The Browns did everyone a favor by announcing they would release quarterback Jeff Garcia Feb. 22, the first day veterans can be cast off in accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
General manager Phil Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel quickly decided Garcia would not fit into the run-oriented offense Crennel wants to operate. It was obvious last year to everyone but former head coach Butch Davis that Garcia was a poor fit in the offense in 2004, too, but Davis stuck with Garcia until a shoulder injury prematurely ended the 34-year-old quarterback's season.
The Browns will take a $3.7 million salary cap hit by releasing Garcia now. The hit would have been about $1.75 million had they waited until after June 1, but then they would have been stuck with a salary cap hit of just under $2 million next year.
Now Garcia will be free to seek a job elsewhere, possibly Detroit or Tampa Bay, and the Browns can get on with the business of finding a different quarterback to carry them through 2005 and possibly beyond.
Crennel and Savage believe Kelly Holcomb can manage a game the way Crennel wants his quarterback to play. Holcomb is a pocket quarterback and has proven that with time to prepare he can play well against good defenses.
But Holcomb also comes with a very big question mark. He is as brittle as uncooked spaghetti. He has started 13 regular season games in the NFL and broken bones in four of them. His first start in 2004 was Game 11 against Cincinnati. He suffered three broken ribs and missed the next four games, not starting again until the final game.
Holcomb also can be a free agent. He said he would like to return to the Browns. The Browns have the salary-cap room to sign him, but it would be unlikely the contract would be for more than two years, and Holcomb might be looking for a longer deal.
Choices are slim among veteran free agents. Gus Frerotte from Minnesota and
Kordell Stewart from Baltimore are possibilities. So is Kurt Warner of the
Giants, but Warner wants a chance to start. Frerotte and Stewart are backups.
CJ KEEPS TRYING: Give C.J. Jones points for persistence. He has been with the Browns since 2003 but has yet to catch a pass. The speedy wide receiver was allocated to Cologne in NFL Europe, where he will try to work on catching the ball more consistently.
A LOTT OF HOPE: One of Romeo Crennel's first hires was getting John Lott as strength and conditioning coach. Lott replaces Buddy Morris. The Browns are hoping Lott can change the trend of double-digit players on injured reserve every season.
"My approach has always been hands on, never asking a player to do anything that I would not do with them," Lott said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not a flashy guy or anything like that and my team, I'm not looking for it to be flashy. I'm looking for my team to be a physically tough team." - Browns first-year head coach Romeo Crennel
WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART: General manager Phil Savage knew waiting until after the Super Bowl would allow him to hire the head coach he, owner Randy Lerner and team president John Collins preferred. He likewise knew waiting until more than a month after the season ended to hire Romeo Crennel would put the Browns behind in the race to hire assistant coaches.
Crennel was able to hire the offensive coordinator he wanted in Maurice Carthon. Carthon was a blocking fullback with the Giants when Crennel was a defensive line coach on the New York team that won Super Bowls after the 1986 and '90 seasons.
Carthon was the offensive coordinator for the Lions in 2002 and the Cowboys in 2003 and 2004. He did not call plays in Detroit or Dallas, but he will call plays for Crennel.
Crennel had to settle for his second choice as defensive coordinator. Todd Grantham, the defensive line coach in Houston the last three years, was hired after Eric Mangini turned down the Browns to work as defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.