BEREA - A winning record can do amazing things concerning the reputation of a young quarterback.
Colt McCoy of the Browns is in his second season but first as a starter. He's completed 59.6 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. McCoy has a 79.2 passer rating, which is considered slightly below average.
Rookie Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals has statistics that are strikingly similar - a 59.3 completion percentage with 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He has a 79.6 passer rating, but, unlike McCoy, he's considered a success.
Two quarterbacks with almost the same numbers, yet both are perceived differently. Go figure.
One reason has to be the different directions the teams have followed. The Browns are 4-6 and facing a stretch of five games against AFC North Division opponents in the last six games. The Bengals have been one of the NFL's surprise teams with a 6-4 record and have a legitimate shot at gaining one of the wild card playoff spots.
"Andy has come in and done what we expected him to do," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "More importantly, he continues to play within himself. The rest of the football team needs to play to his standards and allow Andy to play football."
Dalton has an advantage over McCoy in that he's developing along with talented rookie receiver A.J. Green, who missed last week's game against the Baltimore Ravens with a knee injury. Green is showing big-play ability, averaging 15.5 yards on 41receptions. He also has six touchdowns.
The Browns receiving corps is led by rookie Greg Little, but he hasn't made an impact similar to Green. Little has played more like a possession receiver in averaging 10.4 yards on 42 receptions.
Having youth at quarterback and at one of the receiver spots can be beneficial in the development of both players.
"I guess we have a (similar) situation here," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. "We have a semi-rookie quarterback and a rookie receiver, and I see how their interaction is and I'm sure it's the same there (in Cincinnati). They're getting used to playing quarterback and receiver in this league. They're getting used to one another. They're getting used to everything, and I assume, because I see it happening here, that they'll develop kind of a special bond because of that."
Dalton's first NFL start was in Cleveland to open the season. He suffered a mild injury in the first half and wasn't able to finish. Bruce Gradkowski came in and threw the winning 41-yard touchdown pass to Green on a quick-snap play that caught the Browns defense by surprise.
Shurmur has put that bad memory out of his thinking, but he's kept a close watch on Dalton's development.
"He's probably about where they maybe thought he'd be," Shurmur said. "When you look at a young quarterback, they're doing what fits for their team. They're very good at running the football, they're very physical upfront, they've got some outstanding playmakers and they've got a young quarterback they're developing.
"They keep him out of harm's way because they can run the football and they don't ask him to do a lot of very heroic things, but you can see his playmaking abilities show up in the stuff they're asking him to do. He's developed well, regardless of his year. He's having probably one of the finer years for quarterbacks."
McCoy's play picked up the last two weeks. The final six games will be critical for him in the evaluation process that will be made after the season ends.
"Things are coming together for us a little bit," McCoy said. "I just think everyone is becoming a little bit more comfortable; not happy or not settling in. We're doing some things better. We're getting lined up better, we're running routes better, we're running the football a little better and when you put those together it allows you to play and feel more comfortable out there."