August 2, 2014

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Browns teaching Mike Holmgren the blues

Browns president Mike Holmgren had been in Cleve­land for just a few months. He had experienced success in a number of locations through­out his career. Why would he believe people when they said he needed to expect the worst and prepare for a disaster?

When Holmgren said on draft weekend in April that third-round pick Colt McCoy wouldn’t play this year, he believed it.

As he said at the time, he brought in veterans Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wal­lace for a reason.

Holmgren’s No. 1 priority when he decided to take over the flailing franchise was to solidify the quarterback posi­tion. Delhomme was a proven starter and Wallace a legiti­mate backup who could step in if needed and keep the team from heading south.

With them on board, the undersized McCoy would spend the year learning from the sideline. There wouldn’t be the pressure — from outside and inside the organization — to rush the next great hope into the lineup.

“The worst thing in the world would be to stick a young quarterback in and get him all scarred up,” Holmgren said in April. “He doesn’t have to feel like he’s the savior, not right now.

“Something could happen, I suppose. I don’t think it will.”

Um, think again.

Unless Delhomme or Wal­lace experiences a remarkable recovery this week from his ankle injury, McCoy is expected to start Sunday in Pittsburgh. If the Browns are afraid to use him, Brett Ratliff is an option.

But he’s been gone for the past five weeks and has never taken a regular-season snap, either.

This isn’t a criticism of Holmgren. He had a well­thought- out plan and good intentions. Bringing along McCoy slowly made perfect sense, and was the right idea.

Holmgren just didn’t give enough respect to the Murphy’s Law (I don’t believe in curses) that is life with the Browns.

Whenever the Browns think they have the most important position figured out something goes wrong. Really wrong. Tim Couch, Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson all come to mind.

So once again we’ll be talk­ing quarterbacks all week.

That never seems to change around these parts.

Who’s healthy, who’s starting for the Browns, how will he handle the powerful Pitts­burgh defense? How will Ben Roethlisberger fare in his first game back from suspension?

McCoy would be the 16th quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999. That’s 15 more than in Indianapolis.

(Interlude: What do the Colts fans do for angst? What do they fight about at the bar? Is it more fun to discuss Peyton Manning’s wins and records or Anderson vs. Quinn?) Delhomme is making $7 million this season and has played three halves, two on a bum ankle. Odds are against him playing before the bye week, possibly much longer.

He could barely function Sunday, even after getting shot up with painkillers.

Then he reinjured the ankle.

(Interlude II: There’s been too much talk about Delhomme’s two interceptions against the Falcons. On the first — the batted ball returned for a touchdown — the rusher was unblocked, Delhomme threw to the open guy and Kroy Biermann made a great play. On the second pick, John Abraham hit him as he threw.) Wallace had filled in admirably and was making a case to keep the starting job. He had cut down on turnovers, managed the games well and finally found a way to get receiver Mohamed Massaquoi involved. Then Abraham rolled up on his ankle.

Coach Eric Mangini said he’d have more on the injuries today — the early guess is little information but plenty of unfounded optimism.

So McCoy is the only real choice to start against the Steelers. Maybe that’s a good thing. The organization and fans aren’t pinning all their hopes on him. It’s a move of necessity, and expectations are low.

And McCoy should be better for the experience — as long as the Steelers don’t break him in half. When it’s time for McCoy to take over the job, or at least compete for it, somewhere down the line, he’ll have this time under center to learn and draw from.

And you never know, maybe he’ll shock the world and beat Pittsburgh.

Imagine what that would do to the conversation among Browns fans.

Ratliff signed

The Browns made it official, announcing the signing of Ratliff on Tuesday off the Patriots practice squad. To make room, the Browns terminated the contract of receiver Sam Aiken.

Ratliff was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2007 and spent that year on the practice squad. He was the third quarterback with the Jets in 2008 and the Browns in 2009. He was cut by the Browns this year at the end of training camp.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.