Camp opening heats up huge QB question
By STEVE DOERSCHUK, Copley Ohio Newspapers
BEREA - The sun comes out on the Browns' most
dramatic training camp since the 1980s today.
Like fat summer tomatoes, juicy questions are
bursting out all over Berea.
Which way will Courtney Brown go? Breakout? Or
Is Gerard Warren really serious?
Where in the spectrum of Marion Motley, Jim
Brown, Leroy Kelly and the Pruitts might William
Green fit in?
Odds are one of four talented wideouts will
emerge as an NFL star. But do you bet on Quincy
Morgan after his quantum-leap sophomore year?
The big question, though, is as easy to spot as a
yellow Hummer in a garden of red Honda Civics.
To whom will rookie first-round pick Jeff Faine
hike the ball after third-year head coach Butch
Davis picks the winner?
A big, related question: What happens when two
tomatoes can pass for twins?
On the surface, much of Davis' decision as to
whether Tim Couch or Kelly Holcomb will be the
No. 1 quarterback hinges on the early preseason
But what if their in-game results end in a tie?
That is virtually what happened over the last two
Holcomb joined the Browns the same year as Davis,
in 2001. Couch went through the '01 training camp
as the unquestioned starter. Yet, Holcomb got
plenty of preseason-game work, even though Ty
Detmer and Spergon Wynn were getting snaps.
Couch finished the '01 preseason by going
33-for-51 (64.7 percent). Holcomb went 26-for-41
(63.4 percent). Holcomb had a slightly higher
passer rating, 93.5 to Couch's 87.4, because he
threw just one interception, to Couch's two.
Couch led in touchdown passes, 3-2.
A few observers noticed that Holcomb's average
yards per attempt were more than a yard ahead of
Couch's, 7.80-6.75. Everyone knew Couch was the
After a 7-9 finish that included a 1-5 skid down
the stretch, some fans had turned against Couch.
Davis, though, continually said Couch was good
enough to win Super Bowls.
Couch went into the 2002 preseason with Davis'
Again, the preseason statistics were very close.
Both quarterbacks were very good.
Couch led in passer rating, 116.4-115.3 and did
not throw an interception (Holcomb gave up one).
Couch led in completion percentage, 76.9-74.5.
Holcomb led in touchdown passes, 3-2. An elbow
injury sidelined Couch for the final preseason
game. At that point, Couch had completed 30 of 39
passes for 310 yards. Holcomb had completed 27 of
38 for 347 yards.
If there was a clear statistical edge for either
man, it was Holcomb getting more out of each
passing attempt, 9.3 yards to Couch's 7.95.
Now, of course, Davis is indicating the
quarterback job is up for grabs. What he will not
say is what he will do if Couch and Holcomb again
are very close, as they were statistically in the
'01 and '02 preseasons.
The first serious battle looms next weekend, with
a scrimmage against Buffalo. Davis had given
strong indications he will name a starter after
the first two preseason games, against the Titans
"They'll alternate against Buffalo, just like
they did a year ago," Davis said. "The same thing
will happen in the first preseason game and
possibly the second."
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said recently
that both quarterbacks headed for training camp
"playing at a very high level."
The duel will resume Friday, when full-squad
workouts begin. Until then, rookies and a handful
of veterans will occupy the training-camp stage.
Davis said he seeks "real clarity" as to who
deserves the quarterback job. Statistically, at
least, the leader in the '01 and '02 preseasons
was as clear as mud.