To this point, neither Colt McCoy nor Pat Shurmur are giving fans a reason to believe either is the future in Cleveland. On paper, the Browns are a 2-3 football team with a middle of the road quarterback. When it comes to watching them actually play on the field, they have beaten two teams with a combined 0-10 record with a pitiful offense led by a nervous, weak armed quarterback who does trust his offensive line and his mechanics and as a result accuracy are suffering.
What is scary about the Browns is how consistent they are in their ineffectiveness. They seem to do all of their damage offensively in the second quarter, where they have scored seven touchdowns compared to five in the other three quarters combined. They have come out in every single game unbelievably flat. Even after a bye week with a chance to get back on the right track, they come out with little energy and no confidence in what they are doing offensively.
Pat Shurmur was hired to be an offensive coach, but to this point, the Browns are only keeping themselves in games with their defense and when that fails them like with Tennessee, the offense has no hope to keep the game even remotely close. Against the Raiders, special teams gave up 14 points while the defense only gave up 10; the offense could only muster 17, which is pretty close to the season average of around 18 points per game.
The offensive line has its fair share of problems including possibly both guard spots that are being manned by a 6th round rookie in Jason Pinkston, who played tackle in college, and a second year 3rd rounder in Shawn Lauvao. The Browns also desperately need a long term answer at right tackle where Pashos can be effective, but is rarely healthy. This is certainly hurting Colt McCoy’s effectiveness as teams are able to send four and get pressure forcing McCoy to make a decision quickly into seven man drops. The problem is that while the offensive line deserves a share of the blame, McCoy cannot afford to throw with bad mechanics. He was tabbed as a guy who could throw accurately, despite not having a huge arm. When he is doing things like throwing off his back foot or not setting his feet when he throws, he is not accurate and missing guys he should hit and if Colt McCoy is not accurate and does not have a big strong arm, what good is he?
Perhaps the weapons the Browns have are not good enough and maybe they deserve their share of the blame, but McCoy is missing too many open receivers and when he does put passes where they should be, the receivers are doing more with them than they are given credit for. The other problem is a guy like Evan Moore, who many believed was in for a huge season, has not seen the field as much as many thought he would and when he does, it is split out as a receiver and never in line as a traditional tight end, limiting the opportunities he can have. Could McCoy use a true #1 weapon? Absolutely, but I cannot help but feel that even if McCoy had a legitimate #1 receiver, the conversation would quickly turn to how that guy is double covered and no one else can get open, so then they need another legit weapon. At some point, the quarterback just needs to make plays and to this point, McCoy needs to do significantly better than he has been. He needs to do a better job reading defenses and reading pressure. He also needs to be more accurate, especially down field and this will happen when he gets back to having good mechanics. And finally, McCoy has to do a better job of mixing up the snap count, because in too many situations, defenses are consistently getting a great jump on plays, which only pushes an offensive line struggling to play well in an even worse situation.
Pat Shurmur needs to do a better job with his playcalling, with the way he uses his players, and maybe the most important, he needs to find a way to get this team to come out with some fire and get off to the right start rather than immediately starting in a hole and trying to find a way to dig themselves out. He has also been dealt a bad hand when it comes to things like this ugly contract negotiation with Peyton Hillis, but he has not done himself any favors in his handling of it. It is also not necessarily fair that Eric Mangini was here last year and had the Browns far more competitive each and every week, so a step backward from that is extremely frustrating to fans of this team in addition to the fact the Browns have a Super Bowl winning head coach in the press box as the President of the team in Mike Holmgren.
The timing of the lockout also provided a challenge for Shurmur and company, but other teams like the 49ers and Bengals have had similar challenges and been effective in spite of them. Jim Harbaugh came in and has the 49ers 5-1 seemingly resurrecting Alex Smith's career in San Francisco while Marvin Lewis has a new west coast offense under Jay Gruden, a rookie quarterback in Andy Dalton and a rookie wide receiver in A.J. Green and they are 4-2, so Shurmur will have a difficult time finding pity there either.
The Browns have eleven games left in the season and both McCoy and Shurmur have plenty of time to improve and show why Mike Holmgren believed in both, but there needs to be substantial improvement. McCoy has started a total of eleven games so far in his career and Shurmur is a rookie head coach with five games under his belt, but at this point, neither appears to be the answer in Cleveland and while turning the page on them will not necessarily mean starting over provided Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert remain in place, it does mean a giant step backward in the team’s timetable of not winning a championship or even making the playoffs, but simply being competitive week in and week out. And for someone like me, who would like to see the first three picks of the draft go to the defensive side of the ball, that has substantial needs in spite of what has been playing above their heads, the front office’s hand might be forced to continue trying to build an effective offense.