Levine: McNabb as a Brown?

Les Levine looks at what might have happened if the Browns had looked to Donovan McNabb, and not Tim Couch, back in 1999. Also, Les takes a look at the Browns clock management against the Eagles and concludes that Butch Davis came dangerously close to being blamed for the team's loss on Sunday.<BR>

Where would Browns be with McNabb? Where would McNabb be?

There are a lot of revisionist historians out there who claim that they wanted the Browns to draft Donovan McNabb out of Syracuse with their first pick in 1999. Others say they wanted Daunte Culpepper.

The reality is that the real choice came down to Tim Couch, Akili Smith or running back Ricky Williams. McNabb and Culpepper were ranked by the ‘experts' as anywhere from fourth to sixth at their position in that quarterback-rich draft. Browns coach Chris Palmer showed no interest in McNabb, even though he saw enough in Syracuse wide receiver Kevin Johnson to make him a key pick, based on information from his friends in the Syracuse program.

There is no question that McNabb has emerged as the most successful QB of the '99 bunch, and has taken the Philadelphia Eagles to three straight championship games, although he hasn't been able to get to the Super Bowl.

He has demonstrated how far he has come, notably in last week's overtime win over the Browns, by knowing when to throw the ball away, and when to run. In his early years, he would take off at a moment's notice when he was pressured, but in Sunday's game he chose to run only twice, including the big run in overtime that got the Eagles in position for the winning field goal.

So, the obvious question is: Where would the Browns be today if they drafted McNabb instead of Couch?

The bigger question is: Where would McNabb be if the Browns drafted him instead of Couch?

While McNabb has produced numerous highlight reels over the years, there is no reason to believe that he would be as productive as a member of the Browns.

From the return of the franchise in 1999 until now, there has not been a serious attempt to make the offensive line an outstanding one; the group of receivers is virtually no better than it was five years ago, and, until, the end middle of last season, the running game was ineffective.

McNabb probably would have run even more with the Browns than he did in his first few years in Philadelphia. His body would have taken a beating from the constant rush that Tim Couch saw over the years, and perhaps he would have become gun shy.

I realize this is all speculation, but I don't see how Donovan McNabb, in the Browns' system under Palmer and Butch Davis, would have contributed to more wins than Couch produced. McNabb versus Kelly Holcomb of last year? Well, that's a different story.

There were some strange coaching decisions, on both sides, in last week's thriller against Philadelphia.

Andy Reid chose to go deep on two third and one situations, which forced him to punt the ball from inside the fifty. Later he went for a fourth down in his own territory and didn't make it, although the Browns couldn't capitalize.

Butch Davis has been criticized for not going for it on fourth and two in overtime, but he did the right thing. Unfortunately, his punter, Derrick Frost, picked a bad time to have a poor kick, when the Browns needed to put the ball inside the Philly ten yard line.

Moreover, both coaches did questionable things in the last minute of regulation, when the Browns had the ball, trailing by seven points.

With 1:27 remaining, and the Browns had a first-and-goal situation, the Eagles should have been using their timeouts so that they would have enough time left on the clock to regain the lead. Even if they stopped the Browns from tying the game, they would have been able to run out the clock for the win. As it turned out, they almost scored with a ‘Hail Mary' as time ran out.

Still, the Hail Mary pass should have never happened, if Davis played the clock correctly. With :47 left, it was second and goal at the one, and William Green lost three yards. Unbelievably, they immediately called their second time out with 36 seconds left. Why? They should have let the clock run down to 15 or 18 seconds, leaving plenty of time for a third down play (Jeff Garcia scored on third down), and then a time out with 5 seconds left, if they needed a fourth down play.

Butch Davis got upset with me when I questioned him about that. But, had the Eagles scored on the ‘Hail Mary' play, his clock management, or lack of it, would have been the only thing we would be talking about this week.

‘More Sports & Les Levine' can be seen nightly Monday through Friday from 6-7pm with replays at 11pm on Adelphia Channel 15. Les can be reached at www.leslevine.com

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