July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Rookie QB McCoy sees bright future in Cleveland

CLEVELAND — Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy threw six interceptions in the last two games. He lost his last five starts to go 2-6. His first NFL coach, Eric Mangini, is expected to get fired this morning.
But McCoy wasn’t wallowing Sunday after a 41-9 loss to the Steelers that ended the Browns’ season at 5-11.

“I got a lot of experience, eight games that nobody expected me to get, and I’m fired up about it,” he said. “I’m fired up about the guys in this locker room. I know they compete to the very end, they fight to the very end. There is a good core of guys in there that we’re building an organization around and I’m super-proud to be a part of it.

“And I know it’s down times right now, but when I come back next year, I’m not a rookie anymore. It’s time to play, it’s time to go, and I understand that.”

McCoy was 20-for-41 for 209 yards, a touchdown, four sacks and a 41.6 rating Sunday. He threw three interceptions for the second straight week, but didn’t play as poorly as he did in the
20-10 loss to the Ravens last week.

He was the victim of numerous drops, including three in the end zone by tight end Robert Royal, and all three picks involved extenuating circumstances. The first one, on the game’s second play, should’ve been caught be usually reliable tight end Benjamin Watson, who tipped it to safety Troy Polamalu.

“It’s just one of those things,” said McCoy, who took a pounding and got up slowly a few times but said he was OK. “It happened so fast. Those (mistakes) are things that we have got to eliminate as a team, just the boom-boom plays, the tipped balls, maybe a protection here or there. Just little things like that are easily correctable, easily fixable.”

The second interception was thrown toward receiver Mohamed Massaquoi — the target on all three picks against the Ravens. McCoy thought he’d run the route more toward the sideline, but Massaquoi veered in. The ball wound up right in safety Ryan Clark’s arms. McCoy was animated on the sideline, flapping his arms and talking loudly to coordinator Brian Daboll.

“We just miscommunicated,” McCoy said of Massaquoi. “I thought he was going to do something, and he thought I was going to do something else, and those are the little things that we talked about.”

The final pick went to cornerback Anthony Madison, but linebacker James Harrison deserves the credit for crushing McCoy as he released, forcing the ball to badly miss its target.

“I didn’t even see where the ball went, but I know there was a guy wide open,” McCoy said. “As a quarterback, you can’t dwell on the interceptions because it’s all of us. We’ve got to be better.”

The late-season struggles didn’t discourage McCoy or his teammates. They still believe he’s the quarterback of the future — which starts next year.

“You know I am driven, I am committed here,” he said. “And it’s not just me, there are tons of guys in there. You can’t ever accept the things that go on that are negative here. You can’t ever accept the losses.

“The true character guys are the ones who step up and play, and just find a way to win. I think this year was huge for me, just maturing as a quarterback and becoming a better quarterback.”

McCoy’s season rating fell to 74.5. He completed 60.8 percent with six touchdowns and nine interceptions. He led the Browns with 1,576 passing yards and joins Bernie Kosar (1985) and Tim Couch (1999) as the only rookies to lead the Browns in passing yards.

“I’ve seen how good he can play,” receiver Joshua Cribbs said. “That’s a rookie, he made rookie mistakes.

“I think Colt did a very good job of coming in and being able to produce. It’s a lot on his shoulders as a rookie being asked to step into a role of a veteran quarterback and lead a football team. We put that in his hands and he did a great job. Yes, there’s room for improvement, but he didn’t break.”

Mangini attributed the difficulties the last two weeks to the superb defenses of the Ravens and Steelers, and the lack of a running game to take pressure off McCoy.

“And definitely I’ve got so much I can learn from,” McCoy said. “I can watch these tapes. That’s going to make a huge difference, if I go back and I learn from it, learn from these mistakes, learn from just the ups and downs of the NFL.”

McCoy could be asked to learn a new system next year if Mangini is fired and replaced by a coach who prefers the West Coast offense that president Mike Holmgren likes. McCoy said he ran a system with some West Coast principles at the University of Texas, but supported Mangini.

“Coach Mangini and his staff, for me personally, have done a great job,” he said. “They’ve really taught me and coached me, especially in the time since I’ve started playing.

“I do not know what the future holds, but I know Coach Holmgren is our president, and I know he’s going to make the right decisions to figure out how this organization can become a winner.”

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.