Davis says Couch is Browns’ starter

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 10, 2003

BEREA -- Tim Couch's job may be more secure than he or anyone else in Cleveland ever imagined.

Browns coach Butch Davis seemed to diffuse his team's simmering quarterback controversy by saying that Couch had never lost his starting position to Kelly Holcomb.

After labeling the Browns' current quarterback issue as ''much ado about nothing,'' Davis said his two QBs have been enjoying a healthy competition during the club's recent ''quarterback school'' workouts.

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Davis also gave his strongest signal since the end of last season that Couch is still the Browns' starter.

''Last year, it was a slam dunk,'' Davis said. ''Tim Couch is the guy and Kelly is the backup. Now, it's Tim Couch is probably the guy, and Kelly is right there and he's pushing to maybe be the guy.''

The Couch vs. Holcomb debate has been raging for months in Cleveland, where fans seem to be evenly divided about whether No. 2 or No. 10 should be No. 1.

Couch, the club's top draft pick four years ago, passed for a career-high 18 touchdowns last season and made 14 starts before breaking his right leg in the regular-season finale against Atlanta.

Enter Holcomb.

A career backup in Indianapolis and Cleveland, he replaced Couch for the first-round playoff game against Pittsburgh and threw for three TDs and 429 yards -- the third most in NFL playoff history.

Following Holcomb's jaw-dropping performance, Davis seemed to throw the quarterback position wide open when he said, ''The best guy has got to play.''

As of now, that still appears to be Couch, who'll be entering his fifth pro season, with Holcomb close behind him.

''Tim has not really lost the job,'' Davis said. ''I think it's a bad assessment when people say it's 50-50 because it really probably isn't 50-50. I think that Kelly's performance opened a lot of people's eyes who said maybe he should get an opportunity to win the job.''

Davis raved about the way his two quarterbacks have handled their head-to-head battle, which will be scrutinized next week when the Browns hold their final mini-camp.

Davis doesn't want either of his QBs to get caught up in the hoopla.

''Right now, the most important thing for those two guys is that they continue to improve,'' he said. ''They can't get lost in who's first, who's second, who's third or any of all that garbage.''

Davis has said he wants to have a starter named by Cleveland's third exhibition game on Aug. 23 against Detroit. It will be based on their performances in mini-camp, summer training camp, preseason games and other factors.

But the bottom line will be Davis picking the quarterback he thinks can win the most games.

Couch? Or Holcomb? Davis feels he can't go wrong either way.

''I sleep good at night knowing that I'm lucky to have two of them,'' he said. ''Two guys that I know can win games. Two guys that want to win and I don't think either cares about their own personal statistics. If we can win a (Super Bowl) ring, they wouldn't care who was the starter.''