Let's get one fact out of the way first. I'm a biased man. I'm biased when I'm asked to give my opinion on the importance of the quarterback to a football team.
So here's my opinion. The quarterback position is one of the most challenging, pressure-filled, life-shortening professions in this world. I believe that with all of my heart. Winning in that world, the world of an NFL quarterback, is arguably one of the greatest, sometimes impossible tasks to accomplish.
To be the man under center, with one minute to go in the fourth quarter and your team down by three is a gut-check situation. The game is directly in your hands. The pressure to move your team down the field is firmly on your back. I can count on two hands the amount of men on this earth that can handle that almost impossible physical and mental position.
I can't give you more than 10 men that I'd want quarterbacking MY TEAM at that moment. San Francisco's Joe Montana, Miami's Dan Marino, Denver's John Elway and Buffalo's Jim Kelly were four of the best quarterbacks ever at the two minute drill. They stand today proven when it comes to leading their team to victory with defeat staring them square in the eye.
I can also say this with no second thought, not all of the quarterbacks that start in the NFL today can handle the pressure. The "game-on-the-line" two minute drill makes their knees shake and their head spin. I see it every Sunday. Who can handle it? Green Bay's Brett Farve, Buffalo's Drew Bledsoe, Indianapolis' Peyton Manning and Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb are four quarterbacks that can handle the heat. They are today's difference makers. They are GAME WINNERS and I think that characterization is one of the greatest compliments you can give a quarterback.
That being said, we, Browns fans, should all feel comfortable having Tim Couch at quarterback when the game is on the line. As I've said on numerous occasions, Tim's toughness, resourcefulness and ability to make plays under pressure is outstanding. In his four years as the Browns quarterback, Tim has led his team to 10 fourth quarter comeback wins. I really enjoy watching him play in those situations. His ability to win in that pressure-filled atmosphere is impressive. The ability to not only start but also finish a game are essential components in the make-up of a great quarter- back. I believe Tim possesses those components. He has consistently shown that he is up to both of those challenges.
Here's the problem though. The game in between the start and the finish
has historically been a challenge for Tim and the team. The mark of
productivity, as judged by points scored and turnovers, from my vantage
point, has been an area of concern with Tim at quarterback. It's been a
trouble spot that has forced us all to focus on it.
I'll have much more to say on one of my favorite topics, production from a quarterback, in a future column. Right now though, I say the Browns decision to start Kelly Holcomb at quarterback was based on the team's desire to have production and consistency at the quarterback position from start to finish. It's a must for any team that wants to go far into the playoffs. Tim is entering his fifth season and up to this point, has shown some positive flashes, but lacked the consistency Butch and company want from the quarterback position between the first and last possessions.
I close by looking into my own past. In 1985, Gary Danielson and I were involved in our own quarterback battle. Our production numbers were almost identical. But when the team struggled (we lost four games in a row in the middle of the season) I felt that Gary was a better quarterback to handle that type of pressure. I feel the same way right now about Kelly Holcomb.
Remember this though: It is a long season. The quarterback that will be remembered is the one that is leading the team in the games of December and January, not the one that starts the first game.