Colt’s Last Shot

In Colt We Trust

The Washington Professional Football Team has been embroiled in a quarterback controversy—if you can call it that—ever since rookie standout Robert Griffin III, the previous year’s Heisman winner and #2 overall draft pick that season, tore his ACL and LCL in the 2012 NFC Wild Card game against the Seahawks. In relief during that playoff game and a few regular season games prior, fellow rookie Kirk Cousins looked like 1B to Griffin’s 1A. Washington kept him around in case of injury to Griffin, which, due to his style of play, happens often.

The problem? It’s 2014, Griffin is injured again, and Kirk Cousins isn’t good anymore. Enter Colt McCoy. He’ll start Monday night—barring a miracle recovery of Griffin’s ankle—against the Cowboys in Arlington on national television, his first start since 2011. He spelled Cousins after halftime last Sunday against the Titans, throwing a 70-yard TD pass to Pierre Garçon on his first attempt and leading his team to victory.

McCoy, Longhorns quarterback from 2006-09, has had an interesting if nondescript NFL career so far after a stellar few seasons at Texas. If you’ll remember (you will), before a first-quarter arm injury forced McCoy from the 2010 BCS National Championship Game, effectively ending the Longhorns’ bid for an undefeated season and the crystal football, McCoy was one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. His 45 victories—to only eight losses—were an NCAA all-time record when he graduated; his completion percentage, a staggering 70.3 percent, falls just shy of the all-time mark; he finished second in Heisman voting in 2008 and third in 2009; and much more. That goal-line snap he took was the final snap of his until-then undefeated season leading Texas, and as a senior, his final as an amateur. McCoy climbed the mountain so many times, proving his worth to Texas, but coming up just short in the grand scheme of things.

But the same hit that caused the pinched nerve in his throwing arm was also a hit on his NFL draft stock. One anonymous scout mentioned his height (see Brees, Drew and Wilson, Russell), his hand size (see Smith, Alex), and the fact that “he was injured in his last game at Texas,” as the reasons he fell to the third round to the Browns. He may have been a first-round pick had he come out after his runner-up Heisman season in 2009—one of the closest Heisman races of all time—though McCoy didn’t see that as an option.

“I’m going to play here for four years,” McCoy told the Sporting News prior to the 2009 NFL Draft. “I’ve been blessed to be able to play here. Not very many people get to [start] here for four years, so what an opportunity. And if the NFL is there for me, then I hope that I’ll get to keep playing, because I love to play this game.”

McCoy struggled during his rookie campaign in Cleveland, as first-year QBs are wont to do (see: Manning, Peyton), going 2-6 across eight starts, though completing over 60 percent of his passes. In 2011, he went 4-9 in 13 starts, throwing 14 touchdown passes to the likes of Jordan Norwood and Mohamed Massaquoi. His results were not very encouraging leading an anemic offense, and instead of building around McCoy with offensive line protection and dangerous skill players, in the 2012, the Browns chose to draft 28-year-old former baseball player and Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weeden in the first round, forcing McCoy down the depth chart. The following offseason he was traded to the 49ers, where he backed up starter Colin Kaepernick and appeared in four games to perform mop-up duty. In the offseason, in what many viewed as McCoy’s last shot, he signed a one-year, veteran’s league-minimum deal with Washington, though with Cousins seen as the best backup in the league entering the season, it appeared McCoy wouldn’t get a real opportunity as a third stringer. Heck, a lot of teams don’t even keep three QBs on their 53-man roster anymore.

In a presser following the victory over Tennessee, McCoy appeared emotional over what has clearly been an uphill battle since his glory days at Texas, calling the NFL “unforgiving.” On Monday night, he’ll get a shot at redemption against a 6-1 Cowboys team that suddenly has a good defense and a chance to run away with the division. It’s likely the final chance he’ll have to prove he’s worthy to start in the NFL.

Oh, and the last time McCoy played at Cowboys Stadium? It was this game. For more fun tidbits on McCoy, check out this excellent Washington Post list. Here’s how Longhorns responded to Colt getting in the game on Sunday and playing on Monday:

Image courtesy UT Athletics.


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