The Tim Couch Era in Cleveland is officially
over. Browns fans, rejoice and welcome in the Jeff Garcia Era, which head-coach Butch Davis is hoping will prosper for the years to come. Garcia, who
led the 49ers to the playoffs in four of his five seasons with the organization, seeks to do the same with a Cleveland franchise that has only reached
the postseason once in the past nine years. He'll have a mix of talent to work with, including rookie big-mouth TE Kellen Winslow II, underrated WR
Dennis Northcutt, and two young receivers on the verge of breaking out, Andre Davis and Quincy Morgan.
As for the running game, 24-year-old RB Lee Suggs single-handedly stole the job from William Green at the end of last year, so he'll have the starting
nod for now. The defense, meanwhile, is nothing to note about, other than its line being chock full of former first-round picks, but other than that,
it's an average pack. The Browns should stay alive, clawing at around the .500 mark for much of the season, but that's really it.
Jeff Garcia, QB, 6-1, 195; Courtney Brown, DE, 6-5, 270; Lee Suggs, RB, 6-0, 201; Kellen Winslow Jr., TE, 6-5, 250
Jeff Garcia, QB, 6-1, 195 (free agent, San Francisco); Kellen Winslow Jr., TE, 6-5, 250 (draft choice); Warrick Holdman, LB,
6-1.5, 235 (free agent, Chicago); Kelvin Garmon, OG, 6-2, 350 (free agent, San Diego); Ebenezer Ekuban, DE, 6-3, 282 (free agent, Dallas); Terrelle
Smith, FB, 6-0, 246 (free agent, New Orleans)
Tim Couch, QB, 6-4, 227 (released); Chris Gardocki, P, 6-1, 200 (signed with Pittsburgh); Shaun O'Hara, OL, 6-3, 287
(signed with NY Giants); Barry Stokes, OL, 6-4, 310 (signed with NY Giants)
Andra Davis, MLB, 6-0, 246; Andre Davis, WR, 6-1, 194; William Green, RB, 6-0, 221; Robert Griffith, SS, 5-11, 197; Kenard
Lang, DE, 6-1, 281; Daylon McCutcheon, CB, 5-10, 180; Quincy Morgan, WR, 6-1, 209; Dennis Northcutt, WR, 5-11, 175; Gerard Warren, DT, 6-4, 322;
After two seasons of playing musical
quarterbacks with Couch and Holcomb, the Browns visited the waiver wire and tabbed the 34-year old Garcia, a starter for five seasons with the 49ers,
to be their man. The team released Couch and relegated Holcomb (1797 passing yards, 10 TD, 12 INT) to his former No. 2 position. The knock on Garcia
has always been his average arm, but he still runs well and generally makes good decisions. Cleveland used a fourth- round pick on Louisiana Tech's
Luke McCown, who is seen as the quarterback of the future for the organization. Unless he dazzles in the preseason, McCown will hold the clipboard.
Last year it was the quarterback position that was attracting the controversy in Cleveland, but this year that debate is at running back. Incumbent
starter and former first-round pick William Green spent more time in 2003 avoiding the law rather than defenders, while James Jackson and Lee Suggs
handled the rushing duties in his absence. In seven games, the 6'0", 215 pound Green rushed for 559 yards on 142 carries (3.9 avg.), but had only one
touchdown. Green showed flashes of talent as he had two 100+ yard games including 145 yards on 26 carries (5.6) and his only TD against the Raiders in
a week six Browns win.
Lee Suggs was thought to be a first rounder
coming out of Virginia Tech last year, but was sidelined when he tore his rotator cuff. Picked up by the Browns in the fourth round, Suggs was
originally thought to be lost for the year, but started returning kickoffs and soon took over for James Jackson as the starting back. Suggs rushed for
289 yards on 56 carries (5.2) including an astounding 186-yard, 26-carry, 2-touchdown performance against the Bengals in Week 17, knocking Cincinnati
out of the playoff hunt. Jackson was given an opportunity to be the feature back, but was less than impressive averaging only 3.7 yards per carry, but
led the team in rushing touchdowns with three. Other running backs in the mix include Nick Maddox and rookie, seveth rounder Adimchinobe Echemandu out
of Cal. Winslow, the tight end out of Miami on which the Browns used the No. 6 pick in this past year's draft, has started training camp with a long
holdout but should be an immediate force within the offense when he reports. Steve Heiden (18 receptions) worked in Winslow's place as camp began.
Andre' Davis (40 receptions, 5 TD) and Quincy Morgan (38 receptions, 3 TD) were slated as the starting receivers, but it seems unlikely that Dennis
Northcutt (62 receptions, 2 TD), the Browns' most reliable offensive player of 2003, will stay off the field long. Frisman Jackson appears set as the
No. 4 receiver.
Cleveland has been a near-consensus pick for last place in the AFC North, and it is not difficult to figure out why. The offensive line and
linebacking corps' are shaky, the running back and secondary spots are unsettled, and quarterback duties have been entrusted to a 34-year old
quarterback that was cast aside by an already woeful 49ers team. Winslow's prolonged holdout and a season-ending injury to second-round pick and
safety Sean Jones in training camp puts a wrench in any type of youth movement, at least for the moment. Though the schedule appears favorable, it is
hard to envision the Browns having the talent to win consistently, no matter who they're playing. A .500 record should be enough to keep Davis' job,
but that's not likely.
[Edited on 13/9/04 by TRD]