View from Cleveland: McCoy deals with lonely day

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For Colt McCoy, Sunday brought the clear reminder of the difference between playing quarterback at Texas and playing quarterback for the Browns.

He had more weapons at Texas.

Receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi were there for McCoy one minute, then gone the next in a game in which the Steelers already owned every conceivable advantage except a time machine comeback by Bradshaw, Swann and Stallworth.

McCoy termed the hit on Massaquoi "ugly," but in terms of complicating his day the loss of Cribbs in a helmet-to-helmet collision with Steelers linebacker James Harrison was the truly hideous development.

I think it was that noted NFL analyst Hilary Clinton who said it takes a village to raise a child quarterback's play, especially in his NFL debut and even more so against the Steelers on the road.

Cribbs in the wildcat formation was meant to be McCoy's support system. The wildcat had been pretty much a rumor this season. Sunday it was a necessity. Then the Browns had to abandon it.

"When [Cribbs] went down, you know you don't have that to lean on ever," McCoy said.

Instead, McCoy had to stand on his own two feet with Peyton Hillis rushing for only 41 yards. By the way, that's the first bit of promising news to share about McCoy's debut.

He was still standing afterwards.

McCoy surpassed that low standard for what constitutes progress for Browns' quarterbacks -- two good feet, no high ankle sprain -- and kept going, completing 23 of 33 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown in the 28-10 loss to the Steelers.

It wasn't storybook, obviously. The Steelers sacked him five times. They intercepted him twice. They could've easily made it three when Lamarr Woodley made a welcome-to-the-NFL drop in coverage and nearly picked off a pass.

Overall, his play was enough to change how the organization views him, at least the timetable for him. The Browns went from no interest in having him play in 2010 to intrigue about what comes next.

The most promising aspects of the McCoy experience were his poise in the pocket and his sense of self before and after. How else to explain his message when he addressed teammates Saturday night as the team's latest starting quarterback?

"I just told 'em the hay is in the barn," McCoy said ... "for some of the city folks I had to [explain]."

As his head coach and a number of teammates said Sunday, the game didn't look too big for McCoy.

Give coach Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll credit. They didn't send the kid into the ring and tell him to clinch and cover up. They let him come out swinging.

McCoy threw on first down early (or at least tried). He completed a dozen passes for 10 yards or longer. Six covered 20 yards or more.

A chunk of his 281 yards happened late, but there was less garbage time than the final score indicates. He did more than dink and dunk.

"He took control of the huddle," Browns' guard Eric Steinbach said. "That's what a quarterback has to do."

Speaking of old guys, Jake Delhomme isn't close to playing. He's got ankle sprains high and low. Seneca Wallace, too, is still limping.

A week after finding himself in a duel with Ben Roethlisberger, McCoy likely will need to face Drew Brees and the Saints in New Orleans.

As quarterback options go for the Browns the hay is in the barn. Surprisingly Sunday, McCoy didn't get buried under it.

Bud Shaw is a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.


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