Browns’ McCoy uses advice from Favre to shine

Published 2:00 am Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Associated Press

BEREA — Colt McCoy showed up for his postgame news conference wearing a T-shirt endorsing a fishing tackle company.

Maybe best to reel in the expectations right away.

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After all, McCoy may have a tough time topping his exhibition debut.

Looking poised and comfortable in Cleveland’s new West Coast offense, McCoy outshined Super Bowl star Aaron Rodgers and was nearly flawless as the Browns beat the Green Bay Packers 27-17 on Saturday night, making Cleveland rookie coach Pat Shurmur a winner in his first NFL preseason game.

McCoy completed 9 of 10 passes for 135 yards, one touchdown and compiled a 152.1 passer’s rating — just a few points shy of perfection. The Browns, who have spent the past decade in a frustrating search for a franchise quarterback to lead them back to respectability, are hoping McCoy, may finally answer their prayers.

He’s off to a nice start.

“Pretty good,” McCoy humbly said in assessing his performance. “We understand we have a long way to go.”

No doubt. But for the first time in ages, the Browns, who have just one playoff appearance since 1999 and lost at least 10 games in seven of the last eight seasons, seem to be headed in the same direction. And, they’re counting on McCoy to lead the way.

Needing to get up to speed on the complex offense during the off-season, McCoy sought advice from a West Coast master.

Brett Favre was happy to help.

As the league’s labor lockout dragged on, McCoy went to Hattiesburg, Miss., and spent a few days with the three-time NFL MVP, who learned the West Coast system while playing for Browns president Mike Holmgren in Green Bay. McCoy gleaned all he could from the-retired-at-the-moment Favre, who won a Super Bowl with Holmgren in 1996.

“Since I couldn’t get coached, it was a great opportunity to pick the brain of a guy who played in the system for 20 years,” McCoy said through a team spokesman. “It was a chance for me to get a lot of questions answered. We worked on footwork, progressions, reads and things like that. It was definitely a positive trip.”

McCoy is expected to offer more on the Favre visit Tuesday.

Shurmur was encouraged by McCoy’s first outing in the passer friendly system the first-year coach brought from St. Louis, where he taught it to Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. Shurmur knows it can work, and is pleased with how quickly McCoy has picked it up in training camp.

“He was efficient,” Shurmur said after Monday’s practice. “He saw what was going on extremely well. He was pretty accurate with his throws and pretty solid with his decision making. But again, once you have what would be considered a solid performance, then it’s all about consistency and he was right back on the stick this morning, getting better at some things.”

McCoy will get a chance to build off his impressive debut on Friday, when the Browns host Detroit.

After dissecting the Packers, who were without star cornerback Charles Woodson and are currently thin in the secondary, McCoy was careful not to make too much of his strong game. He also made sure he spread the praise around to his teammates.

His night didn’t start well.

On Cleveland’s first snap, McCoy couldn’t find an open receiver, and in a panic, lateralled to rookie fullback Owen Marecic, who recovered his fumble. McCoy regrouped and completed five straight passes, the last a 27-yard TD strike to Josh Cribbs.

When he came to the sideline, McCoy acknowledged his early mistake to Shurmur.

“He said, ‘Coach, I should of just ran with it,”’ Shurmur said. “He knows what he’s looking at. As we get more and more comfortable with one another, as he gets more and more comfortable with his players and the system, I hope he will progress next week.”

As for his progress during the game, McCoy showed he’s able to make the Xs and Os in Shurmur’s playbook spring to life.

On a crossing pattern to wide receiver Brian Robiskie, McCoy looked off the safety to the right, creating a slim opening over the middle. He waited for Robiskie to clear the coverage and threw him a low dart for a 15-yard reception.

“One of my favorite plays of the night is Robo,” he said of the play to Robiskie. “We run a little play-action deep slant. Normally, you hit that ball in the first window but they rolled the safety down and Robo converted over the top and I hit him in the second window. It was a nice job by him of staying alive. There were some good things, there really were.”

McCoy certainly made a strong impression on the Packers.

“You can tell he definitely studied us some,” nose tackle B.J. Raji said. “They did some things as far as getting him on the move and rollouts and quick West Coast stuff to get his confidence up there. And he did a good job and made the right decisions.”

Raji believes McCoy has all the skills to win as a pro.

“An NFL quarterback’s all about winning, and if memory serves me correctly, he was the winningest quarterback in NCAA history,” he said. “The guy can play, he can win games, he knows what it takes. He has a bright future, there’s no question about that.”

The Browns are counting on it.

Notes: RB Montario Hardesty participated in contact drills for the first time in more than two weeks. The Browns have been taking it slow with the second-year back, who is coming back from knee surgery. “It was fun to get back in football mode again,” Hardesty said. Shurmur wouldn’t commit on Hardesty facing the Lions. … The Browns placed OG Billy Yates on the reserve/retired list. The versatile nine-year veteran showed up Monday and told a surprised Shurmur he was done. Yates started three games last season. He does not count towards the club’s 90-man roster limit. … Safety T.J. Ward didn’t practice because of an issue with his tooth. “If you didn’t know better, you would have thought he got punched in the chin,” said Shurmur, noting Ward’s face was swollen. … WR Mohamed Massaquoi is finally out of the walking boot. Massaquoi hasn’t practiced because of a leg injury, but he’s getting closer. … LBs Scott Fujita (thigh), Chris Gocong (neck), TE Ben Watson and S Usama Young didn’t practice. … Former Packers general manager Ron Wolf visited Holmgren.