This is for Real

Nothing's more fun than a good old-fashioned quarterback controversy. In addition to attracting media types like moths to a light, conspiracy theorists can have a field day, too. Unfortunately for the latter, the Owl has some bad news for those who argue that the competition is just window-dressing for an eventual return of Tim Couch to the starting role. This competition, the Owl tells us, is for real...

Don't always believe everything you hear from a coach or a player.

I mean, think about it. You can ask Butch Davis or Bill Cowher or Brian Billick about the 80th player on the roster, as an out of town reporter often will if said player happens to be from a high school in their circulation area. The coach will always find say something good to say about the kid.

(Legend has it a reporter once asked Bud Carson about an obscure player named John Buddenberg, an offensive tackle from the University of Akron taken by the Browns in the 10th round in 1989. The reporter asked Carson how Buddenberg was doing and Carson said: "When is this story going to run?" In other words, Buddenberg was days away from being cut.)

And this business about players pulling for the guy they're trying to beat out of a job? C'mon. These dudes hate losing a card game of 'Go Fish.' No one roots for the other guy.

But one thing you can take as the truth. Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb got an equal share of throws in practice last week. Not only that. If one worked with the first team in one session, the other worked with the first team in the afternoon.

This is the only fair way to decide the starting quarterback. Davis isn't going to play favorites. If everybody has the same chance, players can't gripe.

"We know Coach Davis is going to pick the one he thinks will give the Browns the best chance to win," tight end Aaron Shea said. "We don't know who it's going to be or when he's going to choose. You don't worry about those things. You just do your job and let the rest take care of itself."

Couch says he's up for the competition. He doesn't want to be the pretty boy any more.

"I want to work for everything I get," Couch said. "If it's going to be a competition, I'm ready for the challenge. If I win the job, hopefully that will make the guys respect me more."

The Owl doesn't care who starts. There should be no rush to pick one. Davis says he could name a starter any time. He promises to pick one no later than Aug. 23 in Detroit. That's the third exhibition game. Holcomb can start one game and Couch can start one game.

"That's when you find out about people," Holcomb said. "We can go out there and throw seven on seven all day. You can go out there with no pads. It has to happen in game situations when you're getting blitzed, when you're getting knocked to the ground and getting your mouth busted.

"That's when it's going to have to happen. Nothing shows more evaluation of a player than when you're actually on the field and you're playing."

Of course naming the starting quarterback will be a huge decision, but the Owls' spies say the Browns are going to be more of a running football team than they have been in any of the first four years. Maybe we should be thinking more about who will start at right guard - Shaun O'Hara or the Human Eclipse, 370-pound Qasim Mitchell.

O'Hara started with the first team last Tuesday. Jeff Faine was the center. Barry Stokes was the left guard. The tackles were Ryan Tucker and Barry Stokes.

William Green and Jamel White looked mighty good slicing through holes, no matter what quarterback was making the handoffs.

Butch Davis thinks he can win with Couch or Holcomb. The Owl agrees.

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