Colt McCoy has changed teams, leaving the NFL’s last bastion for hopelessness in Cleveland when he got traded to San Francisco and the Super Bowl finalist 49ers.
He’s changed conferences, going from the AFC to the NFC.
He’s changed numbers and will wear No. 2 because John Brodie’s No. 12 has been retired by the 49ers.
He’s changed looks, dropping the facial hair for a clean-cut look more befitting his image.
Now he’s got to change some minds.
The fourth-year pro has to convince his new coach — tough, emotional Jim Harbaugh — and San Francisco management that he’s more durable than his reputation, that his arm is strong enough to stretch the field, that he’s more than capable of replacing Colin Kaepernick for a quarter or a game or games and giving the 49ers a chance to win.
The concussion McCoy suffered in 2011 — maybe the concussion of concussions — was his lone head injury in the NFL. “I didn’t like the notoriety of it,” McCoy said, “but I don’t remember much about it. I’m completely over it.”
Joe Montana’s arm wasn’t all that strong at the Bay, and he did OK with this team.
And Colt made 21 starts with the Browns and played well enough to win, well, six games. But doesn’t a 6-15 record get you a statue there? Trent Dilfer and Brady Quinn won only seven between them.
The second-best quarterback in Longhorn history has escaped from Cleveland and been dropped on the doorstep of one of the greatest NFL franchises that’s known for Hall of Fame quarterbacks and that has one of the most forward-thinking head coaches.
That said, there’s no guarantee McCoy will ever become a regular starter in the NFL again. But this trade is perfect for him and gives him the chance to reshape his career.
He gets an opportunity to be coached by a man who’s progressive-thinking enough to utilize the popular zone read option and switch out quarterbacks in mid-season, even though the since-traded Alex Smith was leading the league in pass efficiency.
Harbaugh demoted a guy who was 38-36-1 and who technically lost his job because he suffered a concussion, but McCoy gets a chance after going 6-15 and enduring a devastating concussion.
McCoy goes from a place where three head coaches didn’t believe in him to one coach who traded for him.
It doesn’t hurt that the zone read is sweeping through the NFL as fast as RGIII and Russell Wilson can get there.
“Hasn’t it?” McCoy said. “I don’t think it will hurt me. I’m not going to go out and run like Colin Kaepernick does. But having it in my bag helps. Just turn on my college tapes.”
McCoy’s nowhere near as flashy as the other smooth operators, but he is a capable runner. He ran for more than 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns in four seasons at Texas.
McCoy should be perfect in the role of a backup, but he’s got to win that job first.
First, he’s got to learn a new offense and beat out Scott Tolzien for the backup job. The former Wisconsin quarterback has been in Harbaugh’s system the last two years, but is a pure pocket passer and has never thrown a regular-season pass.
“My nose has been in the playbook the last three days,” McCoy said after an appearance on behalf of Russell Athletic at a Bealls department store in Pflugerville, where he signed more than 250 photographs, Sports Illustrated covers, sweatshirts and 49ers decals. “But I’m used to that in Cleveland.”
McCoy got used to a lot of things in Cleveland, none of them good.
For his part, he mentioned “no hard feelings” because they at least prepared him for adversity on the pro level. On the contrary, he should be their biggest fan now with his much-needed change of scenery.
McCoy will be reunited with former Brown and Longhorn kicker Phil Dawson, but also gets a chance to meet up with former adversary, wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who had a fairly famous catch for Texas Tech against McCoy’s Longhorns in 2008.
“Yeah, I might have a few words with him,” he cracked. “He has had an unbelievable year or two, but he singlehandedly cost me a lot.”
Like an undefeated regular season and a shot at a national title. He lost a similar opportunity when he injured his neck on the Longhorns’ fifth offensive snap against Alabama in the championship game to end the 2009 season. Does he think often about that game still?
“There’s no point,” he said. “But I still wake up and have nightmares about it.”
He should have fewer of those now that he’s not in Cleveland. And he remains as self-assured and as feisty as ever, all good prerequisites for an NFL quarterback.
Does he think he’ll start again?
“Yeah, why not?” he replied. “Why would I play?”
Which is just the mentality you’d want in a quarterback. That’s something McCoy doesn’t need to change.