Commentary: The Dark Side of the Force

The Owl swooped by with his view on the Browns Quarterback battle earlier shortly after midnight, saying mysteriously "The answers lie within". Then, after shooting me a wise and knowing look, he flew away into the darkness. Nervously, I unfurled the aged parchment he dropped on the table, as he provided the answer as to who the Browns quarterback would be... not against the Colts... but against the Steelers on October 5th...

Star Wars, better known as the Quarterback Battle of the Century between Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb, has been on the big screen in Berea for almost two weeks now with no definite front-runner. When the final laser is fired before the third preseason game Aug. 23, Couch or Holcomb, whoever wins, will be Luke Skywalker.

The loser in the quarterback derby might as well be Darth Vader.

After pondering this conundrum for months, The Owl has come to the conclusion Couch is the better quarterback for the Browns in the long run.

Therefore, I believe it will be better for everybody if Holcomb wins the battle and is declared the starter for the regular season.

Road kill gets more respect than Couch is getting from fans and some members of the media. The worst that could happen for him and by extension the Browns would be for Butch Davis to name Couch the starter if he does not win the job clearly in the preseason games against Tennessee and Green Bay.

Couch can be a hero by coming off the bench and rescuing Holcomb should Holcomb founder. Being handed the job without winning it decisively in the public eye will put him under unbearable scrutiny, worse than he has it now.

Holcomb has had shining moments in training camp and he gets progressively better. His statistics were better than Couch's in the scrimmage against Buffalo, though Coach Davis called them "skewed." Holcomb was fantastic in the playoff game against the Steelers. No one would deny that. But he wasn't the only one to look good against the Steelers. They ranked 20th defending the pass in 2002. Steelers coach Bill Cowher is so concerned about his defensive backfield he jumped up 11 spots in the first round of the draft in April to get the best safety, Troy Palamalu from USC.

Chad Scott, the Steelers' best cornerback, did not play against the Browns in the playoff game. Even so, Cowher decided to give air to Holcomb as long as William Green did not gain much ground. The plan nearly backfired on Cowher, but in the end, it worked; the Browns were held scoreless their last three possessions.

So if the Steelers secondary was so pathetic, why didn't Couch play better in the two games he played against them in the regular season? In a classic example of coaches out-thinking themselves, Couch passed only 29 times in the game in Pittsburgh Sept. 29, one week after the Steelers' bye. During the first two weeks, the Patriots and Raiders exposed the Steelers secondary, passing 43 times and 65 times respectively, and winning both games.

By the time the Browns played Pittsburgh again, on Nov. 3, the Steelers had righted their ship and the Browns' running game was a joke. Couch had no chance.

Fans still angry because Art Modell took the Browns to Baltimore and renamed them the Ravens find Couch to be an easy target. His offensive line was a mess the first three seasons, and it wasn't much better the first half of 2002. His running backs the first three seasons were Errict Rhett, Travis Prentice and James Jackson. Seen any of them on a box of Wheaties?

Fans aren't the only group needing convincing. Players are always told where to go and when to go there, but they also form opinions. If Holcomb is given a chance and squanders it, no one in the locker room should wonder if the battle was fair.

But no matter which quarterback is named the starter against the Colts Sept. 7, it says here Couch will be the starter before the Browns return to Pittsburgh Oct. 5 in the fifth game of the season.


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