Normally a team always makes sure it has somebody better to take over before releasing or waiving a player, but in Jeff Garcia's case the Browns were willing to make an exception.
As anyone reading this column knows, the Browns have announced they will cut ties with Garcia Tuesday, even though another competent quarterback is not on the roster. Good riddance.
The Owl took some grief from readers for slamming the whiny, self-centered Garcia in mid-season. That was before Luke McCown revealed the amount of work he needs to even be in a training camp battle for the chance to start at quarterback.
Former Browns coaches not retained by Romeo Crennel, not surprisingly, had nothing but disdain for Garcia. They knew right away he would be a problem when he came in with an attitude that expressed, without saying it in so many words, "I am Jeff Garcia! I expect you to change the offense to fit me!"
It was equally wrong for the Browns to tell Garcia they would bring in Bill Walsh as a consultant, just to get him to sign a for-year contract, and pig-headed of Garcia to expect them to do it.
Garcia constantly griped, he alienated teammates by boasting about his Pro Bowl appearances, he proved injury prone and, above all, he did not win. His passer rating declined for the fourth straight year.
Of course, not everything in 2004 was Garcia's fault. The offensive line sucked, especially after Ryan Tucker was lost for the season. Right guard Kelvin Garmon was a decent run blocker until a knee injury ended his season prematurely.
We won't go into the problems at running back and wide receiver again. Crennel will find out soon enough how deficient those areas are.
Yet applause for the decision to whack Garcia now goes beyond getting rid of a player that simply did not fit the Browns offense. It is a sign the Browns are going to do the right thing under the leadership of Phil Savage and Crennel.
Butch Davis screwed Tim Couch by barring him from working out in the Browns complex and hanging on to him until June 11 of last year. Couch's right arm is cooked spaghetti, and Couch blames Davis. Couch could have worked out more on his own, but Davis could at least have opened the facility to him – unless Davis realized immediately he blew it by chasing Garcia.
Had Davis released Couch sooner Couch would have latched onto the Green Bay Packers in time for their doctors to discover his injury and done something to correct it. One of the holdups in his release was the Browns insisted Couch sign a waiver promising not to go after the Browns for an injury settlement.
Crennel and Savage could have saved money on the salary cap for 2005 by holding onto Garcia until June 1. He will cost $3.7 million against the cap this year. Had they waited until June 1 he would have cost about $1.75 million this year and a little less than $2 million against the cap in 2006. The difference is in the way the signing bonus is prorated for salary cap purposes.
The Browns earned a reputation in the final two years under Davis as a team to avoid. Yes, the Browns paid well and yes, there are some great perks, such as valet parking for home games, yet those positives did not outweigh treating players shabbily, as Davis did Couch.
"That could be me," a player would say to himself. "I'm sure not going there."
Now that should change. Crennel and Savage are trying to make Berea a player-friendly place again.
Of course, one problem remains. The Browns still are without a viable quarterback.
Releasing Garcia has to mean the Browns are confident in Kelly Holcomb. Holcomb did look good on several occasions when he finished the game he started. But he has started only 13 regular season games in his career and broke bones in three of them.
"He can break his leg dropping back to pass," one coach said.
The odds of Holcomb finishing a season are not good. That's why The Owl wants the Browns to go after Kurt Warner. Warner does not want to play for the Giants any longer because they are committed to Eli Manning. He does not want to be a backup here, either, which means the Browns could go after Gus Frerotte of the Vikings, who like Holcomb will be a free agent in March.
Warner will turn 34 a month before training camp opens. He can help put the Browns on the road to recovery. Let Holcomb go and sign Warner. Warner gives the Browns the chance to win.