Cleveland Browns: Why Colt McCoy Should Start Ahead of Brandon Weeden in 2012

Brian KleinCorrespondent IIJuly 16, 2012

Cleveland Browns: Why Colt McCoy Should Start Ahead of Brandon Weeden in 2012

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    Many Cleveland Browns fans did not like the choice of Brandon Weeden with the 22nd overall choice in the 2012 NFL draft. 

    With that selection, however, the Browns opened up their quarterback position to more competition—and possibly more controversy.

    Many media experts have predicted Weeden to open the season as the Browns’ starting quarterback.  Others have already reported the Browns interest in giving away Colt McCoy for nothing more than a late-round draft choice. 

    But are these rumors and ideals really in the best interest of the Cleveland Browns in the short term? 

    There is still a belief out there that Colt McCoy can and will be a quality starting NFL quarterback.  McCoy gives the Browns their best chance of winning in the short term.

    So let’s take a look at why Colt McCoy should get the nod early in the 2012 football season for the Cleveland Browns.

Has More NFL Experience

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    Any rational person will tell you that—of two people competing for a job—the person with more experience will always get off to the faster start.  The individual with more experience is more familiar with what is expected of him or her and knows what to expect within the position.

    The same can be said for Colt McCoy.  McCoy has started 21 games in his two seasons with the Cleveland Browns.  

    No one can refute that his play while with Cleveland has been mediocre at best.  But with that said, McCoy has always had things working against him.

    Since day one in Cleveland, McCoy has had to learn on the field (and on the fly)—even during his rookie season when management hoped to have him learn from the sideline.

    Also, McCoy has never had the proven NFL-caliber talent around him that any quarterback needs to win. 

    By no stretch of the imagination am I saying the Browns have Super Bowl talent on the offensive side of their roster right now.  But the expected talent level of the 2012 Cleveland offense exceeds anything McCoy has enjoyed since being drafted by the Browns in 2010.

    In addition, McCoy is now entering his second season under head coach Pat Shurmer.  Shurmur was brought to Cleveland to implement his version of the West Coast offense because it is a system that fits the skills of McCoy.   

    By being more familiar with the offense as a whole, McCoy now possesses a better understanding of what is expected of the quarterback.  McCoy has already proven that, when he is comfortable, growth and development can be expected. 

    McCoy showed that in his first eight starts in 2010.  Even though McCoy was just getting his feet wet in the NFL, he was able to learn the Browns offense thanks to the mentoring of veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme.  

    In those first eight games under the Delhomme's tutelage, McCoy completed nearly 61 percent of his passes. 

    Finally, McCoy’s experience ensures that the speed and physicality of the game comes as no big surprise to him.  McCoy understands the commitment and determination it takes to be an NFL quarterback.

Brandon Weeden is Still a Rookie

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    Some may say that arguing that Brandon Weeden is a rookie is the same as arguing that Colt McCoy has more experience. 

    I will grant that these two factors do circulate around the same coin, but with every coin there are two sides.

    Do you know what Troy Aikman, Peyton Manning and Warren Moon all have in common?  Besides being Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks, all of them also started their rookie seasons. 

    Their combined total record as rookies: 6-24. 

    Their touchdown-to-interception ratio: 47-60. 

    The common counterargument I hear when raising the rookie issue centers around the early success that quarterbacks like Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger had when they started as rookies in the NFL? 

    I understand that Flacco and Roethlisberger had a combined record of 24-5 during their rookie seasons.

    But how much of that success should really be attributed to the two rookie quarterbacks? 

    Flacco and Roethlisberger also combined for 31 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions.  Those statistics look far less impressive than their joint winning percentage of 83 percent as rookies.

    This is especially the case when you consider the offenses and the offensive talent that surrounded them.  I would doubt even the most diehard Browns fans would consider comparable the talent Flacco and Roethlisberger were blessed with as rookies to what Weeden would have surrounding him in 2012.

