QB Decision Ripples Through the Locker Room

The Browns allowed reporters into the team's locker room for the first time since Butch Davis' decision on Sunday. David Carducci brings you the player's reactions to the decision. Although Browns players understandably try to stay close to the "party line", it's clear that it's hard for some of them to avoid having a preference between the two quarterbacks...

BEREA - The party line in the Cleveland Browns locker room regarding the team's quarterback controversy goes something like this.

"Both quarterbacks are good players. Butch Davis couldn't have made a bad decision. Now that Kelly Holcomb is the starting quarterback, we have to rally behind him."

That pary line, offered by most of Kelly Holcomb and Tim Couch's teammates Monday morning, implies that nobody had a preference between the two quarterbacks. It was clear with some players, however, that there were some very real opinions in the locker room. Some agree with Butch Davis decision to make Kelly Holcomb the starter. Some think Tim Couch did nothing to lose the job. Others think the decision is only temporary.

Quincy Morgan stood in front of his locker Monday morning and said it didn't matter to him who won the job. But when pushed, his wide grin gave away his preference.

"Holcomb attacks downfield a lot. I love it man," said Morgan. "Holcomb takes his shots. He takes chances."

According to Morgan, that's the big difference between the Browns' offense with Holcomb and with Couch. With Holcomb, the passing game is far more aggressive, and part of that is his understanding of the system and his ability to read the opposing defense and switch to the right play.

"It is fun playing with (Holcomb)," said Morgan. "He switches plays at the line. I think that is what coach likes the most about him ... Holcomb will read a safety or a corner. He sees a guy in your face, and he'll change to a go-route. That's the type of thing he will do. He is so tuned in to what is going on in the game, it is ridiculous. That makes you have to be so much more focused. He signals everything. He is a great reader of the defense."

One locker over, Kevin Johnson spouted out the party line, saying "it is Kelly's show, and it's our job to follow him," but as he said it, he was clearly struggling with seeing a close friend lose his job.

"(Couch) has been a starter his whole entire career, his entire life," said Johnson. "When that opportunity is taken away, obviously if you care about the game, it is going to hurt. I am definitely sorry for him, and when I found out about it, obviously it hurt me.

"He knows I am here for him for anything he ever needs. He is the guy I came in with five years ago. He was the No. 1 pick and I was the No. 2 pick. It was a decision that had to be made one way or another, and it is just kind of sad. It is a business, and you know it is a business first ... Coach Davis had to make a decision, and he chose Kelly ... It is his team. This is the direction he wants to go. He is our leader and we have to follow him."

While some players had a preference between Couch and Holcomb, it was hard for anyone to argue that one far out-shined the other in training camp and the first two preseason games.

"Both guys were playing great," said Johnson. "I think Tim did everything he could do to keep his job, and Kelly did everything he could do to take his job. So, it was a tough call."

No matter who the players preferred, to a man, all felt sorry for Couch, who had survived the tough times when the expansion Browns had few weapons to surround him. Now that the offense has some other playmakers and an improving offensive line, he will be on the bench.

"That's got to be hard," said running back Jamel White. "I can imagine what he is going through. He has been the starter this whole time. He's been through the downs and then the ups with us. He has been through more than any of us have been. You have to respect a person who has taken all the hits and the booing, then still picks himself up, comes back the next week and helps us get to the playoffs."

While Holcomb has been anointed the starter, there are several players who hope Couch continues to compete and try to win the job back if the opportunity arises.

"This is a decision by the head coach, who thinks it will be better for the team, for whatever reason," said guard Barry Stokes. "Tim still knows he is a starting quarterback. He knows, but it is hard. Being a backup, it's not supposed to be fun. It's never fun going out there and saying I'm the No. 2 guy. Who the hell likes that? I know I don't. Adversity is going to show up, and I think Tim will do well with it."

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