By Tony Grossi
We all knew the Browns’ offense had too many holes to be transformed overnight.
But how is this for a start? Franchise running back in Trent Richardson and new starting quarterback in Brandon Weeden.
The Browns left no doubt – none whatsoever – that the Colt McCoy era is over after one full season as starter and a two-year record of 6-15.
“We’ve got a new quarterback that’s going to be with us,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “I think tonight is more or less about Brandon Weeden and less about the competition.”
Wow. Not even using the “he will compete for a starting job” line.
I asked GM Tom Heckert if he will seek to trade McCoy over the weekend.
“I think that’s something we’ll talk about tonight and tomorrow,” he answered.
It’s obvious now why McCoy shunned interviews all offseason. He had to know – or fear – his time in Cleveland was coming to an end.
This move was driven from the top. Sources said owner Randy Lerner expressed frustration about the team’s quarterback situation and President Mike Holmgren made it his personal mission in this draft to decide on McCoy’s replacement.
“When we went through the process of evaluating him,” Shurmur said, “we became very fond of him. We all did, from Randy to Mike and Tom and myself. We came away with saying this is a guy we’d like on our team. And that’s where we are right now.”
I was told that Heckert and Shurmur held out initially for supporting McCoy with playmakers selected with the top three picks. But neither gave that impression when they faced the media late in the night.
Heckert said he selected Weeden at No. 22 because he was aware a couple other teams were interested in him.
“We had lot of conversations about this,” Heckert said. “When you’re talking about a quarterback, we just didn’t think it was worth taking a risk. We just wanted to make sure we got him.”
Heckert acknowledged Weeden is “the guy” – the quarterback who carries the franchise’s future on his shoulders. The plan is to play him immediately.
“Obviously, we’re not going to throw a guy out there just to throw him out there,” Heckert said. “Eventually he’s going to be a starter for us. That’s why we drafted him.”
At 28 years, 195 days, Weeden is the oldest player ever taken in the common NFL draft, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
“He has the attributes you’re looking for in a quarterback,” Shurmur said. “We felt like he was a winner. He obviously took a non-traditional path to being a college quarterback (after five years in baseball’s minor leagues). He’s a very mature guy, I think he’s an outstanding thrower, good decision-maker, very accurate.
“He found a way at Oklahoma State to win a lot of football games against a lot of the quarterbacks that we’ve been talking about leading up to the draft. So we feel like the kid’s a winner. I wasn’t concerned about his age. I was impressed with his maturity, the way he handled himself.”
Another thing appealed to Shurmur. Weeden is a shade under 6-4 and 221 pounds. If one season in the AFC North proved anything to Shurmur, it’s that his quarterback needs to be tougher physically than what he had. Nobody ever questioned McCoy’s inner toughness, but his size put him at a severe disadvantage.
“You’re always looking for bigger, stronger, faster guys,” Shurmur said. “Taller guys sometimes can see a little bit better, which allows them to do some things. A quarterback does have to take a little bit of a pounding. They all get hit. But in terms of evaluating a quarteback, the toughness is obviously an overriding factor, whether they have it or not.”
They liked Weeden so much, they provided him a tough runner in Trent Richardson.
Next up are receivers and a right tackle.
Then the transformation will be complete.
Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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