In February of 1992, just about the time that Mike Holmgren was named the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, general manager Ron Wolf made a trade with the Atlanta Falcons. Wolf sent a first-round pick to Atlanta for a young quarterback named Brett Favre, a move that turned out fairly well.
Favre and Holmgren worked together from 1992 through 1998, going to two Super Bowls (and winning one) in the process. As much natural talent as Favre had, it was up to Holmgren — who had learned how to develop quarterbacks at the NFL level from Bill Walsh in San Francisco — to harness Favre's rocket arm and raw athleticism.
Now that the NFL's most prolific quarterback has retired for the last time (yeah, yeah, we know…), it seemed that he wanted to pay Holmgren back for his tutelage. When Holmgren, who's now the team president of the Cleveland Browns, couldn't talk to second-year quarterback Colt McCoy during the lockout, it was Favre who invited McCoy down to his home in Hattiesburg, Miss., to learn some of the tricks of the NFL trade.
"Since I couldn't get coached, it was a great opportunity to pick the brain of a guy who played in the system for 20 years," McCoy told the Associated Press. "It was a chance for me to get a lot of questions answered. We worked on footwork, progressions, reads and things like that. It was definitely a positive trip."
Holmgren, long regarded as one of the better assessors and developers of quarterback talent, selected McCoy out of Texas in the third round of the 2010 draft. McCoy was swimming upstream in his rookie year for a number of reasons — a disconnect between Holmgren and former head coach Eric Mangini, a very tough schedule, an unimpressive receiver corps, and McCoy's own relative lack of arm strength at the NFL level. But he fought against the obstacles, engineering impressive performances against the defenses of the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals.
And in Holmgren's West Coast offense (new Cleveland head coach Pat Shurmur is running it by proxy), arm strength is low on the list of priorities — it's much more about the connection between coach and quarterback. Holmgren took Matt Hasselbeck, a sixth-round pick and former Favre backup in Green Bay, to Super Bowl XL with the Seattle Seahawks. And with Shurmur in tow, McCoy looks to be a bigger part of a more integrated offense.
He certainly looked the part in Cleveland's preseason opener, a 27-17 win over the Super Bowl champion Packers. McCoy went 9 of 10 for 135 yards in limited action, earning the praise of his new head coach.
"He was efficient," Shurmur said on Monday. "He saw what was going on extremely well. He was pretty accurate with his throws and pretty solid with his decision-making."
When asked if he thought that Favre might come back to the NFL for the umpteenth time — perhaps to continue this new mentorship — McCoy was noncommittal.
"We didn't even go there," he said.