Colt McCoy plans to call Sam Bradford before the Rams visit Cleveland Browns Stadium on Saturday. Maybe McCoy wants to hear from his friend/rival what it’s like to be on the fast track to starting quarterback in the NFL.
Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford spent three years together in the Big 12. McCoy’s Texas Longhorns won a conference title, Bradford’s Oklahoma Sooners two. McCoy was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, Bradford was the winner in 2008.
Their parallel careers have diverged.
Bradford became the No. 1 overall pick of St. Louis in April, while McCoy slid to the Browns at No. 85 in the third round. President Mike Holmgren immediately said McCoy would sit this year, while Bradford is expected to start as early as Week 1.
McCoy can be forgiven for feeling a twinge of jealousy.
“I’m definitely excited about the opportunity I have here,” McCoy said Wednesday between meetings and before a massage on the team’s day off from practice.
“At the same time I’m excited for him. He has a chance to play right away. As the first pick in the draft, he has to go in there and be able to compete. I’m excited to watch him play.
“I know I’m going to get a chance, and when I get my opportunities I’m going to make the most of them.”
McCoy’s draft position and slot on the depth chart behind veterans Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace haven’t cracked his confidence. He believes he’ll be a success and plans on keeping the starting job once he gets it.
In the meantime, he’s learning a new skill: patience.
“I’m not patient,” he said. “But I have to be. It’s part of it.
“I’m playing at the highest level you can play at. I’m going to continue with mental reps and get better every time I step out there. I’ll be ready.”
The major life adjustments have been coming in waves for McCoy. There was life in the NFL and Cleveland, the severely limited practice reps of a third-stringer and the two-interception preseason debut that included an injured thumb.
McCoy entered the Packers game Saturday night in the second quarter. The Browns were in field-goal range at the end of the half, when McCoy made the cardinal sin of throwing into double coverage in the end zone for an interception.
“I shouldn’t try to force things there,” he said. “With a good throw, I had a chance. I saw him a little too early, got excited, threw off my back foot and had no velocity on the ball.
“I won’t make that mistake again. I’ll be all right.”
Mangini hates unnecessary risks. Especially those that end in interceptions.
“The guy was in double coverage,” he said. “Hit the under (receiver) and move to the next play. Sometimes guys want to make a play and maximize their opportunity, but in trying to make a play, you can actually make a play for the other team.
“He has historically made good decisions in college and he’s a conscientious kid. He could have been a little bit excited, a little bit of nervous, a lot of confidence, all of those things.”
The last of McCoy’s plays was an interception after the ball fluttered when his thumb hit lineman Casey Bender’s helmet on the follow-through. McCoy finished 5-for-10 for 25 yards and a 16.7 rating. He did scramble twice for 25 yards and two first downs.
“I’d like to have a couple throws back and not get my thumb jammed up,” he said. “Other than that, I felt I made some really good decisions and good throws and executed what was called.
“Obviously I’ve got some lessons to learn from that game, ways to be coached. Overall, I think it was OK.”
The thumb ended McCoy’s night, but X-rays were negative. He missed the first practice of his football career Monday, and returned Tuesday with a nice showing in the evening session.
“They were just trying to be real precautionary,” he said. “If I had been the starter right now, there’s no way I would’ve missed. It wasn’t up to me.”
McCoy hasn’t had control of his destiny since he lost feeling in his right arm after a first-quarter hit in January in the national championship loss to Alabama. He was unable to return to the game, slipped to the fourth quarterback drafted and is spending more time staying loose on the sideline than practicing in team drills.
“It’s a major adjustment and your reps are very limited,” said Delhomme, who went through the same thing as a rookie in 1998. “Like all people, you get better with reps. But you see the young kids staying after, working, just trying to stay on top of their game.
“If it’s not important to somebody, then they’re really not going to give you everything they have. He wants to be good.”
McCoy said he uses the downtime in practice to go over the plays mentally and visualize what he’d do. At night, he holds walkthroughs with the other rookies to prepare for specific game situations.
“I’m making fewer mistakes. Now, I go to the right place with the ball,” he said. “I want to get to the point where I execute no matter what the defense does. I’m a lot closer, but I’m still learning.”
He should have plenty of time to do it from the sideline, while Bradford takes the controls of a 1-15 Rams team that was blown out in the preseason opener. McCoy would prefer a role reversal, but has accepted his fate.
“I think whatever situation you’re in, you’ve got to play to that,” he said. “I can’t have the mentality coming out to practice that I’m going to sit out all year. If I did that, I wouldn’t get any better.
“So every day I come out here I try to compete and try to be my best and be ready whenever something happens.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.