The Arms of Texas: How will Colt McCoy fare in San Francisco?


Cleveland has undergone so much reconstruction it seems like Ty Pennington was hired as head advisor.

Since Jimmy Haslam bought the franchise in August of last year, the Browns front office and coaching staff has almost completely shifted. As a result, Norv Turner was brought in during the off-season as offensive coordinator. His vertical passing style of offense and the signing of Jason Campbell displayed the Browns were going in a new direction. McCoy just didn’t fit in the plan.

But the Browns did McCoy a favor in reportedly sending him to the Golden Gate City. Head coach Jim Harbaugh happens to be the magic man when it comes to improving quarterbacks.

And McCoy needs some improvements.

Harbaugh began his head-coaching career at San Diego University, a private university in the Pioneer conference, in 2004. His first quarterback was Todd Mortensen, who had transferred from BYU after underperforming the last three seasons, completing 27 of 77 passes for one touchdown and four interceptions. In his first season under Harbaugh’s direction, Mortensen would throw for 2,874 yards, 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. Mortensen would go on to sign a contract with the Detroit Lions.

In his second year at San Diego, Harbaugh brought out the talents of Josh Johnson. Johnson would shatter most of the school records for passing during his time with Harbaugh and eventually was drafted by Tampa Bay. He currently plays for Cincinnati.

The list continues for Harbaugh from when he began at Stanford and improved T.C. Ostrander, who stepped up from his back-up role to fill in the absence of Trent Edwards in 2007. Ostrander threw for 1,422 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions in four games with the Cardinal. When Ostrander suffered a seizure during the fifth week, backup Tavita Prichard stepped in and helped upset top-ranked USC. Prichard would later lose his starting position to Andrew Luck. Luck would get drafted No. 1 overall after finishing second two years in a row in the Heisman polls.

All of this happened under Jim Harbaugh’s direction.

It isn’t coincidence that all of these players improved dramatically. The list is too consistent.

Harbaugh took a quarterback that everyone thought was washed up in Alex Smith and turned him into a team MVP overnight. Then after Smith was injured in Week 10 of the next season, Harbaugh brought up backup Colin Kaepernick and you know the rest.

McCoy will now get his opportunity to improve.

One of the things that kept McCoy out of contention in Cleveland was his lack of arm strength. Under Harbaugh, that is not a problem.

Here’s an example of what an Alex Smith/Harbaugh game looks like. In the 2011 NFC Divisional Playoff game between San Francisco and New Orleans, the average distance Alex Smith had to throw was 7.75 yards. Accuracy, consistency, and mobility allowed Smith to thrive in a 327-yard, four-touchdown playoff win.

Sounds a lot like a 2009 Texas Longhorns game.

But McCoy will have to compete for the backup role with Scott Tolzien. When you have earned a 6-15 record as a starter, you aren’t going to compete for a starting gig anywhere in the NFL.

Both Tolzien and McCoy possess accuracy, youth, and a Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award (given to the NCAA’s most outstanding senior quarterback). It will be a tough competition, but a fair one, much unlike the one McCoy was promised last season with Weeden.

Tolzien or McCoy may have to start at some point next season. The dual-threat attack with Kaepernick is effective, but also risky. Whoever wins the second-string will have to be prepared.