In his third season since being selected No. 1 overall in the 2000 NFL Draft, the "Quiet Storm" has been simply quiet, and Tampa Bay's Warren Sapp has a theory as to why.
"You are soft as (hell), you are soft as (hell)," Sapp screamed at Brown after the two defensive linemen had a rare meeting on the field late in the fourth quarter of the Buccaneers 17-3 victory over the Browns Sunday.
Tampa coach Jon Gruden gave Sapp a chance to play on offense with the Buccaneers' knocking at the door at the Browns' 1-yard line, lining up the Pro Bowl defensive tackle as a tight end opposite Brown on the left side.
Mike Alstott lost 5 yards on a run to the opposite side of the line from from where Sapp and Brown squared off. While it had no effect on the play, Sapp stood Brown straight up with a block, and he was happy to tell anyone who would listen the reason he was able to do it.
"It was my first offensive snap in 12 years," Sapp said after the game. "I drove Courtney Brown. I drove Courtney Brown to the other side of the field. That's how come I know he's soft."
The fact that Sapp decided to tell Brown that theory to his face infuriated other members of the Browns' defense. Veteran linebacker Earl Holmes jumped to Brown's defense, jawing face-to-face with Sapp.
"I don't know if he was playing with Courtney's mind, but I'm not going to let any opponent play with a teammate of mine," Holmes said afterward. "Courtney Brown is my teammate, and I was standing tall. I will back up any of my teammates. As long as I'm there, there will be nothing said."
Browns cornerback Corey Fuller flew into a rage when he heard Sapp had called Brown soft.
"He does all that talking," Fuller said. "He's been to the Pro Bowl, but he's never won a Super Bowl. How's he going to call someone soft?
"Who delegated him to be the league spokesman? He's soft. He hasn't put his team on his back and taken them to the Super bowl, yet."
Sapp did admit that Brown, at 6-foot-4, 280-pounds and capable of running the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds, is an amazing physical specimen. Those physical gifts just aren't leading to production in the NFL.
In five games this season, Brown is averaging just over three tackles per game and is still searching for his first sack. In 26 NFL games, he has just nine sacks, and six of those came in two big games - a three-sack performance as a rookie against the Steelers, and another three-sack effort against the Bears last year.
Both Sapp and Buccaneers left tackle Roman Oben, who played for the Browns the last two seasons, hinted that part of Brown's lack of production could be due to the way he is used in the Browns' defensive scheme.
"I don't know what they are asking him to do," said Oben. "When (Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin) built this system, he built it on trust and a system where he would not ask us to do something physically impossible. I don't know if they are asking (Brown) to do something that is physically impossible, but he is a specimen. You have to expect something out of your right defensive end. He has to be dominant."
Oben once thought Brown had a chance to have a career on a par with Giants defensive end Micahel Strahan, who recorded a record 22 1/2 sacks last season.
"I'll be honest, and I played with Strahan for four years, and Courtney Brown, when I was in (Cleveland), was playing at a higher level than Strahan was his first two or three years in the league," said Oben. "You've' got to let (Brown) run up the field and do the things he can do. He's a great guy, he's dedicated to winning, and he wants to be live up to that Bruce Smith-label that they gave him. I think he will, but you've got to let him play ball.
"Courtney is going to be a good player, and if it doesn't happen in Cleveland for one reason or another, he is going to make somebody good."
According to Oben, the Browns scheme might be forcing Brown to try to use his speed at the expense of his strength. That has led Oben to believe that Butch Davis may have made a mistake moving him from left defensive end to right defensive end when he took over as coach last season.
"He is a good guy to get up the field, but he's also a big strong guy," said Oben. "He's a big, solid player, and he might be better off on the other side ... Strahan was just a guy when he was at right end, and then they moved him to the left side (in 1997) and he got 14 sacks.
"I've seen (Brown) beat a guy for three sacks in a game against Chicago last year, and I saw what he did against Pittsburgh as a rookie when he didn't even know what was going on in just his second or third year in the league. That guy has to have gotten better. There has to be something there. I'm not saying it is coaching. I don't know. He is going to be a good player, but he is taking some lumps right now."