What’s Really Going On In Cleveland?

Colt McCoy put a lot of pressure on himself as a leader heading into this season due to his off-season antics. Fans are starting to speak their minds about McCoy, and it's not good. One has to ask though; Is McCoy getting a fair shot in Cleveland?

One could argue, that no fan base in the NFL deserves for something to go right, more than Browns fans do. Prior to this season, you could make an argument for the Lions, but I think it’s safe to say that they’ve finally turned the corner.

The Dawg Pound in Cleveland has been through a lot over the years. There’s the ’80s, where we were so close – yet so far, and then “the move”, which has its place in history as one of the biggest heartbreakers in all of sports. What has been most agonizing, however, has been the return of the Browns.

Since ’99, we (Browns fans) have suffered through the likes of Carmen Policy, Dwight Clark, Chris Palmer and Tim Couch. There was Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel, and the Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn fiasco. We’ve seen glimpses of the Browns of old, in the ’02 playoffs and a 10-6 record in ’07, only to have everything fall apart the very next season.

For the last few seasons, there’s been a plethora of hope and optimism, especially since Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert took over in the front office. Although Holmgren makes the decisions, it’s Heckert that finds the talent. Heckert has a track record of finding future stars in the NFL, dating back to his days in Philadelphia.

In fact, it can be argued that, if not for Heckert, the Browns wouldn’t be any closer to “getting there”, than they were before. He is responsible for 9 of the 11 starters on a Cleveland ‘D’ that ranks in the top five in the NFL statistically. Assuming the front office continues to better the defense, whether via the draft, or free agency, the Browns are going to have a stout defense for years to come.

The offense, on the other hand, has been a complete disaster, and it’s got to be embarrassing for Heckert to claim anyone as “his” on that side of the ball for Cleveland. To be fair, there’s been immense turmoil surrounding, not just the Browns offense, but the NFL as a whole.

While Browns fans are the most passionate in the NFL, but in terms of types of fans, they’re just the same as every other fan base in the league.

There’s the optimist, whose fandom is based on hope. These types of fans need to see some glimmer of hope from their team to survive. They often look at the negatives as fixable, and not something that will set the franchise back.

There’s the blind fan, whose fandom is based strictly on the positives. If the team fails to produce an obvious positive to anyone else, blind fans often resort to nit-picking the positives. For example, one of the biggest arguments I see in McCoy’s favor on message boards and what not, is the fact that he is the NCAA’s all-time leader in victories. Now, the fact that he’s a winner is a positive, but a blind fan will tell you that McCoy is bound to be successful in the NFL because of that reason. Then they’ll talk about his effort during the off-season to back them-up. Make sense? Moving on…

There’s everyone’s favorite kind of fan, the pessimist. The kind of fan who, regardless of success, will nit-pick at every negative. I’d like to talk a little about pessimist.

You’ll often find that pessimistic fans won’t settle for even an 8-8 season from their favorite team, even if they spent the last 10 years as a 5-11 team. They often need back-to-back playoff appearances to be content with the team’s progress, but once consecutive playoff appearances are achieved, the Super Bowl becomes the barometer of success. In extreme cases, everything is a failure until the team wins the Super Bowl. (Which, in theory, is true, but in gauging how much a team is improved, the Super Bowl is unrealistic.) All this is needed to cure a pessimistic fan, and turn them into, let’s say, an optimist.

When things aren’t going well, the pessimist are the most vocal of all fans. You’ll often find arguments between pessimist and other types of fans on message boards. Pessimistic fans focus on everything that’s wrong with their team, and question everything. They often attack the front office for their decision making, and often fail to realize when things start to turn-around for their team. They are, most definitely, the most annoying of all fans.

Pessimistic Browns fans are blaming everyone these days, despite a slightly above after 3-4 record through 7 games for the team. Most of the blame has been put squarely on the shoulders of Colt McCoy for the offenses’ struggles, which is easy to do since he plays QB. He doesn’t have eye-popping numbers, and the team has lost a few games because of the offense, but is it all because of McCoy? Or is there more to it?

There’s no denying that this season has been a failure for Colt McCoy – I bet even he would probably tell you that – but is it fair?

Sure, McCoy has seemingly regressed since week one of the NFL season, but it’s not entirely his fault. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the Browns’ offensive struggles, though McCoy plays QB, and QBs tend to be the focus of the blame when things go wrong for an offense.

