PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 08: Colt McCoy #12 of the Cleveland Browns looks to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on December 8, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
QB Colt McCoy might be traded by the Cleveland Browns. Should the Eagles be interested in him or is sticking with Mike Kafka the smart move?
There has been a lot of talk in Cleveland about how quarterback Colt McCoy could be on the outs. He's not happy that the team drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round. McCoy and his family have been vocal with their displeasure on McCoy's status with the Browns.
A lot of people think the Green Bay Packers could come after McCoy because they have Graham Harrell sitting behind Aaron Rodgers. Last year's backup Mike Flynn is now in Seattle hoping for a starting job. Harrell has never thrown a pass in a regular season NFL game. The Packers believe in developing their own players, but we'll see soon enough if they have any interest in McCoy.
What about the Eagles? They have Mike Kafka pegged as the backup right now. He's played in a couple of games, but is still very light on experience. Should McCoy be a target?
I don't think so. I was a huge Colt McCoy fan when he came out. I loved watching him at Texas. McCoy was talented, but won plenty of games with toughness and heart as well. I think guys like that have a real shot to succeed in the NFL. Unfortunately, McCoy was drafted by the Browns and has had a rough go of it. The NFL changes players, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.
Look no further than Vince Young last year. Was that really the same guy who led Texas to a pair of Rose Bowl wins? Young didn't have the same confidence or flair. He has had success in the NFL, but the league has changed him. Football is a business here, not a game. I think Young struggles with that. He wants to be the BMOC.
McCoy happened to go to a team with significant offensive issues. The Browns have finished 29th or worse in points and yards in each of McCoy's two seasons. They did the same thing the year before he got there. This isn't about one player. This is a systematic failure. They lack talent, scheme, and execution. The talent side of things may be changing with the arrival of young players such as Trent Richardson, Greg Little, Josh Gordon, and Weeden. Still, the only thing close to a slam dunk prospect there is Richardson.
As a rookie, McCoy's most productive wide receiver was Chansi Stuckey. He caught 40 passes and averaged a whopping 8.7 yards per catch. Tight end Ben Watson caught 68 passes and led the team with three touchdown catches. 2011 wasn't a whole lot better. Little led the way with 61 catches, two of them were touchdowns. Watson fell off to just 37 catches. This was truly a pop-gun offense.
This is important to understand because it factors into the evaluation of McCoy. The guy we saw at Texas who was so tough and creative and productive...we don't know if he still exists. You could make a trade and hope that is the player that shows up. I have my doubts.
Here's the thing. Quarterback is a tough position. Young players who struggle and get their head beaten in do not always bounce back from that. The best example I can think of is David Carr. He was a stud at Fresno State. The Houston Texans drafted him first overall in 2002 and hoped he would be the star of the franchise. The Texans ignored the offensive line significantly as they built up the team and Carr led the NFL in getting sacked for three of his first four seasons. That ruined him. Carr still had the physical skills, but he was gun shy permanently because all he knew was constant pressure.
Sacks and hits have been somewhat of an issue for McCoy, but equally as bad is simply dealing with players who cannot get open. That forces a quarterback to hold the ball. He then becomes indecisive about who to throw to. A good quarterback plays with a sense of rhythm. His back foot plants on the drop back and he fires the ball out. A struggling quarterback drops back and looks, looks, looks before finally getting the ball out. To me, that's kind of where McCoy is right now.
It also doesn't help that McCoy has had two different offenses and sets of coaches in two years. That can shake a young player's confidence. Sam Bradford showed great promise in 2010 and looked awful in 2011. The big difference was a coaching change.
What do we know about McCoy? Not much, in a definitive sense. He has 21 NFL starts. The team was 6-15 in those games, but that's hardly all on him. His quarterback rating is 74.5, which is okay for a young guy with limited weapons. McCoy hasn't shown anything special, in terms of instincts or physical skills. He could develop into being a solid starter, but we've not seen enough evidence to think that is likely. And we don't know if the bad habits developed over the last two years are something that can be coached out of him or if they're permanent.
The Browns obviously don't feel much confidence in McCoy. We know that because they spent a first round pick on a 28-year old quarterback prospect. You don't draft Weeden to develop him for the future.
I must admit that I'm bothered by the way McCoy has handled the situation. No player wants to lose his job. That's a hard part of football. Complaining in the press or having family members complain in the press just isn't the right way to handle things. I go back to the Drew Brees-Phillip Rivers story. Brees was the incumbent starter when the Chargers took Rivers early in the first round. Brees attitude was that "This is my team. I'm here. I'm the leader. I'm not giving it up." He didn't say that to the press or management. He said it to his teammates. Brees then went out and had the best year of his young career.
The only reason the Eagles should have interest in McCoy is if they see him as a clear upgrade on Mike Kafka. Some people will point to McCoy's 21 starts and a few good games or wins that he had as evidence that he would be an improvement. The problem here is that people are mistaking the fact that Kafka hasn't done much with the conclusion that he can't do much.
Kafka is an unknown commodity. He could turn out to be a good starter. He could be a bad player. The Eagles have faith in him, at least as a backup. They scouted him. They drafted him. They coached and developed him. Now they are comfortable with him as the backup. While Kafka doesn't have McCoy's experience, he also doesn't have his bad habits. Kafka isn't a shell-shocked player who the coaches need to fix. He's a young guy that the team is trying to improve. That can be a big difference with quarterbacks.
Trying to teach someone a new offense and make them un-learn bad habits is harder than you might think. When put into a live practice or game situation, a player reverts to what he knows. Old habits show up in a big way.
Kafka is entering his third year with the Eagles. He's shown progress each year. The mini-camp reports from the spring said that Kafka looks better than ever. This wasn't one person, but a general opinion. Kafka doesn't have the resume to point to, but he fits the profile you want with a young quarterback. He's in the same system. He's dealing with the same coaches. He's got a good line and good skill players to work with. Kafka doesn't have to go on the field and be Drew Brees. He just needs to run the team in an efficient way and let the players around him do their jobs.
McCoy would have to learn the offense, although I'm sure it is similar to the one he played in last year since his coach was Pat Shurmur, a former Eagles assistant coach. Still, the way the system worked in Cleveland and the way things are in Philly are different. McCoy would have to adjust to the players and coaches. He'd be learning a lot. I just don't see the upside to making a change.
If a guy like Matt Hasselbeck for some reason became available, go grab him. He's a proven veteran who knows the system and worked with Reid years ago in Green Bay. He'd be worth the trouble. McCoy should be a target for teams who don't have a backup they are comfortable with. The Eagles front office and coaching staff still likes Kafka. The drafting of Nick Foles tells you that they may not see Kafka as a starter, but he can still be a good backup if he takes a step forward this season.
I wouldn't be angry if the Eagles traded a late pick for McCoy, but I don't think that will happen. I also don't think it should. Is he a true upgrade over Kafka? Remember, the question isn't whether he's got more experience. He does. Is McCoy better? Coming out of college I would have said yes, but a lot has happened since then. At this point, I think sticking with Kafka is the prudent move.