Colt McCoy has thrown two brutal interceptions in the last two weeks. The Browns were in precarious spots both times. Against Cincinnati this weekend the Browns were driving toward the red zone and were clinging to a three point lead when McCoy threw as he was hit. It was probably about five yards in bounds and about ten yards short of Greg Little. McCoy would later say he was trying to throw it out of bounds, but there is no excuse for turning the ball over in that situation. The week prior in a win over Jacksonville Colt McCoy threw an interception from the Jax six yard line as a linebacker jumped in front of a pass intended for Ben Watson. It was an ugly one with the game tied up at 7 in the third quarter. Those types of interceptions in particular seem especially inexcusable considering game situations and location on the field. That being said, interceptions are going to happen to every QB on occasion. So, is Colt McCoy’s interception rate a problem?
One thing we’ve definitely learned from Tim Tebow is that stats aren’t always the most meaningful measures for football players. Well, unless you’re talking about wins and losses. Even then, while wins are the most important stat, they can’t tell the story of an NFL QB any more than they can for an MLB reliever. I decided to delve into the stats a bit to see how Colt McCoy’s interception rates stand up to the rest of the NFL.
McCoy has 8 interceptions on the season compared with 13 touchdowns. First, I took interceptions per passes attempted. Colt McCoy has a rate of 2.0% which is good enough for fifth in the entire league after Aaron Rodgers (1.1%,) Sam Bradford (1.5%,) Alex Smith (1.7%,) and Joe Flacco (1.9%.) McCoy is followed by Matt Shaub (2.1%,) Jay Cutler (2.2%,) and Blaine Gabbert (2.3%.) Obviously I don’t think Colt McCoy is the fifth best quarterback in the league anymore than I think Tom Brady is the 11th best (2.4%) or Drew Brees is the 16th best (2.6%.)
Also obviously, scheme can have a profound impact on these numbers. Alex Smith’s year is widely being attributed to Harbaugh’s scheme that asks Smith to manage the game as opposed to more proactively attempting to gun his way to victory. Certainly that accounts for many of Tom Brady and Drew Brees’ interceptions. Those guys throw with higher frequency than Colt McCoy, but the trade off is that there is an acceptable risk / reward ratio where Brees has thrown for 23 touchdowns (27 after MNF) and Brady has thrown for 28 touchdowns. Colt McCoy, meanwhile, has thrown for only 13 touchdowns. With that few number of TDs, McCoy better minimize his mistakes.
I always like to go back to Mark Sanchez because that was the Browns’ pick. Sanchez gets paid a lot of money to be 19th on this list with his 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and INT / ATT rate of 2.9%. Taking into account the quality of the weapons at Sanchez’ disposal it must be pretty discouraging for Jets fans to consider what their future might be with him. But I don’t watch the Jets closely enough to know for sure if Sanchez is the majority of the problem. Maybe it has more to do with the offensive coordinator. Right now, I’d be concerned that Sanchez will never be a great game manager or someone who can win it with his arm.
So, what do the numbers tell us about Colt McCoy? While not excusing either of those bad interceptions the last two weeks, Colt McCoy’s interception rate is not a problem yet. Considering what he’s being asked to do, Colt McCoy is taking care of the ball pretty well. I don’t get the feeling that if Pat Shurmur just unleashed McCoy the way Brady and Brees are that McCoy would put up those gaudy TD numbers. I don’t think any of the rest of you think so either. His teammates have something to do with that.
As always, the million dollar question with Colt McCoy is whether he can jump to the next level and be more than just a game manager. As the offense develops and has more weapons, will Colt McCoy become the next Drew Brees or will he have to become Alex Smith? I hate to try and guess whether McCoy is “the guy” or not just yet. Ask San Diego how that’s working out for them with Phillip Rivers this season? That aside, right now Colt McCoy is much closer to Alex Smith. I don’t really see him breaking into a Drew Brees impression in his career, but we’ll see.
For now, considering the alternatives, Colt McCoy is doing a great job of not killing the Browns with interceptions. We’ll see what Tom Heckert’s impressions are on draft day. If the Browns take a QB you can bet Heckert thinks McCoy has more Smith than Brees in his future.