Colt is only in his second year, and if rumors are correct, wasn’t really given a fair shot by former head coach Eric Mangini last season. (In short, rumors are that former coach Eric Mangini, gave McCoy the cold shoulder as a slap in the face of President Holmgren.) Though everyone loves to focus on the bad, and even the most optimistic Browns fan will tell you there’s some bad, Colt hasn’t been as terrible as he seems.

If the rumors are true, McCoy played pretty well last season with limited help – as a rookie. Coming into this season, McCoy was likely to be the starter in week one, at least, regardless of who was the head coach. Though one would say it’s an excuse on behalf of Browns fans, I really do think the lockout has had an affect on the Browns offense.

People fail to realize what McCoy has had to go through to even prepare for his first season as the team’s unquestioned leader. He was dealt a first year head coach, and not just a first year coach for the Browns, he was a rookie head coach. Coach Shurmur compounded the problems for the Browns offense when he though he could handle the stresses of his previous job, offensive coordinator, with his new job, a NFL head coach. There’s a new offense McCoy had to learn, and the front office didn’t set him up well for immediate success, when they failed to find Colt a playmaker on the offensive side of the ball through the draft or free agency.

There was some hope that Colt could be successful this season, with what was supposed to be a solid offensive-line, and a star running back, Peyton Hillis. On top of that, certain players had emerged as potential playmakers on offense during the off-season – Evan Moore comes to mind. Heading into the season, one was led to believe that, despite the lack of anticipated productivity from the WR position, solid offensive-line play, and a ground-and-pound running attack led the team’s leading rusher, would be keys to offensive success for the Browns. Couple that with creative ways to get Joshua Cribbs the ball, along with Evan Moore and Ben Watson, and Browns fans felt content with the Browns offense heading into the season.

However, Cleveland’s run-game has been a nightmare, mainly because the offensive-line has been terrible. Oh, and Peyton Hillis only has 211 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns on the year. 94 of those yards, and both touchdowns, came in one game (Colts). Couple that with the fact that Coach Shurmur is in way over his head as the team’s head coach and offensive coordinator, and it’s no wonder the Browns offense is struggling so far this season.

People don’t realize that though, and think that McCoy is solely to blame for the team’s offensive struggles. In all reality, he hasn’t even been given a fair shot yet. Mangini screwed him last season, and the lockout, as well as another turnover for the Browns, have really hindered any potential success for McCoy this season.

It doesn’t matter who’s back there at QB, when your offensive-line is in shambles, your third-string RB, who, by the way, was just signed off another team’s practice squad a couple weeks ago, and you have absolutely no creativity on offense, they’re going to look terrible.

Those who are ready to deem the Colt McCoy Era a failure, were probably hoping he’d fail from the get-go. The kid was put in a tough situation, and has handled himself pretty well in spite of everything he’s had to go through to get to where he is. I’m pretty sure he knows that he’s no where close to being an elite QB in the NFL, but who’s to say that with a little help from his teammates and the front office, he won’t be?

I think it’s clear what’s going on in Cleveland this season, though fans may not want to hear it. It appears to me that the front office is in evaluation mode; seeing where they need to fill holes, and if the talent they have is worth paying. This is more commonly known as “rebuild mode”.

Things are turning around in Cleveland, but they’ve still a long way to go. The front office addressed the defensive side of the ball in last year’s draft, and should do the same with the offense this go round. Personally, I’d like to see McCoy get one more year as the starter. A year with weapons, and an offensive-line that is worth a damn. The o-line has been the key. A horrible o-line can destroy a running game in a heartbeat, and make even the best quarterbacks look like rookies. A lot of pessimist will say that this is McCoy’s shot and he’s in over his head. Combine that with Holmgren’s recent comments about bringing in a new QB every year until they get it right, and all the ingredients for a lynch-mob are there.

Even if it’s for eight games, McCoy deserves a fair shot. If the front office properly addresses the offense next season, whether it’s through free agency or the draft, and McCoy continues to struggle, then at least we know that it’s him, and that it’s not a case of a decent quarterback being plugged into a terrible situation. Regardless, the Browns are still a year, or two, away from being a championship caliber team. At least they’re finally, finally, heading in the right direction.


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