After incredibly distinguished college careers, both Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy have taken small steps in their rookie NFL campaigns.
McCoy has started five games, often matched up against elite defenses, but has looked relatively composed for a rookie quarterback. Tebow has played sparingly and has attempted only one pass, but he could see some more extensive playing time as 2010 comes to a close, which leads us to 2011 and our question: Who Will Have the Better 2011 Season?
Though no one will confuse Cleveland’s offense with the likes of New England or New Orleans, the Browns routinely get the most out of their personnel.
That is, they recognize the toughness of a guy like Peyton Hillis and turn him into their workhorse in order to establish a physical advantage. They see the explosiveness of a guy like Josh Cribbs, and they often allow him to take some snaps in the Wildcat.
With Denver, there doesn’t seem to be as much of a game plan. They often neglect the abilities of Knowshon Moreno and end up forcing Kyle Orton to throw 40-50 passes a game. Of course, that could change next year with a new head coach.
Even though Tebow was the first-rounder and McCoy was the third-rounder, there may be lighter expectations on Tebow in 2011.
After all, 2011 will be his first year as a starter, and he may be able to surprise some people, as McCoy did this season. The Broncos won't really be thought of as contenders in 2011, while the Browns may be expected to make a run at the playoffs, even in the tough AFC North.
A young quarterback's best friend can be his own team’s stingy defense. Going up against a tougher defense during practice should help get McCoy better prepared for game action. Cleveland has allowed 252 points, good for 10th best in the NFL.
Denver’s defense has surrendered a league-high 376 points. It could be hard for Tebow and the rest of Denver’s offense to get into any kind of rhythm, considering how likely it is that they’ll be playing from behind.
McCoy will have far more opportunities than Tebow to pull out a 16-13-ish win on the game’s final drive.
Though both Tebow and McCoy have shown an ability to scramble for yards as well as move around inside the pocket, Tebow’s bull-headed running style sticks out a bit more.
Tebow ran for an astounding 57 touchdowns in college, though it remains to be seen if he can translate that skill to the NFL.
Many expressed doubts as to whether or not McCoy’s skill set would transfer over to the NFL.
However, one of McCoy’s attributes that’s been almost unaffected is his accuracy. After completing over 70 percent of his passes in his career at Texas, McCoy has managed to connect on over 63 percent of his passes and has averaged 7.7 yards per attempt.
It remains to be seen whether or not Tebow can match his college accuracy.
...Slightly easier division.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh are built to win in both the short and long term, and McCoy will have to play those two teams twice each season. While Tebow has to deal with San Diego (as well as improving K.C. and Oakland squads), the AFC West lacks a lock-down defense.
You could argue that San Diego has an elite defense, but the Chargers often struggle both on defense and as a whole in the first half of every season.
After watching Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, Cleveland’s top two quarterbacks, go down with injuries, McCoy was thrust into the starting lineup quicker than most had imagined.
To this point, McCoy has started five games and has dealt with some brutal matchups (at Pittsburgh, at New Orleans, vs. New England, vs. New York Jets and at Jacksonville) Ouch. But McCoy has responded with gusto, throwing three touchdown passes and three interceptions while completing over 63 percent of his passes.
He appears to read the defense and go through his progressions better than the average rookie quarterback.
Tebow and the Broncos have a bit more run-after-the-catch potential with Brandon Lloyd out wide and Knowshon Moreno coming out of the backfield.
Moreno is likely to be utilized better by Denver's next head coach. The Browns offense is sort of built to go 10 yards at a time, which makes it difficult for big plays after the catch.
McCoy will have to endure longer, more methodical drives.
The Browns appear to be moving in the right direction, while the Broncos are collapsing.
Few gave Eric Mangini a chance to survive the 2009 campaign in which the Browns started 1-11. However, four straight wins bought him another season even after the team hired Mike Holmgren as team president. A 5-8 record coupled with wins over New Orleans and New England have likely bought Mangini another year.
The Broncos fired Josh McDaniels less than a full season after he traded up to make sure he could draft Tebow, and Denver has lost 17 of its last 22 games.
So, basically, McCoy is playing for the guy who drafted him, while Tebow is going to be inherited by a new head coach who may or may not see him as a star quarterback in the NFL.
One thing about Tim Tebow: He wins.
In college, he was a two-time national champion and a Heisman Trophy winner. Florida went 39-7 during the Tebow years (2006-09). As a noted intense competitor, Tebow has been known to get the most out of his teammates, and his leadership will be needed to get the disheveled Broncos back on track.
Overall, Colt McCoy is a better bet to have a superior season in 2011.
Though the book is still out on each players’ long-term prospects, McCoy has gained invaluable experience while leading the Browns to some surprising wins, and Cleveland’s foundation appears much stronger than Denver’s.
McCoy has been able to gain a rapport with head coach Eric Mangini, while Tebow doesn’t even know who his coach will be in 2011. McCoy will be the beneficiary of a power running game led by breakout star Peyton Hillis, while Tebow will be taking over an offense that currently ranks 29th in rushing offense.
At the end of the day, it seems far more realistic that McCoy will be the player to break out in 2011.