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Published: Wednesday, 8/20/2003

Browns' Davis goes for broke with QB pick

The surprise, of course, is that with so much riding on being politically correct these days, Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis not only went against conventional wisdom, he made it clear that money isn't everything.

Davis' decision to promote Kelly Holcomb over incumbent Tim Couch as his new starting quarterback was business, not personal.

Only in America.

According to the NFL good book, all signs pointed to Couch being Cleveland's QB in 2003.

Couch is a former No. 1 overall draft pick. He earns big bucks as the fourth-highest-paid player in the league this season at $6.2 million. He's been decent as a starter.

Davis, however, wants to build a great offense more than he wants to keep Couch happy.

He wants to keep the Browns in the playoffs while making a run at the Super Bowl, and he fully believes that Holcomb -undrafted out of college and earning $825,000 this season - can help him get there faster.

Now that we're all aware that Davis is completely in charge of the Browns, it's vital to understand that Davis clearly wanted Couch to remain as the starter.

Davis likes him. That's obvious.

Remember, Davis signed off on Couch's contract extension. Davis wanted Couch to make good because it would make him look good.

The last thing Davis wanted or needed was a long, drawn-out quarterback controversy. Still, there were signs everywhere that Davis wanted to make this change.

After Holcomb threw for 429 yards in Cleveland's playoff loss at Pittsburgh last season, Davis backed off from his previous vote of confidence for Couch.

Davis gave Couch and Holcomb a clean slate to start with and threw the quarterback race wide open.

Besides, the potential for hypocrisy was a risk Davis wasn't willing to take.

If Davis had stuck with Couch after constantly telling the Browns that the best players at each position would start, he would have lost all-important credibility in the locker room.

As expected, Couch didn't take the news well at all. If Couch was truly blindsided by his demotion, then he must have tricked himself into believing he deserved to be the starter because he was there the longest.

This was Couch's last chance under Davis to show he deserved to remain No. 1.

For all we know, Davis in his mind may have already anointed Holcomb as the starter and merely wanted to see how Couch responded to the coach's mind games.

Couch didn't play any differently in Cleveland's first two preseason games. He rarely looked down the field, operating the same get-rid-of-the-ball, conservative dink-and-dunk offense he's become known for.

Holcomb, on the other hand, played as if he had nothing to lose. He routinely stretched defenses with deep passes to a talented corps of big-play receivers.

It was an ongoing display of what Davis expects from Holcomb, and irrefutable evidence that skeptical Browns' fans shouldn't be so quick to judge their new starting quarterback by the size of his wallet.



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