The Steelers and Ravens both went to the playoffs with Rookie quarterbacks. The experience Roethlisberger and Flacco gained from starting helped them both in their sophomore seasons. Colt McCoy has shown that he has the raw talent to lead the Cleveland Browns. Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme are capable backups, but they are not the future of the Browns. The Browns can find out what they have in McCoy by following their rivals blue print.
In Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season, the team thought Tommy Maddox would groom him until he was ready. In Joe Flacco’s rookie season Troy Smith beat him out and was slated to start. In both instances, the rookie was forced into service just like Colt McCoy due to the slated starter being injured or ill. In both instances, the teams relied on their running games and defense to take the pressure off their young quarterbacks.
The Browns don’t have Jerome Bettis, but they do have a Peyton Hillis. The Browns have found their identity, and it is to wear down a defense through pounding them with a physical running game. The Browns came to the conclusion that the only thing better than one sledge hammer back is two.
The Browns added Mike Bell last week, and at 6'0", 225, he can continue to hammer opposing defenses. He averages 3.8 yards a carry over his career. He is similar in size to injured Monterio Hardesty. Peyton Hillis is over 6'0" and 250lbs, so he is more of a wrecking ball than a hammer. Having an efficient running game will take the pressure off McCoy. (Brian)Daboll picked the right state to play Woody Hayes “three yards and a cloud of dust” style of ball.
Colt McCoy heard all week that he was supposed to get his last will and testament together before walking onto Heinz field; instead Colt showed not only escape ability in the pocket but surprising accuracy under such fierce black and gold pressure. This is not to say he will not throw interceptions, but it was a welcome site to Browns fans when Colt would throw the ball out of bounds instead of to the other team. Colt seems to understand the old saying, “live to fight another day.”
McCoy shows the running ability of Seneca Wallace, without the drive-killing interceptions of both, the veterans ahead of him. He has proven to be quick to the hole when he decides to run, much like he did for the University of Texas. He never appeared rattled in the pocket even when blitzes were coming from all sides. He also was able to get back up after being slammed hard after being sacked.
Like the Steelers and Ravens the Browns have a physical defense that has played strong against the run. The Browns have allowed only one rushing touchdown all season but still have a long way to go in their development defensively. They have shown that they can be capable of keeping a good team out of the end zone, even with their backs against the walls (unless the opposing quarterback throws at Eric Wright).
Ben Roethlisberger completed 196 passes out of 295 attempts his first year in the league. The number is staggeringly different from last year where he threw the ball 506 times with 337 completions. The Ravens ran the ball a beastly 592 times, leading the NFL in Flacco’s rookie season in 2008. The Steelers beat the Ravens mark in Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie year by running the ball 618 times.
The Browns ran the ball 498 times in 2009 averaging a little over 31 attempts a game. This year the Browns are averaging 25.8 carries a game. To better protect McCoy, those attempts during a game need to get up in the 30-plus range. The Browns running game has become physical and respected enough to draw another defender into the box. This will allow for the single coverage and easier reads for McCoy.
The Cleveland Browns best case scenario coming into this season was for Jake Delhomme not to be well…Jake Delhomme. They thought last season was a fluke and took a chance on him coming in to add a veteran presence in the locker room. Injuries made the decision for them that they would not have made on their own. Delhomme is injured and disappointing when he is playing. When you are Brett Favre you are called a gunslinger, when you are Jake Delhomme you are that guy who cannot read a defense.
The Browns security blanket was Seneca Wallace, who showed to be a capable starter for short bursts, but he is clearly not the long term answer. Seneca Wallace would be a solid back up for whoever is tagged as the long term starter.
McCoy gets his opportunity to secure the starting job up against the defending Super Bowl champions. The biggest challenge for Colt McCoy this weekend is to play within himself and not try and do too much. Follow the blue print of Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco in their rookie campaigns and let the game unfold and lean on the veterans to steer the ship.
With quarterbacks Ryan Mallet (Arkansas), Andrew Luck (Stanford) and Jake Locker (Washington) entering the draft, McCoy needs to get the Browns organization thinking running back or wide out in the top ten picks. Colt wants the Browns thinking Mark Ingram (running back, Alabama), or A.J Green (wide out, Georgia). If the Browns insulate McCoy with a steady ground attack do not put to much on his shoulders.
This Browns organization is not looking for a quick fix to have a successful season but looking for youth and smart football players. Players like (Colt) McCoy, (TJ) Ward, (Evan) Moore, (Peyton) Hillis, (Alex) Mack and (Joe) Hadden are all taking on major roles in Cleveland and the teams direction. The Browns should use the rest of this season deciding if the most important position on the field has been settled. Give (Colt) McCoy the rest of the season as the starter and let him compete.
There will be a game when McCoy looks like a rookie, but let him look like a rookie now and not when your team is looking towards the playoffs. The time for the Browns to figure things out is now. Give the young quarterback the reigns, lean on the run and don't put the defense in vulnerable positions. The Steelers and Ravens both have shown how to groom a rookie quarterback successfully and the Browns just have to not reinvent the wheel.