Owl: Signs of Splintering

The Owl has been around NFL teams for decades, and knows the signs. He sees the little splinters in the Browns, and he's worried. Here is his take on the team's psyche, based on several incidents during last Sunday's game not reported in the local press...<BR><BR>

Almost always when players talk about circling the wagons it's too late to save the season no matter what shape or size the ball.

"We have to circle our wagons and take of each other and try to get better," right tackle Ryan Tucker said as the Browns began preparing to play the Jets.

There will have to be two circles of wagons – one for the offense and one for the defense. Special teams players will have to choose a side.

No matter what face the Browns put on publicly about working together to end the three-game slide, the Owl knows the team is starting to splinter.

Cornerback Daylon McCutcheon was seen on the sideline during the game last week complaining loudly about the inept offense. McCutcheon intercepted a pass and was part of the defense that spit back Steelers running back Jerome Bettis from the 1 three times.

Safety Robert Griffith was spotted arguing heatedly, with of all people, assistant strength coach Tom Myslinski during the game for some undisclosed reason.

There was a time during dark periods in the past when players on each side of the locker room would say they were in the fight together to improve. That began to change a couple years ago, right about the time former linebacker Jamir Miller questioned the leadership of former Browns quarterback Tim Couch.

Maybe the McCutcheon and Griffith incidents are isolated, but The Owl is convinced all is not rosy in Berea. That doesn't mean the players are selfish, but they are human and they don't want to be dragged down by players not doing their jobs.

And another thing; the happiest person around has to be Mrs. Holcomb.

Her husband, Kelly, took the Browns on a fourth quarter touchdown march last week to make the score 24-10. After the game, Butch Davis was indecisive about who would start at quarterback against the Jets.

That's all Butch needs right now – another quarterback controversy. But this might be a deeper problem than we suspect. Maybe wearing a headset for a prolonged period affects the brain. Something about sound waves passing through the ears. The Owl ain't no doctor.

Davis cleared up any misconception Monday when he said Jeff Garcia is the definite starter. Good. Put out the fire before it starts to spread.

But getting back to Mrs. Holcomb, she has to be happy because if Kelly is on the sideline on Sundays it means he can walk home after the games.

How long do you think Holcomb's – that's Kelly's – fibulas would last behind the woeful pass protection Garcia has received? The answer is not long.

The offensive line always gets blamed whenever Garcia, or for that matter any quarterback, gets sacked. It isn't always on the line, though. Garcia has been sacked 23 times, but unofficially only nine of those sacks are on the offensive line. The rest are on other players missing blitz pickups or receivers not adjusting their routes.

But guess what? It does not matter. Kelly Holcomb is not mobile enough to play quarterback and survive. Garcia, on the other hand, could be a star on Fear Factor or one of those other goofy reality shows. He does a great job of squirming out of trouble. In fact, sometimes he does so much squirming he forgets to protect the football. That is something he has to work on and he knows it.

"When we look at the last game, I really got to a point where I was trying to force a play," Garcia admitted. "When you're playing against good football teams that have good schemes and are forcing you into playing somewhat outside the lines, they are going to force you into bad situations. That's what I found myself doing. I found myself forcing a pass, trying to force a scramble, getting careless with the football and doing some things that throughout my career have been uncharacteristic of me as a football player.

 "I've always been that type of guy who has protected the football. I haven't put it out there up for grabs. I haven't dropped it within the pocket, but I have found myself doing those types I was really trying to do everything that I could to make something positive happen.  of things especially through this season and as of late. Those are things that I need to eliminate in order to help this team create positive situations on the field."

This time Garcia did not blame his guards for moving before the snap or offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie for being predictable. He blamed himself. Now that's being a true leader.

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