The Owl was hanging out in the visitor's decrepit locker room in Ralph Wilson Stadium last Sunday after watching the Browns embarrass themselves again, and he could not believe what he heard.
There, standing in front of a room stuffed with reporters, was the interim head coach of the Browns who hopes to convince the owner of the Browns and he is worthy of being the true head coach next season and beyond.
"I really don't know if we can win another game," Terry Robiskie said. "We are a beaten group – coaches, players, front office – we are a whipped group. It's demoralizing."
Almost a week has passed since Robiskie uttered those stirring words of encouragement, and it is still hard to believe he said them. A day later, he talked about the heat of the moment and other things people say when they are looking for the rewind button of life, but it was a little late.
I would imagine playing for a coach who sees little hope of success would be difficult. Not that Robiskie should have said, "I have a gut feeling we're going to win our last three," but to send a message of hopelessness is the wrong one.
If by some miracle Robiskie is the head coach next year – translation, the Browns are so bad no one else will take the job, which happened in Atlanta in 1987 when the Falcons were forced to rehire Marion Campbell – he will need to boost his team's morale, not drag it down. His honesty is refreshing, but to say in so many words "we really suck" is taking honesty a little too far.
I mean, think about the mess the next Browns coach is inheriting. Dark Sundays are ahead. More losing at home next season. Cleveland Browns Stadium nearly empty as usual in the fourth quarter. That's what the next head coach has to look forward to.
The Owl got some grief from readers – you know who you are, Fluffy Puppy – for saying the Browns should have stuck with Butch Davis. Since Davis is the one who created the mess, he should have had the chance to clean it up. That is not the signal he got, so he quit.
But we're not here today to defend Davis again. We're here to talk about what he left behind.
It is never a good sign when one season draws to a close and a team isn't sure who the quarterback will be the next year. Sometimes that happens when a team has two good ones, or when it knows it will take a quarterback high in the draft, but that isn't the Browns situation.
Luke McCown is a great young kid, but he has shown he is not ready. That is not his fault. He wasn't supposed to be the quarterback this year, but circumstances forced his hand. There are no guarantees he will ever be good, and playing behind a rag-tag wet paper bag offensive line like he has to makes judging how good he really is impossible.
Kelly Holcomb doesn't want to talk about his future. He is a free agent in March, and the vibes the Owl is getting from quiet conversations with him is he can't wait to go somewhere else, even if it means being a backup.
Forget for the moment Jeff Garcia never fit the offense the Browns run. That won't matter next year, because unless Robiskie is the head coach they will probably be running a different offense, maybe one that works for him.
The bigger issue is Garcia is breaking down like a Chevy Vega. He is 34 going on 50. He had back and ankle injuries in San Francisco in 2003. He missed two games this year with a shoulder injury, came back in the Buffalo game, lasted three plays and was out again, this time for the rest of the season, with a knee injury.
Garcia wanted to do it his way from the time he joined the Browns. It is ironic he was doing it his way when he was injured. He was supposed to take a three-step drop, pump fake to freeze the Bills and then drop back two more steps and pass.
The blocking was set up for the five-step drop, but Garcia tried throwing off the three-step and got squashed.
Right now, next September doesn't look any better than this December. Be that as it may, the next head coach should never say, ‘I really don't know if we can win another game.'