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Published: Sunday, 7/20/2003

Couch is iffy while Holcomb makes plays

At some point during the preseason, Butch Davis is going to end the suspense and select a starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.

We're five days from the opening of veterans' training camp, and we're entering the third year of Davis' reign as Browns head coach.

And, according to published reports, Davis has hatched a full-scale quarterback controversy.

His decision on a starting quarterback has become a national story, and the sooner the situation is resolved the better.

Maybe you have your heart set on Tim Couch being named the Browns' No. 1 guy. I don't.

Couch has a big contract, and with it the inside track to wrap up the starting job, but in my opinion he struggles throwing the deep ball and doesn't scan the field as well as Kelly Holcomb.

I'm with those Browns fans who remain skeptical of Couch's decision-making, mental toughness and leadership qualities, especially after his up-and-down 2002 season.

Fans in Cleveland may never truly love Couch.

They're probably afraid to embrace him, since they keep waiting for him to toss another killer interception.

I'd prefer that Holcomb be Davis' choice.

Holcomb doesn't make Couch's money, but he makes more plays. He's a more complete quarterback.

He's also one of Davis' guys. Davis is big on playing his hand-picked players, and Davis traded for Holcomb.

Couch was already on the team when Davis took over. He's had two years to prove himself to Davis, but Davis doesn't seem to be convinced.

In today's NFL, starting a low-salaried player ahead of a big-money player is nothing short of blasphemy. It's bad PR.

Well, it's hard to explain, but Holcomb seems to have better karma for the position.

Cleveland's offense just feels right with Holcomb under center.

I believe Davis feels the same way.

Otherwise there wouldn't be any quarterback controversy, no hemming and hawing from Davis over which quarterback is 1 or 1A.

It would be Couch's job - and his job only - to lose.

He's the highest-paid player on the team and a former No. 1 pick in the draft. He probably hasn't been a backup since Pop Warner ball.

I could see how this might hurt Couch personally.

He's sensitive enough as it is.

But professionally - if Davis believes, as he has stated, there is little to choose from between Couch and Holcomb - opening up the competition is the right thing to do.

I like what Davis is doing. At this point of the rebuilding process, coming off a tough loss to Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs, the Browns need a leader as much as they need a quarterback.

The quarterback sets the tone for his teammates and the fans.

Couch has a great deal of potential. He has shown flashes of brilliance. He was sold to Browns fans as a franchise quarterback, a difference-maker.

What difference does that make if Holcomb is the best quarterback for the Browns?



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