clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Colt McCoy And The Tyranny Of Inches

The only reason a QB with his physical profile even got a chance to be an NFL starter in the first place was because of how great he was in Austin.

May 22, 2012; Berea, OH, USA: Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden (3) and quarterback Colt McCoy (12) during organized team activities at the Cleveland Browns training facility.  Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USPRESSWIRE
May 22, 2012; Berea, OH, USA: Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden (3) and quarterback Colt McCoy (12) during organized team activities at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USPRESSWIRE

Colt McCoy is listed at 6'1 215 pounds by the Cleveland Browns.

There were 55 players who started an NFL game at QB last year. There were only five 6'1 and under: Colt, Tyler Palko (6'1), Rex Grossman (6'1), Drew Brees (6'0) and Michael Vick (6'0).

Palko is out of the NFL and Grossman could soon be joining him. The only QB's that size who succeed in the NFL (Brees and Vick) are outliers in every sense of the word.

While most sportswriters would like to believe that the NFL's preference for tall QB's is nothing but a shallow stereotype, there's some pretty basic logic behind it. There's less room in the pocket in the NFL: offensive and defensive lineman are a lot bigger and faster than they are in college. The shorter you are, the more your vision is going to be bothered by the World War I trench warfare that is an NFL line of scrimmage.

That's one of the reasons Vick takes so many sacks; he's more comfortable rolling out in the pocket where he can scan the field and use his athleticism in open space to elude tacklers. Brees, in turn, has a rocket for an arm, and he excels in the Saints spread offense, where he can slide into throwing lanes.

Colt McCoy is not a transcendental athlete in the open field and he's not a guy who throws ropes 40 yards down the field. NFL teams don't normally take chances on guys with his physical profile.

In 21 starts over the last 2 years for the Cleveland Browns, he completed 58.4% of his passes for 4,309 yards, 20 TD's and 20 INT's. The rest of the Cleveland offense was hardly covering themselves in glory either, but it's no surprise the Browns made upgrading the QB position a priority in the off-season.

After they spent a first-round pick on the 6'4 Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State, yesterday's news that McCoy wouldn't start is hardly surprising. With his statistical resume, his only chance to be a starter again will probably have to come as a backup, his ceiling in the NFL all along.

What's amazing about his career isn't that he had an underwhelming 21 games as a starter, it's that an NFL franchise was willing to give him 21 starts in the first place. He was such a dominant college player they had to find out whether the magic would continue, even though their experience was telling them it wouldn't.

QB's tend to have their accomplishments in the NCAA retrospectively downgraded if they don't succeed at the next level, but Colt was about as dominant as a QB could possibly be in college.

Whatever the actual science behind Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000 Hour rule" to becoming an expert actually is, Colt more than passed that mark in his time in Austin. He was the son of a football coach who red-shirted a year behind Vince Young and then started 53 games at UT; there's not much a defense was going to be able to do in a football game that could confuse him.

In his own way, he was as dominant as Vince. The Longhorns were bigger and more talented than their opponents, and they had a QB who knew exactly how to exploit his teammates physical advantages.

In his last two seasons, Texas went 25-2. His only losses came when Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree matched his last-second heroics in Lubbock and when he was knocked out of the national championship game against Alabama.

If you define "leadership" as "being really good at football", Colt was an incredible leader in Austin. If the ball was in his hands with the game on the line, his team was going to win.

That's what happens when you really understand the intricacies of any game. Colt was a chess expert who had an extra queen in his pieces; there was no way he wasn't going to wreck any defense a collegiate team threw at him.

Maybe Nick Saban's defenses are invincible or maybe they beat a team playing a true freshman QB and a team who might as well have been in two national title games, but how would that game had looked if UT got out to an early lead and forced the Crimson Tide to open up their offense?

At the end of the day, I don't judge his career any differently because Blake Gideon couldn't catch that pass or because an Alabama player landed awkwardly on his collarbone. That's just random luck, and all you can ask for is to be in the position where luck becomes the difference.

And if being a standout NFL QB was simply a matter of having a "will to win", I'm sure Colt would have been great at that too. It's not.

Those who can't end teach, and I don't think anyone would be surprised if he ends up being a college head coach. It's kind of a better gig anyways -- there's a lot less chance of being lobotomized by James Harrison on the sidelines.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.