An Owl's Eye View of the Quarterbacks

The Owl is omnipresent in Berea. He is with the team as they practice, as they work, as they struggle to win. He has been there for the greatest moments, and the worst. He has watched Tim Couch from the moment he has arrived, and now offers us his thoughts as the Browns prepare for quarterback battle that, somehow, is slated to be over before training camp starts.

Coach Butch Davis says he'll wait until the start of training camp to name his starting quarterback.

Team president Carmen Policy says  good things about Tim Couch and then adds  "it hasn't come together for him yet" after four seasons of being beaten like a rocky ocean coast.

"I don't know if it's relevant to name who the starter is at this point," Policy said.
Good for Policy, and good for Davis, says The Owl.

It is time for Tim Couch to show he is as tough mentally as he is physically. Since he could first pick up a ball growing up in Kentucky, doors have opened for him automatically. He was the best athlete in his school when he was in junior high and was the best football player in Kentucky when he was in high school.

The door stayed open when Couch went to the University of Kentucky and it was blown off its hinges when the Browns chose him instead of Donovan McNabb with the first pick in the 1999 draft.

Usually, by the time a player gets to the National Football League, he has to earn his starting position. But Chris Palmer, the first Browns head coach after they rejoined the NFL, gave Couch the football before Couch was ready.

Couch would have been a senior at Kentucky if he didn't leave early. Plan A was to let Couch learn from Ty Detmer. That plan was put through the shredder when the Browns stunk out Cleveland Browns Stadium in the 1999 opener. Palmer banished Detmer and told Couch, ‘You're my man' against Tennessee the next week.

Couch was unquestionably the starter forever and ever until now. Now Kelly Holcomb is breathing down his neck, and Holcomb's breath is hot and moist.

The Owl believes Couch is better, but now he has to prove it to a lot of people.

First off, he has to prove it to the coaches. It means something that Butch Davis is not the coach that drafted Couch. A coach always feels loyalty to the players he picks because he has an ego and he doesn't want to admit he made a huge mistake.

Davis is different than some coaches. You can always tell how confident a coach is in his own skills by the assistants he hires. If he hires assistants with head coaching potential, it means the coach is not worried about getting the boot from an impatient owner. The Browns have three assistants that could be head coaches some day. Two are offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie. The other is defensive coordinator Dave Campo. Of course, Campo was head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for three years.

Davis is confident enough to make a quarterback change. He is smart enough not to make a knee-jerk decision just because Holcomb played so well against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoff game Jan. 5, too.

Holcomb gets rid of the ball quicker than Couch does. His teammates say he has good command in the huddle. The Owl wants to see how he plays against a good defense. He did not have to do that in 2002. He rang up 39 points against the Kansas City Chiefs. So big deal. The fat guy throwing wobbly passes as he is tailgating in the parking lot before the game could probably score 30.

Tim Couch had Larry, Curly and Moe as his running backs the first three years. William Green is an emerging star. Couch deserves to play a full season with a runner the opposing defense has to respect. The Browns are hoping the offensive line will be better even though they aren't thinking about using a first-round draft choice on a guard.

Couch has to make quicker decisions. He tries to be the hero too much. He has to find the weakness in the defense and exploit it. If it means gaining six yards instead of 30, he has to be satisfied.

The fight for third quarterback between Josh Booty and Pat Barnes is hard to call in March, but the Owl's spies say Barnes will show why the Browns scouted him thoroughly.

Davis and Policy swear they are not trying to trade Couch or Holcomb. If a team desperate for a quarterback, such as the Chicago Bears, wants to overspend the Browns would be nuts not to deal.

Today, the Browns are better off at quarterback than any other team in the American Football Conference North. It is a good way to head into training camp.

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