colt McCoy and head coach/offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur were not on the same page last season.

When the Cleveland Browns selected Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden with the No. 22 pick in this year’s NFL draft, an already well-documented quarterback “controversy” emerged.

I use the term "controversy" loosely because it has been much ado about nothing. Instead of reporting mere facts, the media constantly asks about the two quarterbacks who are "competing" for the starting job, with preconceived notions that Weeden will inevitably be the starter.

It should not be a surprise, and there should not be any significant developments, other than Weeden starting. It is pretty easy to infer from the outside that this is not a competition at all.

The Browns invested a first-round pick in a quarterback who will turn 29 in October, so not to throw him into the fire right away does not make any sense, espcially considering where he was drafted. If he cannot handle it, he was not worth the pick.

That is nearly the consensus among fans, but what is the coaching staff going to say? They are going to say that it is an open competition.

The front office and coaching staff will give PR-manufactured, rave reviews about both quarterbacks, and Colt McCoy will continue to drive home the point that he will "compete as hard as he can."

Weeden himself has said the team will not start him simply because of how early he was drafted, and while there is some truth to that, the Browns are essentially making sure Weeden will not be an embarrassing miss and a bust in the league before they thrust him into the starting role.

A Browns 2011 offensive staple: McCoy completing a hitch route to tight end Ben Watson.

 

Judging from reports that he took the first team snaps in OTAs in May, it seems he is picking up the offense relatively well, at least enough to take away reps from incumbent starter McCoy.

The notion that this was a significant development, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer's beat writer Mary Kay Cabot, creates a mountain out of a molehill. The truly shocking development, which would be months away when the team is much closer to the start of the season, would be if McCoy were still taking the first-team snaps, and if Weeden was still struggling.

The Browns evaluated the quarterback position at the end of the season, and in the draft saw an opportunity to upgrade the position. It was not to add depth—it was to nab a new starting quarterback in the first round.

Until Weeden shows signs of not being what the Browns thought he was—a first-round talent—eyewitness reports by experts on how he looks in practice should be the only stories.

It is relatively unsurprising that the Browns wanted to upgrade the most important position in football based on where the offense ranked last season. Blame the offensive line, blame the drama in the backfield, blame a lack of playmakers. Do whatever you want.

The point is: The unit put up 13.6 points per game under McCoy's direction, and ranked 29th in the NFL in total offense, averaging less than 300 yards. McCoy could not pick up the West Coast offense quickly enough for the Browns to install anything new throughout the season.

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What an assertion, right? How do we know this to be true? According to NFL.com analyst Michael Lombardi's hilarious story ahead of Week 9, the Browns' offense had become "legendary" for its predictability, as the most stubbornly pure West Coast system just for the sake of installing it.

This shows the stubbornness of head coach Pat Shurmur, who insisted upon implementing his system no matter how frequently opposing defenses knew exactly what was coming. The fact that McCoy was not ever allowed to audible presumably shows distrust between the quarterback and head coach, who also calls the plays.

Evidence of the aforementioned stubbornness and distrust came to light during one of the best games of McCoy's season in 2011, as reported by Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer.

McCoy and the offense were in position to kick a winning field goal against the St. Louis Rams, Shurmur's most recent team. However, Shurmur did not allow McCoy to audible out of a running play that handed the ball to tight end Alex Smith, lined up at fullback.

Smith had never carried the ball in his seven-year NFL career, and he and McCoy fumbled the exchange, nearly costing them the game. Minutes later, a botched 22-yard field goal attempt resulted in a 13-12 loss anyway.

This lack of creative freedom for the quarterback in the offense must have been a contributing factor to drafting Weeden. Or maybe Shurmur planned to have McCoy as the long-term answer, but wanted him to learn the system the first year no matter how unacceptable the offense looked on Sundays. Or maybe McCoy just did not get it.

 

That's the most important thing here: no one knows for sure, because it is all speculation. There is no need to continue pouring kerosene on the fire that has already unnecessarily ignited for the Browns.

The organization has enough problems, and creating a "controversy" will only distract the franchise from moving in the right direction.

Shurmur considered McCoy a rookie last season, due to learning a new system. Meanwhile, a fellow Ohio NFL quarterback who was actually a rookie in Cincinnati, learned a West Coast style of offense, and took his team to the playoffs.

All of this conjecture aside, Weeden and McCoy are competing for the starting job, according to the organization, but also according to the organization, they want and expect Weeden to win the starting job.

Football czar Mike Holmgren assessed the situation rather perfectly:

"You can write about it and talk about it however you want. But I think when we say 'open competition,' the best guy is going to play. That's the way it is, but we drafted Brandon Weeden to be that guy. You draft a guy 22nd in the draft, you think he's gonna be that guy."

That's all the organization has said on the matter, and all it will continue to say. The media must stop speculating, cease the temptation to ask even more of the exact same questions, and wait to see who is playing quarterback at the beginning of the first preseason game.

Questions can then be asked in order to get confirm who the Browns intend to start, but until the team definitively announces otherwise, Weeden is the Browns' hopeful victor of the QB competition.

Any other development beyond that is simply not a story.

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