ARLINGTON, Texas — The Browns players file into the locker room, heading down in defeat after a crushing overtime loss to the Cowboys on Nov. 18.
The majority of the team heads directly to the showers to wash away the stains of yet another close defeat, but backup quarterback and legendary former Longhorn Colt McCoy is one of the exceptions.
McCoy, who hadn’t seen a snap in the game, didn’t break a sweat in his return to Texas. Instead of racing toward the soothing drops of warm water, he stood stoically next to his locker, piling on layers of clothing to combat the biting winds of a cool November Dallas afternoon.
There wasn’t a teammate within 10 feet of him, and he faced away from the crowd of players on the opposite side of the room, where the young running backs and wideouts hammed it up, laughing and joking around, despite having victory snatched from them only minutes earlier.
McCoy took no part, taking the loss as hard as any starter.
“We always find a way to lose,” McCoy said, disheartened by yet another defeat. The Browns are 4-8 on the year, and lost the previous four games by a combined 18 points.
McCoy hasn’t played a role in any of these contests. He’s stood on the sidelines holding a clipboard, relaying signals to 29-year-old rookie quarterback, Brandon Weeden.
McCoy is active in his role. Arms churning to send out the right call, helping Weeden make any adjustments needed at the line. But under it all, he’s frustrated. It can be seen in his clenched jawline after a close loss, the same outline that used to display his 10-volt smile as he roamed the field at DKR.
“It’s a hard deal, especially when you feel like you should be playing,” McCoy said. “You just got to stay positive. It’s a marathon and not a sprint.”
McCoy’s first two seasons in the NFL were a whirlwind. After becoming college football’s all-time winningest quarterback at Texas — he’s now been surpassed on the list by former Boise State Bronco Kellen Moore — and leading the Longhorns to an appearance in the 2009 BCS Championship game, the Browns drafted McCoy in the third round.
In 2010, McCoy quickly ascended to the starting role, replacing an aging Jake Delhomme to play eight games in the year. He found a reasonable level of success that season despite his team’s lacking talent. In 2011, McCoy elevated his play, throwing for 2,733 yards, 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He only participated in 13 games however, as a vicious helmet-to-helmet blow by Pittsburgh’s James Harrison gave him a concussion, knocking him out for the remainder of the season.
Despite only having a little over a year under center, Cleveland’s new coaching staff decided to move in a different direction in the 2012 draft. The Browns selected Weeden at No. 22 to be the team’s quarterback of the future, leaving McCoy behind before he had a chance to establish himself.
“I got drafted by a different coaching staff, and they’re going to bring new guys in,” McCoy said. “You don’t want to make any excuses or anything, but you just have to live to fight each day, and I’m in that position right now.”
He’s battling to stay relevant in Cleveland, but the coaching staff hasn’t given him much of an opportunity. Head coach Pat Shurmur said that both quarterbacks would participate in an open competition during training camp, but it seemed to be a mere token gesture, as Shurmur named Weeden the starter only a week and a half into camp.
McCoy hasn’t sniffed the field since, and his body language made it evident that the combination of not playing and the Browns’ struggles are weighing on him. His teammates commend the job he’s done dealing with the situation.
“Colt’s a pro’s pro,” said Phil Dawson, kicker and former Longhorn. “He doesn’t need a pep talk from me. He’s handled all of this tremendously.”
McCoy’s situation parallels his brother’s, Case, a junior who’s been the backup for much of the season at Texas. However, sophomore David Ash started and stumbled against TCU, leaving the door open for Case to seize the job.
The story ended well for Case, but it may not be the same for Colt. The Browns have invested a significant amount in Weeden, and they see him as the future of the franchise. McCoy has one year remaining on his rookie deal, but when asked to look toward his future in Cleveland, McCoy is vague, spouting words about hard work and perseverance.
But his expression says it all. His blue eyes are cold, numbed by frustration. He just wants a chance.
“I want to win,” McCoy said. “I’ve always won. I want to be part of an environment that’s winning. That’s the frustration of not being able to play.”
Printed on Friday, December 6, 2012 as: Losses, benching brother McCoy