    Again, the speed and physicality of the NFL cannot be underestimated.  Rookies need time to adjust.

    The last thing the Browns want is a David Carr, Joey Harrington or Tim Couch situation to derail the career of Brandon Weeden.  The Browns cannot rush Weeden into the starting lineup because of his draft position or age.  Aikman, Manning and Moon all struggled in their rookie seasons as NFL starters.

    What makes anyone think Brandon Weeden will do any better? 

    No matter what headlines you read, you can be assured that Weeden is not an NFL-ready quarterback right now.  He is still a rookie quarterback who is trying to adjust to the style of play associated with the West Coast offense. 

    No one is trying to argue that McCoy is the better long-term solution at quarterback.  But if the Browns truly want to win right away, they have to grasp that Colt McCoy—with his NFL experience and familiarity with the Browns’ coaching staff, organization and other offensive players—gives them the best possible chance to do so.

McCoy’s Own Future and Trade Value

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    Considering that he is turning just 26 years old early in this upcoming season, Colt McCoy has a lot of football left in front of him. 

    By selecting Brandon Weeden in Round 1, Cleveland created the quarterback competition necessary to find out what McCoy has in the tank.  

    McCoy has already proven to have a ton of toughness and a solid cognitive grasp of the NFL game. 

    If the Browns tap McCoy as the starting quarterback to open the season, they are granting him one final chance to display his talents.  Really, this is nothing more than an audition in which McCoy can show the Browns and the NFL what he can accomplish. 

    The trade market for McCoy is scarce.  No matter where the Browns would trade him right now, they would receive little in return. 

    By allowing McCoy to start the 2012 season as their quarterback, the Browns are putting themselves in a no-lose situation.  McCoy can only raise his market value, and Weeden would be allowed to learn during his rookie year from the sideline.

Arm Strength

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    The one argument I always hear when comparing Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy surrounds around arm strength. 

    Either, McCoy does not have a strong enough arm to play in the NFL or Weeden’s arm strength makes him a vastly superior NFL quarterback.

    Fans and the media alike tend to overrate the importance of arm strength when evaluating NFL quarterbacks.

    You remember other quarterbacks with amazing arm strength? 

    Let me remind you of Jamarcus Russell, who could throw a football 60 yards from one knee.  How about Akili Smith, who cost the Bengals the third overall pick in the same 1999 draft that netted the Cleveland Browns Tim Couch?  Or Ryan Leaf, who was considered as good of a draft prospect as Peyton Manning because of his physical tools (read arm strength).

    On the other side of the coin, a Purdue University quarterback named Drew Brees fell to the second round of the 2001 draft because of his lack of height and arm strength.  A University of Michigan quarterback named Tom Brady fell to the sixth round in 2000 because he lacked the tools to be a legitimate NFL prospect.    

    Arm strength in a NFL quarterback is overrated. 

    Does it help to have superior arm strength?  Sure it does.  But arm strength in a NFL quarterback reminds me a lot of the same philosophies that are applied to starting pitchers.  Every scout, fan and media member loves the starting pitcher with a mid-90s fastball.

    But everyone overlooks the other factors that make players like Drew Brees and R.A. Dickey successful.

    As a quarterback, you have to be able to do other things then just throw the ball deep. 

    You have to be able to stand in the pocket and make a decision while getting hit.  A quarterback has to be able to read a defense and make a decision on where to throw the football very quickly.    

    Weeden’s ability to do this has already been questioned by some college defensive coordinators, who have stated that Weeden does not like to get hit and has a tendency to make rushed and poor decisions when the pocket collapses around him.

    The worst thing the Browns can do right now is rush Weeden into a situation that he is not ready for.  The Browns need to let Weeden dictate when he is ready to start and not let the fans, Weeden’s age or the need to find a legitimate NFL quarterback dictate when Weeden sees the field.

    If Weeden is rushed onto the field without being ready, he could very easily turn into the next Drew Henson or Chris Weinke.