As hard as it is to say anything about an NFL season after only two weeks, a full one eighth of the 2011 schedule is in fact, in the books, and we can certainly say the Browns have given pundits little reason to pick up the red pen with their 1-1 start (first place!).
The Bengals look like they might not be as bad as everyone thought they'd be, and the Peyton Manning-less Colts (who effectively lost not only a Hall of Fame quarterback, but also a head coach) look much worse. The Browns opening loss to Cincinnati was embarrassing, but a new coaching staff installing new schemes over a strike-shortened off-season entitles them to one of those. A second loss as a favorite (the Browns were two-point chalk in Indianapolis) would have surely resulted in another Randy Lerner conference with Dawg Pound Mike, so nobody should underestimate the pressure that was overcome to reach .500, however bad things are going in Indianapolis.
With little reason to believe that Vegas isn't right on with the 6.5 wins it penciled in for us during the summer, we'll look to more specific questions and answers. The biggest of these is the future of Colt McCoy, whom we've still never seen pick apart a top level NFL defense for a win.
Former Browns quarterback and current ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer had something interesting to say about McCoy this week in ranking him seventh of eight selected signal callers in "rating the highest ceilings among young quarterbacks."
"Colt McCoy has neither elite arm talent nor great arm strength," according to Dilfer, "but that's part of what can make him great." The former QB explained: "McCoy extends plays, uses his legs with his eyes downfield, and uses that time to get deeper into his reads than others with better physical skills."
That would sound great if anyone could remember a Super Bowl winning quarterback relying exclusively on "using his legs with his eyes" to make plays. (Through two weeks, and against at least one quite terrible defense, that's the only way McCoy has made any real "play" at all.)
But it's early in both McCoy's career and the latest iteration of the Browns, so any supposed inability on Colt's part might be attributed to a lack of talent in the Browns receiving corps. There's a chicken/egg issue, here though. Year three in the NFL is supposed to be the breakout season for young wideouts, so whose fault is it if 2009 second-round picks Mohammed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie don't break out? Isn't Ben Watson supposed to be one of the best receiving tight ends in the league? What about Josh Cribbs? And Evan Moore is good enough for the Browns to have extended his contract for another $6 million over two years.
At this point, we can revert to a popular pre-season refrain: With the evaluation of McCoy's future such an important objective this season, why didn't the Browns obtain an elite receiver to minimize excuses for him?
With a chance that the current receiving corps could be okay, and with a potential steal in rookie pass-catcher Greg Little in Round 2, the decision to draft defensive linemen with the team's first two picks last April was easy enough to understand. After two weeks these picks, end Jabaal Sheard and especially tackle Phil Taylor, make Tom Heckert's draft day decisions look even better, and gives us probably the most certain conclusion we can draw about this franchise so far.
We've started off with worse conclusions earlier than this, which is something.
Next week: Dolphins. Bring floaties.