If I was a starter on the Cleveland Browns offense in 2011, I’d be very worried as it seems everyone will have to earn their job next season. This even includes quarterback Colt McCoy and might also mean Peyton Hillis may not be back. Personally, I can’t blame head coach Pat Shurmur for not guaranteeing starting spots as his team went 4-12.
The biggest thing from his press conference to me was his lack of commitment to McCoy.
“There’s going to be some competition and I expect that Colt will improve just like I expect Seneca [Wallace] will improve and whoever the quarterbacks are here,” said coach Pat Shurmur in his exit press conference Tuesday. “The best quarterback will play when we start the season.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
What Shurmur did do is not discount McCoy. He said he wants to see how his players develop which I think is only fair. The rookie head coach was put behind the eight ball to start because of the lockout, especially with him bringing in the West Coast offense. An offense that a lot of his players never played in before, specifically his starting QB.
“As we go forward here with Colt, he’s done some really good things,” said Shurmur. “[We'll] get him back healthy, and get him in an off-season where he has a chance to develop. It’s critical that he gets better. He’d tell you the same thing. We’ll move forward with that in mind and we’ll do what we have to do to put the best quarterback on the field for our franchise.”
“I’m not admitting anything yet because I want to see these guys develop,” said Shurmur. “If you produce well enough, you become elite. If you don’t, then you may end up being average, and then if you don’t then, you move on. I’m expecting the quarterbacks that are here to develop through the off-season and we’re going to play the best one.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
There’s another factor in play and that’s the wealth of “top” quarterbacks in this years NFL Draft. We all know about Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III but there’s also Ryan Tannehill who’s a top prospect. If any of them are available at the number four spot then there’s a chance GM Tom Heckert and president Paul Holmgren go in that direction.
Now to the running back position. Peyton Hillis had a horrendous 2011 after his breakout 2010 season. He was riddled with injuries but more importantly had such a poor attitude that the team has to wonder is this a guy they want starting at an important skill position?
“We just had a chance to sit down and really talk about what happened during the year,” said Shurmur. “We had an all-star player that we had high hopes for that got injured and then I watched him fight back from injury and I watched him compete well at the end of the season. And we talked about those things and how a season can be a mini-journey. As we move forward, we’re just hopeful it works out for everybody. But that’s one of those questions I really can’t answer at this point.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
The Browns do have Montario Hardesty, a second round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft who could be ready to make an impact. If he’s healthy of course, as he also dealt with injuries this season that only allowed him to appear in ten games.
If Cleveland does bring Hillis back I’d fully expect him to be the starter next year. The question is how much will it cost them? His value may h ave been damaged by his poor 2011 but like Shurmur said he did finish strong. finishing strong will definitely make NFL executives think his 2010 wasn’t an aberration.
With two key offensive starters not being guaranteed their positions there is only one thing guaranteed for next year. That guarantee is that there will be a lot of changes in Cleveland, Ohio this off season.
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