With the recent stories surrounding Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace, it’s appearing inevitable that we’ll have a heated QB controversy in Berea over the next few months. No trades appear imminent and so, for now, Mike Holmgren and company appear to be moving forward with the two veterans and rookie Brandon Weeden leading the race together for the signal-caller position.
And get me clear on what I mean by a QB controversy: No starter has been directly named yet. There’s going to be an open competition – at least for the next several months – and there will be some unhappy fans no matter what the final call is by the Browns staff. There will be confusion and there will be frustration, and it’s going to be all over the news for quite a while.
As you can read in my takes in WFNY’s draft recap post, I’m a bit pessimistic about the actuality of Weeden starting from day one. Yes, more pressure is applied now than ever to first-round NFL draft picks to start immediately, especially QBs. I’ve got no doubt in the world that Indianapolis will start Andrew Luck and Washington will start Robert Griffin III when the season begins in September.
But, does that mean I’m confident Weeden won’t start by the end of September? Not necessarily, as things could be a bit back-and-forth. Injuries always happen, especially to Cleveland athletes. And, even though I think Weeden will pick up the West Coast offense faster than most rookies (that’s a benefit of 28-year-old wisdom), the QB position is still up in the air quite a bit.
I think the Browns are a bit more confident in both McCoy and Wallace than most people are portraying. They aren’t looking at those two guys as merely backups with no shot to start this season. Thus, the Browns likely are being silent on declaring a defined starter in order to push all three guys over the next few months. That’s only natural.
Looking back in order to tell the future, let’s review what happened at the draft press conference and what’s gone on recently with McCoy and Wallace since the draft.
First, starting with the team’s comments after the draft, head coach Pat Shurmur set the tone (albeit a bit confusingly) by saying he expects Weeden to compete to start and hopefully contribute soon.
“We’ve added three [offensive] players and we expect them to compete to start and contribute what we hope to be immediately,” Shurmur said Friday night. “We’ll see how it plays out. We got a running back [Trent Richardson], a quarterback [Weeden] and right tackle [Mitchell Schwartz]. We feel like we got three players that are going to be there for us.”
Shurmur firmly denied early reports that the Browns were going to trade McCoy. He said simply that a competition is underway.
“We’ve drafted a quarterback to come in and compete with him [McCoy] — at this point — and that’s where it’s at,” he said.
In the end though about Weeden, Shurmur declared that “We have the guy that we think is our guy as we move forward.”
Woof. So it’s obviously clear Weeden’s the guy for the future — nobody with a sane mind would say anything differently at this point. But what’s going to happen then with McCoy and Wallace at least for the immediate future and for this season?
Let’s start with McCoy, the incumbent and former fan favorite.
It was reported yesterday that McCoy participated as expected in the team’s voluntary offseason conditioning program. He has not requested a trade and hasn’t made any noteworthy comments to the media since Weeden was selected No. 22 overall on Thursday.
Before the draft, though, team officials even told ESPN’s Bob Holtzman that they expected McCoy to take a “big leap forward” this season.
Here’s the exact quote from Holtzman last Thursday aternoon, in saying why the Browns were not expected to take a QB high in the draft.
“They expect McCoy to make a big leap from last year to this year,” Holtzman reported. “They are comfortable if he’s their starting quarterback.”
Holmgren still maintains that he likes McCoy and, apropos, coyly described the need for another guy in Weeden.
“I like him a lot,” Holmgren said about McCoy after the Weeden pick. “He’s tough, but [we] still wanted to see if someone else could be the man.”
In the case of McCoy and Weeden co-existing this season, Holmgren also seemed quite confident in the Longhorn’s ability to make things work.
“That could be a difficult situation except if it is ever going to work, it will work if that happens, because Colt McCoy is a special young man,” Holmgren said recently. “Of course he wants to play, they all want to play. Again, nothing has been done yet, we don’t know how it is going to sort itself out. But, if that were to be the case, at some point, I think we have the best chance of making that work because of who the people are. It is never easy, everyone wants to play. But, you only have one ball and only one guy can play at a time.
Holmgren seemed OK about having those three compete and remain on the roster for now.
“I always had four quarterbacks in camp when I was coaching,” Holmgren said. “Of course, when you get to 52 players, that’s something else.”
“I’m not going to speculate on anything,” Holmgren added. “We’ll wait and see.”
On the flip side, Wallace is a guy who’s been around Holmgren’s West Coast system for quite some time now. He made noise last season when speculations were flying everywhere that he wasn’t being a team player and was unwilling to mentor McCoy as the new apparent starter.
In an interview yesterday with 92.3 The Fan, Wallace swiftly denied these claims.
“That is not the case,” he said. “Last year going into the season, there was an open competition with me and Colt McCoy. I said if Colt was to ask me about anything I had related to the West Coast system, I was willing to do that for him.
Wallace also made it clear during the interview how he will approach the season if it is indeed the case that Weeden is the starter for the short- and long-term.
“I know my job going into my 10th season of being in this offense is to prepare Brandon Weeden to get him right and make sure he’s ready to go for day one,” Wallace said. “This is a different beast. This is a first-rounder that we drafted, 22nd overall and from a business standpoint you know and everybody else knows and outsiders know that this kid’s got to play. My job as a veteran guy is to make sure he’s ready to play.”
Those are some pretty strong comments from Wallace and the strongest we’ve really seen over the past couple days about any indications for an immediate starter.
Don’t get me wrong: Yes, of course, as I said earlier, I know that the Browns drafted Weeden to play soon. They said that immediately after the draft, and I’m sure they hope he starts soon for their PR sake. I’ve also got no doubt that, by the end of the season, he’ll be playing and there probably won’t be much of a controversy at all.
For the next few months, though, there will be a ton of questions still hovering over the Browns QB position: Who will be the starter in the first regular season game? When is Weeden expected to start for the first time? What exactly will be the role for McCoy and Wallace? Why are there no trades being explored to potentially improve other areas of the team?
Given another great press conference quote from Holmgren about McCoy’s future and an upcoming QB competition, we likely won’t have clear-cut answers on any of those anytime soon.
“I think Pat and I would answer that the same way. We now have four quarterbacks and they are going to compete, that is how I see that,” he said. “That is the way it’s always going to be. Who can determine the future? In this business, you line them up, you give it your best shot and then we have to choose. We have to choose somebody to play. Right now, we have four quarterbacks on the roster and they are going to compete for the position.”
That fourth quarterback Holmgren mentioned? That’d be former Duke QB Thaddeus Lewis. Don’t forget that Shurmur had him beforehand in St. Louis and also proclaimed in September 2011 that he might become a starting quarterback sometime in the league as well.
There ya have it folks, yet another day in QB dream land.