After allowing GM Tom Heckert to make two questionable selections with the first two picks and a very expensive trade for an oft-injured running back in the second round, the Browns needed something to get the sports media machine back on their side.
Mel Kiper was down on them, the local newspapers were grumbling, and even the bloggers were on the attack.
The ESPN announcers had been pulling for the Browns to make McCoy the selection since the 38th pick in the second round, when they made a reach for a safety, T.J. Ward, who was projected as a third rounder at the time of his selection.
When it was announced that they had made a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles for the 59th pick in the second round, ESPN draft guru Kiper and analyst Steve Young immediately stated that it was made with McCoy in mind.
Wrong! The Browns crossed everybody up and took Tennessee running back Montario Hardesty, who had an excellent year in 2009 but had some injury concerns. The trade was expensive, costing the Browns the 71st pick and two of their fifth round selections.
The Browns started the draft with 10 picks and after two rounds had three players and only five picks left. So the Browns had made three picks, two who weren't projected to go as high as the Browns picked them.
One of the picks, cornerback Joe Haden, provoked rumors of a disagreement between Heckert and coach Eric Mangini, who allegedly wanted Boise State cornerback Kyle Wilson, as reported by ESPN reporter Michael Smith. The third was a running back who cost three draft picks and played a position that wasn't even a serious need, according to most publications and prognosticators.
To top it all off, they had ignored both Colt McCoy and Notre Dame signal caller Jimmy Clausen twice: McCoy with the 38th pick and the 59th choice, Clausen with the No. 7 and the No. 38 picks.
Slowly the picks went by and Clausen was snapped up by the Carolina Panthers, but McCoy continued his free fall. Finally the Browns came up again at pick No. 85. Texas coach Mack Brown came out and gave the pick away before it was read, and Colt McCoy was a Brown.
Immediately, the fact the Browns picked Joe Haden when they had just traded for Sheldon Brown was forgotten. Picking T.J. Ward at No. 38, when absolutely no one had him going before the third round, faded quickly from memory. Montario Hardesty and the outrageous price tag he came with? Fuhgetaboutit!!!!!
The Cleveland Browns finally had their quarterback of the future! The velvet ropes had parted and bestowed upon us a 6'1", 215-lb. NCAA record-setter who, while a proven leader and winner, was also a product of the spread and has an average arm.
None of that mattered, because in Cleveland the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns is the most important man in the city. Small forward of the Cleveland Cavaliers doesn't even compare. Cleanup hitter for the Indians? Take a seat on the bench. No. 1 starter? We're gonna trade you when it's time for free agency anyway.
But quarterback of the Cleveland Browns is the most visible, pressure-packed, beloved and/or hated job in the whole of Northeastern Ohio. The fans instantly know your quarterback rating, completion percentage, and win-loss record against the Steelers, even if they can't balance their own checkbooks.
Mike Holmgren knows this, and that's why he made an executive decision and overrode Heckert and Mangini, who by all accounts were indifferent to drafting McCoy at best.
By selecting him, Holmgren erased the perceived mistakes of the draft up to that point and focused all the city's attention on McCoy and the perception that they had stolen him with the 85th pick.
The national media instantly praised the Browns for having nerves of steel in bypassing him with their earlier picks. McCoy to the Browns was the best quarterback-to-club marriage based on McCoy's fit in the West Coast offense.
Mike Holmgren exercised his executive power and managed to turn the national media's perspective into a complete 180 with a single decision. Holmgren showed with this move the ability to read the mood of the people and to react accordingly, justifying Randy Lerner's decision to bring him aboard.
McCoy, with his aw shucks Texas charm and underdog persona, makes it even easier to root for him by just being himself. He may not be best physical talent, but the more I think about it, the more the selection makes sense.
Not only does his athleticism and pinpoint accuracy translate well into the West Coast, the offensive skill players on the Browns are primarily composed of youngsters. McCoy is a proven leader on the field and in the locker room, so the match is a good one.
I don't know if he's going to be a viable NFL starter or the answer to our long-lost prayers, but in the short term Mike Holmgren has delivered a player we can easily root for to develop while buying time to implement his long-term plan of success for our beloved Browns.
The key to magic is misdirection.
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