A Tough Decision; A Right Decision

Naturally, the story of Butch Davis electing to replace Tim Couch as the team's starting quarterback dominates today's headlines. TheInsiders offer their view and rationale on Davis' decision to start Kelly Holcomb.

Butch Davis made the tough decision but he made the right decision when he named Kelly Holcomb the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback.

Davis ignored salary and draft position when he chose Holcomb as the team's starter.

Tim Couch is a great guy, a congenial person and a true competitor.

But the NFL is a cruel league sometimes in that personality comes second to performance. In preseason practices and games, Holcomb simply out-performed Couch.

Davis called it a gut decision, but that was probably a clever -- and wise -- way to avoid being critical of Couch. There's no need to dump dirt on Couch. It wouldn't be the right thing to do, and if Holcomb is injured -- a likely event in the NFL -- Davis will need Couch.

Simply put, Holcomb earned the job -- starting with his 429-yard performance against Pittsburgh in the playoffs last January.

He continued that kind of play in practices and preseason games, where he threw for 237 yards in less than two periods of play.

Eighty-two of those yards came on a screen pass that William Green broke for a big play, but Holcomb also set up the play with two excellent play fakes.

The Browns offense moved quicker and with more precision under Holcomb. He played a vertical, down-the-field passing game.

With Couch in the game, the offense seemed to slow down and the passing game was more horizontal.

With the team's defense looking like it will struggle all year long, the Browns will need every point they can get. Holcomb seems to provide more scoring and offensive punch -- and the potential to outscore teams.

The Browns eventually will have to figure what to do with Couch, whose $6.2 million base salary this year is the fourth highest in the league.

Team president Carmen Policy said the team can live with that salary with Couch as the backup this year, but might have to make a change next (when Couch's contract calls for him to be paid $7.6 million).

The Browns don't seem inclined to trade Couch, but as a matter of course listen to all offers. If a team is willing to part with a first-round draft pick, it might be able to acquire Couch.

The likelihood of a trade is slim, though.

Meanwhile, Holcomb, an undrafted free agent from Middle Tennessee State who was released four times in 1995 and '96, finally gets his chance.

"It's kind of humbling," Holcomb said. "It shows that working hard and persevering (matter). There were times I wanted to say, 'You know what, that hill is too big to climb. I don't want any part of this.'

"But I never did. I never quit. It does make it worthwhile.

"But now the work really starts. It's all about winning football games."


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