When Browns head coach Butch Davis stated that he wanted to have a starting quarterback named and in place prior to the start of training camp in late July, he wasn't joking.
For the first time in three seasons, the starting quarterback job is up for grabs and the competition should be good for the entire team. With a roster of players that is quietly divided in their thoughts about just whom the quarterback should be, the past few weeks and the upcoming weeks of quarterback school and mini-camp will go a long way in determining who will be the quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.
The decision is as tough as many believed it would be.
Holcomb, having previously played with the Colts when Browns offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was the quarterbacks coach there, has an obvious edge in experience with the team's offense scheme. Tim Couch has shown to be a more athletic player, and appears to have worked diligently in the off-season to further grasp the offensive scheme.
There is one difference in the two capable quarterbacks that has not gone unnoticed: Holcomb consistently makes the correct reads and the ball comes out of the pocket quicker than that of his counterpart. While the gap between the two players is slight in this area, a split-second can be the difference between a touchdown and a sack.
"There is a reason why the coach (Davis) has stated that the offensive line is better than we have seen and the line is a serviceable unit. When having to maintain their blocks for a longer period of time, errors and penalties frequently occur," a team source said. " There is no question that Kelly Holcomb has a decided edge playing within this offensive structure, that was evident in the games that he appeared in."
"Regardless of who is the starting quarterback of this team, they will have the support needed to be successful."
Would the Browns be comfortable with a quarterback that is making nearly $7 million playing second fiddle in Cleveland? Concern about this question has led some to speculate that Couch will win the QB battle even if Holcomb is the better QB for this team.
"The competition is just that - a competition. If Holcomb handles the practices, the team, and the intangibles in a manner superior to that of Tim Couch, then the coach would not have any reservations to name Holcomb the starter," the source said. "On the other hand, coach expects both players to step up and raise their level of play. All things given, coach would like for both to perform well, with Couch winning the job."
"As a team, you want the best athletes on the field. That doesn't necessarily mean that is the way things work out. The next few weeks will be interesting. At this time neither player has the job locked up and it just may go into training camp status quo."
Whether Davis names a starting quarterback today, next week, or July 1st, there are many practices to complete and anything can happen. And a not so shocking tale would be that Kelly Holcomb is named the starting quarterback of the Cleveland Browns.
This quarterback derby is a crap-shoot, it'll be interesting to see who the last man standing is.