Morgan only Brown showing preference for Holcomb

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 19, 2003

BEREA -- Quincy Morgan's reaction stood out in an otherwise impartial Browns' locker room.

One day after Kelly Holcomb was picked over Tim Couch to be Cleveland's starting quarterback, their teammates got to weigh in on coach Butch Davis' decision.

While most offered the standard whatever-coach-wants-to-do responses, Morgan had trouble hiding his feelings. He was smiling. It was obvious that the wide receiver would have picked Holcomb, too.

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''He's fun to play with,'' Morgan said.

While there were some puzzled looks and a few raised eyebrows at Davis' choice to bench Couch and his $6.2 million contract in favor of Holcomb, the Browns were united and pleased about one thing: that the quarterback controversy was over.

The Holcomb-Couch debate overshadowed training camp and has been the dominant question hanging over the Browns for months. And now that it's finally over, the team can move on to other pressing concerns.

Like fixing a defense that has looked horrible in exhibition games against Tennessee and Green Bay.

But for one more day, Holcomb and Couch remained center stage.

''If it was at another position, it wouldn't have been that big of a deal,'' guard Barry Stokes said. ''But coach feels like Kelly is the man, so that's who we're going to go with. A team needs to stand by its coach and go with him 100 percent, no matter what decision he makes.''

Morgan said he wasn't surprised Davis would go with Holcomb, a career backup who has made just four starts during seven years in the NFL.

''He's a good quarterback,'' Morgan said. ''He's a good player and a great leader. He showed he can make plays.''

Especially ones down the field, which is why Morgan is so pleased that No. 10 is Cleveland's new No. 1 quarterback. As the Browns' best deep threat last season, Morgan caught 56 passes for 964 yards, numbers that could rise with Holcomb at QB.

Holcomb has already shown a willingness to air it out on offense by throwing 40- and 50-yard passes. Couch, on the other hand, is more inclined to throw underneath. In Friday night's game against the Packers, Holcomb lofted a perfect throw down the left sideline to Morgan for 39 yards. It would have gone for another 20, but Morgan stepped out of bounds making a cut.

Morgan loves Holcomb's fearlessness to throw the long ball, and the way he improvises at the line of scrimmage.

''When you lineup, you may already have a short route, and if Holcomb sees a guy in your face, he might give you a go route,'' Morgan said. ''He's so in tune with what's going on in a game, it's ridiculous. That makes you have to be so much focused. He sees everything. He's great at reading the defense.''

Moments after Morgan presented the pro-Holcomb side of Davis' decision, Kevin Johnson reflected on seeing Couch lose his job as starter.

Johnson has been Couch's go-to receiver for four seasons. The pair have clicked since arriving as draft picks of the expansion Browns in 1999.

''I feel sorry for him,'' Johnson said. ''When I found out about it, it hurt me. We came here five years ago together. He was the number one pick, I was number two. It's a decision that had to be made one way or another. It's kind of sad. But it's a business.''

That was a sentiment echoed by several of the Browns. Davis cut five starters during the past off-season, and by benching a former No. 1 overall pick, the coach reminded everyone that he's the boss.

''A lot of guys thought Tim was going to be the starter because he makes the most money, and it would only be right,'' Morgan said. ''But I knew it was a toss up. I've been around here for awhile watching and I know coach Davis is going to play the best player.

''He doesn't care how much money you make, who you are, what you did last year or how many Pro Bowls you've been to.''

Safety Earl Little was more concise in his analysis of Couch's demotion.

''The NFL,'' he said, ''stands for Not For Long.''

Notes: Davis said rookie RB Lee Suggs failed his physical and has not been cleared to practice. Suggs, taken in the fourth round, underwent shoulder surgery in May. … Andra Davis has supplanted Barry Gardner as the Browns' starting middle linebacker. Gardner has been moved to the weak side, behind Ben Taylor. Kevin Bentley is starting on the strong side, giving the Browns a linebacking corps -- Davis, Taylor and Bentley -- with zero NFL starts. … Safety Robert Griffith will have his broken right index finger re-examined by doctors this week. … Butch Davis said he was not angry with DE Courtney Brown, who told the team he wasn't ready to play last week. Brown is attempting a comeback from off-season knee surgery.