So, you want to be a starting quarterback in the NFL? Kelly Holcomb chased that dream for seven years and in four of those years he never even took a snap. Not even one. I bring that up to remind you of this guy's passion and commitment. Holcomb has incredible passion and pride. This year, he finally won the backing of his head coach and then went out and his team struggled.
In spite of the team's slow start, Holcomb has responded like a leader. He has stood in the face of adversity and fallen on the sword for his team. I heard him say "the bottom line is that I stunk," in regards to his play thus far.
I can't tell you how impressed I was when I heard Holcomb say that. Quarterbacks walk a line just a slip away from getting burned in a fire pit of fury. The good ones can take the heat, respond to it, use it to motivate and ultimately lead their teams to success. Holcomb hasn't pointed fingers.
There's a great song by The Band called The Weight. There's a line that says "put the load right on me." Holcomb publicly showed he was ready to shoulder the load. Bob Dylan would be proud. Dylan, for those of you wondering, was a member of The Band.
Quarterbacks must stand tough and take the blame, even when it's not their fault, it's hard to do sometimes, but Holcomb, and Tim Couch for that matter, are leaders. I remember a few years back watching the Pittsburgh Steelers struggle and hearing Quarterback Kordell Stewart say in a press conference "You know, it's not all my fault." When he said that, even though he may have been right, I knew it would be hard for him to lead that team again. I was right.
So, the state of the Browns at quarterback is just fine. I said before the season started that the team would need two quarterbacks and if that scenario plays out, I feel we have two "true leaders."
The state of the offensive line is a work in progress. The loss of Ross Verba hurt. We all know that. I know this, too, though; Barry Stokes, Melvin Fowler, Jeff Faine, Shaun O'Hara and Ryan Tucker have the right attitude. If you're an offensive linemen, you need to have a short memory. There's no time to dwell on negatives. Stokes has become the leader of this unit and he'll tell anyone who will listen that he's not going to use the word "struggle." The line is moving forward and that means good things for William Green.
I believe in an offense that is balanced. You have to have it. Sure, I loved to fire it downfield, but I also knew that if we didn't run effectively, then we weren't going to win. The Browns must become more balanced in their offensive attack. Right now they're not. If Green goes, so do the Browns. As the offensive line meshes, and I believe it will, the running game will improve and we'll watch Willie run again and again. He's a very talented back. Why did the Browns win seven of their last '0 games in their playoff push a year ago? Number 3' made it happen. He can do it again.
When Green runs the ball effectively, expect to become re-acquainted with that group of wide receivers that I love. I talked about this talented group of receivers last week in my column so I won't do it again now, but rest assured they haven't lost all their gifts in the last seven days. Once the running game gets back on track, expect more excitement from this group. Until then, be patient with this group.
I expect the defense to be up and down all year. I believe in the unit that Butch has put together. I've said this before, but their performance against Jamal Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens was troublesome. The defense, at times, came out in eight-man fronts to specifically control the run and Lewis still gained all of those yards. Tackling is an issue. That's troubling, too. Listen, though, we were all stunned to see the defense play so well against one of the NFL's top offenses in Week One. Come to think of it, following this defense this year will remind you of what it was like the first time you fell for a girl. Do you remember that? Sometimes you laughed and sometimes you cried. Sometimes, you just wondered why?
As for the head coach, I'll simply say this; I'll go in a foxhole with Butch Davis any day.
In the locker room you hear players say "we've got to have a positive attitude" and "we're taking it one step at a time." Today's Browns are saying that and yes, the lines are old, tired cliches that we've all heard and in some cases said, but you know what, if you're a player, you've got to believe it. If you don't, you have no chance. There is no finger pointing going on inside the team right now and that's a great sign.
This is a very young team and patience, within the team, may be hard to find because of that youth. That's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, it's all about winning in the NFL. You're judged by results. A sense of urgency can often work in your favor. I say that because I always loved to run the two-minute offense. Performance under the pressure of expectations provides a rush most competitors live to experience.
The Browns' playoff run a year ago set a standard. It's time to live up to it.
Well, I'll close this "State of the Browns Address" by quoting a great American writer. Mark Twain once said, upon seeing his obituary in the newspaper, "The reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated."
Don't bury the Browns just yet.