I'm not sure Luke McCown will ever be good enough to take a team to the Super Bowl, but to judge him on the three games he has played is not fair.
McCown and the Browns were slaughtered by three of the best teams in the NFL – New England, Buffalo and San Diego. Those teams have won 19 in a row. The Browns have lost eight in a row.
The Owl wants to see McCown start against the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are the best 3-11 team in the NFL right now, but McCown deserves a chance to play against a struggling team after playing against three playoff teams.
The Browns have to find out if McCown is any good, and playing him in these last two games will help their assessment of him, though it won't finalize it. The Browns need to find out if getting another quarterback should be a top priority in the offseason.
It isn't any consolation to Luke, but he is not the only rookie quarterback struggling. Seventeen quarterbacks were taken in the National Football League draft last April and only two of them have won games as starters this season. Ben Roethlisberger with the Steelers and Craig Krenzel with the Bears are the only rookie quarterbacks to start and win.
Terry Robiskie, trying to prove to owner Randy Lerner he should be the head coach next season, figures his chances of sticking around are better if the Browns can win at least one of these last two games. Because of that he is leaning toward starting Kelly Holcomb if Holcomb is healthy. Holcomb has not been able to play since his ribs were broken Nov. 28 in Cincinnati. He quarterbacked the scout team in practice Wednesday. Team doctors say he cannot take a hit, but that could change before Sunday.
"If Kelly is healthy and ready to go, the discussion is ‘Does Kelly, a more veteran guy, give us a better chance to win, or do we see what Luke can do in Miami?'" Robiskie said. "We're still trying to win a football game. The future is Miami on Sunday. For me, I don't know if I could find a better Christmas present than to win Sunday."
The Browns don't let The Owl perch on a railing in the fieldhouse during practice, but my spies say Holcomb threw the ball well Wednesday, and Robiskie confirmed that when he talked to reporters.
What do the Browns have to gain by playing Holcomb? What's the big difference between three wins and four wins?
Holcomb is ready to blow this popstand as soon as his contract is up at the end of February, so it's not like Holcomb is going to get any better for the Browns. He wants to go a team with a chance to start. That isn't likely to happen unless he finds a team that plays in a league where the season is four games long, because he cannot stay healthy.
McCown has made some bad decisions in his three starts. That interception he threw in the first quarter against the Chargers was a real beauty. But what happens one night later? The great Tom Brady gave away the game to the Dolphins with a throw that was a lot worse than the one McCown made. Brady threw two interceptions in the last two minutes. One he threw as he was being sacked.
McCown is too tough to be scarred emotionally by another loss. He is able to cope with losing better than Tim Couch ever did. That does not mean McCown accepts losing, but he says he will be better next year the more he plays this season.
"You can't put a value on it," McCown said. "The experience of playing in the situations we've been in and the teams we've played is invaluable for next year. You learn how to prepare and stay focused through the hardships of the team and grow from it."
Robiskie has been around a lot of young quarterbacks. He has a theory about why they struggle early in the NFL. It has a lot to do with them being heroes in college.
"The hardest thing for a young quarterback is to get him to understand he doesn't have to win the game," Robiskie said. "I'm sure Luke watched great quarterbacks like Jim Kelly and Donovan McNabb win football games. The problem with the young guys is you put them in and they believe they have to be that person.
"They really believe if you call a pass, they have to throw a touchdown. They don't stop to think about completing it for two yards or four yards. They believe, ‘I'm the quarterback. I have to win the game.' In the end, they end up losing. The other 52 guys will help you win. More football teams do things to lose a game than the other team does things to win the game."
The best way to get McCown out of that habit is to let him play against the Dolphins and Texans.