Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dumping Colt would represent a management failure

Put me firmly in the camp that wants the Browns to keep both Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace as the backups to rookie Brandon Weeden, who will most likely officially be named the starting quarterback in a matter of days.

Clearly the team's braintrust deemed the QB position in need of upgrade. McCoy lacked support from the offensive skill positions last year, the rookie head coach doubled as offensive coordinator, and the league lockout washed out the off-season program. Still, McCoy didn't build on the early promise of his 2010 starts, frequently failing to find open receivers and deliver the ball accurately and on time. I can't disagree with the drafting of the bigger, stronger-armed Weeden.

Ever since the draft, McCoy's fate has been a top topic of fan and media discussion. Arguments in favor of releasing or trading him generally mention
  • the "distraction" presented by having an unseated starter on the roster
  • management's ill feelings after the embarrassing mishandling of McCoy's concussion against the Steelers last December and criticism from McCoy's father
  • McCoy's physical limitations revealing an inherent inadequacy as an NFL starter
  • Wallace's comparable performance to McCoy's, and he's a Holmgren favorite already used to the backup role.
Even if any of those points are valid, that's not enough to jettison McCoy. If they do, management is conceding its own failure to handle the personalities and politics necessary to build a strong team. That's a fundamental sign of skilled leadership: getting the best out of each player, and blending their talents harmoniously. If you need to subtract skill from your roster for the sake of perceived chemistry, then (absent a serious character defect) you are not doing your job well.

From what I've seen and heard, McCoy is a high-character team player. Yes, he's highly competitive and used to being "the guy," but that should be an asset, not a problem.

He's also low-cost, with two years remaining on his rookie deal at about a half-million per year -- very cost-efficient for a quarterback. Wallace's salary is about four times higher.

The fact is that quarterbacks get hurt. Even the third man on the depth chart has to be game-ready. That's why the rookie Colt started half of 2010. Four QBs started in 2008, three each in 2000 and 2004. It's been eleven years since a Browns QB started all 16 games. Offloading one of your top three QBs before the season starts for little or no return is courting disaster.

Thaddeus Lewis is the fourth man in camp. He's never taken a regular-season snap, though if he can legitimately beat out one of the incumbents for a roster spot in the preseason, more power to him. But his presence alone does not give the Browns the luxury of dumping a more experienced player preemptively.

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