Cleveland Browns: Mike Holmgren and the Case for Colt McCoy

Araz EleyasianContributor IIAugust 27, 2010

BEREA, OH - MAY 01:  Colt McCoy #12 of the Cleveland Browns talks with team president Mike Holmgren during rookie mini camp at the Cleveland Browns Training and Administrative Complex on May 1, 2010 in Berea, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

According to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Browns third-round draft pick Colt McCoy is in danger of not making the 53-man squad.

While that was certainly a shocking claim to make, there were many on the site who questioned how in the world McCoy could be cut by the Browns after being chosen in the third round as a future franchise quarterback. 

Let me say this now: Colt McCoy will not be cut by the Browns this season or the next.

In fact, McCoy and the Browns will not part ways unless McCoy goes down the path of other Browns starting quarterbacks, crashing and burning his way to a turn over machine. There's a reason Cleveland is known as the place where quarterbacks just die. 

That being said, there's a huge upside to McCoy's chances of being a successful franchise quarterback. Forget the questions about his toughness or his undersized frame or even his questionable arm strength. McCoy will be given the best chance to succeed out of the four highly prized quarterbacks drafted this year. 

That chance is because of team president Mike Holmgren, aka the Quarterback Guru.

I saw a comment yesterday that questioned Holmgren's quarterback experience and thought how ludicrous it seemed to doubt the man who has mentored two Hall of Famers, a guaranteed future Hall of Famer and a Pro Bowler in successful runs to the Super Bowl game. 

Let's first off start with Holmgren and his time as a quarterbacks coach at Brigham Young University.

Before Holmgren got there, BYU already had Steve Young, but he was struggling to control the passing game. Young's athleticism was unquestioned, but he couldn't work in the pocket and his decision making as a quarterback was horrendous.

In 1983, a season after Holmgren joined the staff, Young had the greatest statistical season of his college career.

As a senior, he passed for 3,902 yards and 33 touchdowns with an NCAA single season record 71.3 percent completion percentage. BYU averaged a record breaking 584.2 total offensive yards per game, with 370.5 coming from Steve Young's arm and legs. 

BYU finished the season with an 11-1 record, a win in the Holiday Bowl, and Young coming second in the Heisman voting but going on to win the Davey O'Brien Award for best quarterback in college football. 

To say Holmgren's influence on Steve Young was a catalyst in his transformation is an understatement. Moreover, Holmgren also mentored Robbie Brosco after Young graduated, a player that came in third in the race for the Heisman Trophy and won the National Championship in 1984. 

Holmgren joined the big leagues in 1986 as a quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers. While Hall of Famer Joe Montana was already well on his way to being the greatest quarterback of all time, Holmgren was a key figure in keeping San Francisco's season afloat with Montana's backup Jeff Kemp after Montana went down with an injury midway through the season.

In his lone season with the 49ers, Kemp was an astute game manager for the team.

He had a completion percentage of almost 60, scored more touchdowns than interceptions, passed for 1,554 yards and finished the season with a higher quarterback rating than Montana.

Kemp helped the Niners win the NFC West division and keep their playoff hopes alive. 

But the real success of Holmgren's time with the 49ers was the resurgence of Joe Montana and the eventual rise of Steve Young.

Montana won two consecutive MVP awards, an Offensive Player of the Year Award, and was named Super Bowl XXIV MVP.

In the years 1989-1991, Holmgren was the offensive coordinator. Montana posted the then highest single season passer rating at 112.4, leaving every other quarterback in the dust with a whopping 70.2 percent completion percentage. 

In Super Bowl XXIV, he guided Montana to score a then record five touchdown passes in the most lopsided Super Bowl game in NFL history. 

In addition to Holmgren's work with Montana, Steve Young, his old BYU quarterback, experienced a complete turnaround in his career. After struggling immensely with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Young was acquired by the 49ers in 1987 after being deemed a first round draft bust.

As a backup, Young managed to be a thorn in Montana's side under Holmgren's tutelage and worked on his passing game with Holmgren. Young became the future franchise quarterback for the 49ers under Holmgren's watch and knocked one of the greatest quarterbacks in history out of the franchise he helped put on the map. 

And now, Brett Favre.

Do I really need to convince anyone how Favre would have never been a Hall of Famer and holder of almost all of the NFL's quarterback records had it not been for Mike Holmgren?

Favre was Holmgren's greatest achievement as a quarterback maestro.

In Atlanta, the team he was drafted to, Favre attempted five passes, none of which were completed and two of which were intercepted, including his first pass which was returned for a touchdown. In all fairness, Favre was never given the chance to prove himself by then head coach Jerry Glanville. 

But the Packers certainly gave him that opportunity.

Under Holmgren, Favre turned into a superstar. Favre made NFL history by winning three consecutive NFL MVP Awards (1995-1997), a feat no player has managed to accomplish since- not even the dominant Peyton Manning. 

It is without question that Brett Favre would never have turned into the dazzling gunslinging stat machine had it not been for Mike Holmgren. With Holmgren in his corner, Favre embraced the West Coast Offense and was named to the 1990s All-Decade Team. 

While only seven of Brett's 20 NFL seasons were with Mike Holmgren, there is no possible way any one can dispute that the success he has achieved in his career was not the result of Holmgren's mentoring. 

After Favre came Matt Hasselbeck.

After sitting behind Brett Favre in Green Bay for two years, Holmgren acquired Hasselbeck in 2001. Under Holmgren, Hasselbeck became a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, found himself in the top 10 of statistically brilliant quarterbacks between 2003 and 2007 and made an incredible run to the Super Bowl, only to be defeated by the "Team of Destiny" that year, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Hasselbeck might have only been a mere footnote in NFL history had it not been for the coaching he received from Mike Holmgren. After battling Trent Dilfer for the starting role, Hasselbeck exploded onto the scene and has retained his franchise tag with the Seahawks ever since. 

With such a rich pedigree of quarterbacking brilliance in Mike Holmgren's career, it seems futile to question whether he can turn Colt McCoy into a viable franchise quarterback. After working with the likes of Montana, Young, Favre and Hasselbeck, surely Holmgren knows what a great quarterback looks like.

He certainly seemed to think Colt had it in him after he overrode both head coach Eric Mangini and general manager Tom Heckert to drafted McCoy in the third round of this year's draft.

McCoy himself has stated that Mike Holmgren had said he had the intangibles of both Joe Montana and Steve Young at his age, and that he fully expected him to live up to that potential. 

And you know what? I believe him.

How could you not?

Joe Montana.

Steve Young.

Brett Favre.

Matt Hasselbeck.

Colt McCoy?


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