The rookie didn’t fool anyone. This was hardly routine.
Stepping way out of character, coach Eric Mangini named McCoy his starting quarterback for this week’s game at Cincinnati (2-11) and for the remainder of this season _ home games against AFC North big boys Baltimore and Pittsburgh. McCoy, who hasn’t played since spraining his left ankle on Nov. 21 at Jacksonville, has been entrusted with Cleveland’s offense for three games that could determine Mangini’s future.
“It’s no landmark day,” McCoy said before practice Thursday. “Today is the day that, now I know I’m the starter. I gotta go out and play and go out and get better and I gotta go out and help us win.”
“I felt like he’s earned this opportunity and I want to give it to him,” Mangini said. “I want to see how he continues to grow. This is by no stretch just throwing a young guy in for the sake of throwing a young guy in. If I didn’t think that he could go out and lead us and be successful doing that, then I wouldn’t make this decision. But I do feel that way and I feel strongly about it.”
While Mangini’s decision will please the majority of Browns fans, it’s not known what affect it could have on Holmgren, who intends to wait until after the season before deciding whether to bring his coaching staff back. The Browns (5-8) have been wildly erratic this season, and Holmgren wants stability.
“It’s not just a function of trying to get him his letter or anything like that,” Mangini said. “He’s earned this. I wouldn’t put the team in a position and all the guys in a position where we’re playing a guy just to play a guy. We’re all trying to win games.”
McCoy only received his original chance because of injuries to Delhomme and Seneca Wallace. But forced to play on Oct. 17 at Pittsburgh, he showed a toughness and poise that seemed to surprise the Browns, who weren’t sure what they had after the former Texas star struggled in training camp and the preseason.
McCoy passed for 975 yards and three touchdowns while going 2-3 as a starter before getting hurt. He’s determined to make the most of this second chance.
“I never looked for someone to name me the starting quarterback,” he said. “I just need to go out there and play. There are a lot of ways I can get better, there are a lot of things I can improve on and that’s what I’m going to do the rest of the year.”
And a good reason why, is because Delhomme’s comeback season crashed.
The 35-year-old signed with Cleveland hoping to revive his career, but a severe ankle injury and his inability to keep the Browns‘ offense moving consistently led to the switch. As reporters waited to speak with McCoy, Delhomme dressed quietly for practice nearby.