Heading into the season, the Browns coaching staff did not want questions about the starting quarterback job to divide or jeopardize continuity in the locker room and on the field. In making the call to start Kelly Holcomb over Tim Couch, Butch Davis had hoped to establish the starter - as well as squash any notion of wavering or indecision within the ranks.
How are Couch and Holcomb viewed today, and what may the future hold at the quarterback position?
With the assistance of a member of the Browns organization, who agreed to comment on specific players on the condition of anonymity, this is the story, from what we've been told.
Tim Couch: "Tim Couch has been under more pressure and maybe relied upon in his four-plus seasons in the league than the majority of players in this league ever face. He (Couch) has been scrutinized because this team has not been as successful as anybody associated with the team or the fans would have liked, especially with being the first-player selected by the team. On the field, Couch has been tremendous at times and has been comparatively inconsistent. When Tim (Couch) gets into his groove, he is very good, he manages the game and makes minimal mistakes. The problem with Tim (Couch) has been he tends to believe he needs to carry the team, something we have not asked nor wanted him to do. In placing this responsibility solely upon himself, he presses, makes some bad decisions, which ultimately places this team in a precarious position. Right now, Tim (Couch) is the backup quarterback for this team, when Kelly (Holcomb) is ready or healthy enough to play, he will start. How does that equate for the future, I really don't know at this time, but we are not in the position to play the backup quarterback a salary (7.2 million) for which Tim (Couch) commands in 2004."
Kelly Holcomb: "Looking at Kelly Holcomb, he doesn't strike you as a football player. But, let me tell you, having 53 players in the locker room that displayed the mental and physical toughness of Holcomb, you would be a winning football team. This isn't to degrade any player on this roster, but Kelly (Holcomb) has such a grasp on what we are doing here and he communicates extremely well. Physically, Holcomb and Couch are similar in what they can do on the field, the difference may be that Holcomb is quicker and more decisive with the decisions they make on the field. Holcomb is more aggressive, that comes from his demeanor and experience in this offense. Some of the early season struggles of the offense have been attributed to Holcomb's play, which was not entirely the case. We had numerous issues with reads/sight adjustments of the wide receivers, routes run in depth and quality by the receivers, and some issues along the offensive line. Holcomb may have shown the appearance of not playing well, but that was not necessarily the case, but he did make some mistakes of minimal magnitude. When Kelly (Holcomb) is physically ready, he is our starter and we don't expect that to change this season, as for the future, we'll have to see how the season plays out."
Nate Hybl: "Hybl is a young guy that has showed some promise. Having him here and watching him develop provided us the opportunity to release Josh Booty when we were looking for roster spots to add depth to the offensive line. If he were forced into action, he could play within the offensive scheme. We may be forced to streamline some aspects of the game-plan, but we would be confident that he could manage the team on the field. On aspect of Hybl's progress and what cannot be taught is his athleticism, he is a very good athlete and mature for a young player."
Lane has more comments on specific players, from within the organization, in his article in next week's Bernies Insiders Magazine!