Skip to main content

The Real McCoy? Rookie making case to keep starting job

BEREA, Ohio -- Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy has won two straight games -- over star QBs Drew Brees and Tom Brady -- and captured the hearts of Cleveland Browns fans everywhere.

He's played like a starter. He looks like a starter. He acts like a starter.

Coach Eric Mangini just isn't quite ready to call him a permanent one.

On Monday, Mangini, staying true to his reputation for not revealing anything he doesn't absolutely have to, would not name McCoy his starter for this week's game against the New York Jets (6-2).

Mangini, though, did concede that McCoy's performance in Sunday's 34-14 rout of New England has made it tougher to consider going back to Jake Delhomme or Seneca Wallace, who are both still out with ankle injuries.

"He's making the discussion harder and harder each week," Mangini said.

With a chance Wallace or Delhomme could practice this week, Mangini seems to be keeping his options open -- and hoping to keep the Jets guessing. But what has become obvious over the past three games is that McCoy, the winningest quarterback in NCAA history, whose first three NFL starts have come against Pittsburgh, New Orleans and New England, is capable of running Cleveland's offense.

He sure looks like the Real McCoy.

Still, Mangini plans to check on the health of both Wallace and Delhomme before he analyzes the situation. He'll then meet with offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and team president Mike Holmgren about his three quarterbacks and decide how to proceed this season.

But if McCoy has shown he can win, why the discussions?

"I like discussions," Mangini said. "I think it's important to go through things and to hear different ideas and talk about the plusses and minuses. At the end of the day, you're just trying to get to the best decision, the right decision and not a quick decision. I just feel it's worthwhile to be as thorough as possible when you make something that affects so many people in so many different ways."

Mangini said Wallace could practice Wednesday, and that Delhomme could be back Thursday or Friday.

But that's what Mangini has been saying for the better part of a month, and in that time, McCoy has blossomed before the Browns' eyes.

The 24-year-old had his best game yet against the Patriots. Throwing on the run and from the pocket, McCoy completed 14 of 19 passes for 174 yards, and he scrambled 16 yards for a touchdown to give the Browns (3-5) a 24-7 lead in the third quarter.

However, his most impressive stat was that he had zero interceptions for the second straight game. When McCoy sensed danger, he kept his feet moving, and if there wasn't an open receiver, he threw the ball away instead of forcing something.

McCoy completed 8 of his last 9 passes and went 5-for-5 in the second half, when the Browns often handed the ball to running back Peyton Hillis, who rushed for a career-high 184 yards. McCoy didn't try to win the game by himself. He relied on his teammates, and in turn, they relied on him.

So, if Mangini intends to play the quarterback who gives the Browns the best chance to win, isn't No. 12 the guy?

"He made a great case," Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said. "To be able to beat the Super Bowl champs and one of the greatest teams in the last 10 years in the Patriots back to back, it makes a great case for himself. You look at his stats and what he did, but it's not just winning. He didn't miss many throws and he got us in the right play. You can't ask anything more of a quarterback."

McCoy has impressed his teammates with his poise, confidence and leadership. He's a natural, and he's taken control of Cleveland's offense just as he once did as a college freshman.

For more on the Cleveland Browns, check out the latest from our bloggers.

"What everyone respects is he's the leader," guard Eric Steinbach said. "He's in there telling the offense what we have to do, what's expected of us. At one point yesterday he was like, 'OK, this is a big drive.' It's funny because the kid only has three games under his belt in the NFL, but he knew it at that point.

"He knows what he's talking about."

Mangini must be sensitive to how any decision to start McCoy this week and maybe for the rest of the season would fly in Cleveland's locker room. Both Delhomme and Wallace are highly respected veterans, and for either of them to lose their job because of an injury to a rookie, a coach better have a pretty compelling argument.

Or a pretty good quarterback.

In no time at all, Mangini believes McCoy has won over the trust of his teammates.

"The guys have seen now that, given that responsibility, he can respond to that responsibility," Mangini said. "You don't know with a rookie how that's going to go. He becomes more and more trustworthy as we go."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.