He knows how the game is played — inside and outside the lines.
So when Wallace spoke bluntly Tuesday after practice about the latest Browns quarterback situation, he was speaking from experience.
“We all know, I hate to say it, the game is a lot of hype, a lot of business involved with who’s playing and who’s not,” he said. “There’s a lot of other factors (than just performance).”
Wallace has been the odd man out in the competition between rookie Brandon Weeden and incumbent Colt McCoy.
Wallace has been third in line in team drills and has watched the other two share snaps with the starters.
Wallace holds the same assumption as most people inside and outside of team headquarters: Weeden will be named the starting quarterback. Wallace disagrees, however, with coach Pat Shurmur’s assertion that the team could keep Weeden, McCoy and Wallace on the regular-season roster.
“Probably not,” he said. “Cleveland has had situations where they had quarterback controversy and all this other stuff and if you’re going to move forward with a guy and it be your franchise guy, you need to put all your focus in that guy and let him play and take all the media situations out of it and the fan situations out of it and let him play in order to build that franchise the way you want it.”
Wallace was echoing the opinion that keeping McCoy as a backup would be a distraction. McCoy is accustomed to being the starter, and his fans would be quick to call for him if Weeden struggled early.
McCoy said he hasn’t let himself think about losing the job to Weeden.
“I have not gone there in my mind,” he said. “When I come out to practice, in my mind I’m the starter.”
Wallace continued to portray himself as the better choice to be Weeden’s backup. He doesn’t have the same fan support as McCoy and has spent his career in the role and in the West Coast Offense.
“Look, this is my 10th year,” Wallace said. “I know the ropes. I know what goes on. I’m not naive to that. I know the system well enough to compete at anytime.
“Whatever decision is made, that’s the coaches’ decision. We would all love for it to be sooner than later to figure that situation out. But they know what I bring to the table. And if that’s enough, who knows?”
Shurmur said he doesn’t feel a sense of urgency to name a backup. He favors keeping three quarterbacks and could envision a scenario in which Weeden, McCoy and Wallace stick around. Thaddeus Lewis, a developmental prospect, is the fourth quarterback on the roster.
“I have an idea of how this thing’s going to work out based on what I’m seeing, but they have to come out here and do it,” Shurmur said.
Shurmur’s list of what he looks for in a backup seems to describe Wallace — efficiency with limited repetitions during the week, mobility and experience.
Wallace would welcome backing up Weeden, but isn’t OK with being No. 3.
“No, not really,” he said. “For no reason you go down to the third guy, and we all know the third guy doesn’t dress Sundays.
“If it comes down to that decision, obviously neither one of us wants to be that third guy.”
Wallace and McCoy wouldn’t say if they would ask to be traded or released if they didn’t get the job they wanted. Wallace is scheduled to make $2.4 million in 2012, and McCoy $540,000. Will salary play a role in who is kept?
“You can say it can. You can say maybe it’s not,” Wallace said. “That’s for the guys upstairs to figure out.”
Wallace believed last season he should’ve been given more of a chance to compete with McCoy for the starting job and was a reluctant tutor. This year, he’s accepted Weeden as the franchise’s choice and is willing to help.
“I’m a realist. Obviously the kid was drafted in the first round for a reason,” Wallace said. “If it’s the first week or it’s the 12th week, at some point the kid is going to play.
“Little things that I see that he can improve on or things he might miss, he takes them and runs with them. He’s very coachable. He’s a big kid, strong arm. Obviously, he’s seasoned. He’s learning still, but at the same time he’s got all the things you want out of a quarterback.”
For all of the discussion about when an announcement of the starter will occur, Weeden isn’t getting sucked in. He was asked if he feels like the starter.
“I can’t say that,” he said. “Even though I’m getting a lot of reps with the ones, I think that helps me.
“But I feel like nothing’s set in stone until it’s official. That will all take care of itself.”
But nothing in the last month of practice has made him doubt his ability to be the starter.
“Not yet,” he said, quickly knocking on the wooden podium.
“I’ve come a long ways,” he added. “I’m starting to get comfortable, get acclimated to what we’re doing. The more reps I continue to get, the better off I’ll be.”
McCoy has the most to lose. He’s started all 21 games he’s played with the Browns, going 6-15, but could be viewed as a backup across the league from this point forward. He was told he’d get a chance to compete for the job, but has been following Weeden in most team drills while still taking some snaps with the starters.
“I can only control what I can control,” McCoy said. “That’s when I have the football in my hands, what do I do with it? I feel confident, I feel comfortable. I feel like the ball’s coming out well. I feel like it’s gone really well.
“I understand we’re trying to get Brandon ready. He’s got a lot of reps. That’s part of the process.”