<
>

QB has three years left on his contract

CLEVELAND -- Jeff Garcia didn't even get to celebrate his
one-year anniversary with the Cleveland Browns.

Less than 12 months after they signed the three-time Pro Bowler
to fix their problems at quarterback, the Browns told Garcia on
Monday that he was no longer in their plans and will be released
with three years left on his contract.
Garcia signed a four-year, $25 million free agent deal with
Cleveland last March, but almost from the time he was handed an
orange helmet and No. 5 jersey, it was apparent that it wasn't a
good fit.
In 10 starts for Cleveland, Garcia completed 144 of 253 passes
for 1,731 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. But even
in the preseason, he criticized former coach Butch Davis' offense
and never really fit into Davis' system.
Garcia's release -- league rules prevent it from becoming
official until Feb. 22 -- continues a house cleaning in the
aftermath of a 4-12 season by the Browns, who last week hired Romeo
Crennel, New England's former defensive coordinator, as their
coach.
On Sunday, Crennel named Maurice Carthon his offensive
coordinator and the two didn't waste any time coming to an
agreement on their first personnel move, deciding that Garcia was
not worth keeping.
"I think it was a classy move by the Browns to resolve this
quickly," said Garcia's agent, Steve Baker. "It's unfortunate
that neither the Browns nor Jeff had the kind of year they were
hoping for."
Garcia, who was due a $500,000 roster bonus next month, is
likely to be one of a number of veteran quarterbacks on the market
this spring.
Two-time league MVP Kurt Warner, who signed with the New York
Giants last spring to help break in rookie Eli Manning, has asked
to be released after losing his job to Manning after nine games.
Buffalo also could release Drew Bledsoe, a longtime starter with
the Bills and Patriots.
Baker is confident that Garcia will find a new team.
Davis, who resigned on Nov. 30 with five games left in the
season, outbid Tampa Bay last winter for Garcia, thinking he was a
better option at quarterback than either Tim Couch or Kelly Holcomb.
But Garcia never seemed to click with teammates and admitted to
having a hard time adjusting to Cleveland's lifestyle after
spending his entire life in Northern California.
During the exhibition season, the 34-year-old complained that he
wasn't getting enough playing time and that he was having trouble
adjusting to new teammates and a new offense. Garcia made things
worse by openly criticizing Davis and offensive coordinator Terry
Robiskie, complaining that they weren't using him properly.
At one point, Davis called Garcia "skittish" in the pocket, a
comment that angered the quarterback and expanded the rift between
them.
After rallying the Browns to beat Baltimore in Week 1, Garcia
threw three interceptions the next week in a loss at Dallas and
recorded a 0.0 quarterback rating -- only the fifth NFL quarterback
since 1970 to do so.
While Garcia took the brunt of the criticism, it wasn't all his
fault. He lost his top offensive weapon when rookie tight end
Kellen Winslow Jr. broke his leg in Week 2. Also, the Browns were
ravaged by injuries to key players, particularly on the offensive
line.
Garcia, who will turn 35 on Feb. 24, had to deal with two
injuries of his own. He strained his shoulder on a sack against the
New York Jets on Nov. 21 and tore a knee ligament on Dec. 12 in
Buffalo.
Offseason distractions further strained Garcia's relationship
with the Browns and Cleveland fans. Garcia had to testify in a
trial for his girlfriend, a Playboy Playmate, who was accused of
karate-kicking one of Garcia's ex-girlfriends during a fight at a
downtown nightclub.
With Garcia gone, the Browns will likely try to re-sign Holcomb,
who is eligible for free agency, or trade for a veteran
quarterback. The team also has the No. 3 pick in April's NFL draft,
although it is unlikely they would want to start over with a rookie
QB.
"I think Kelly would like to come back to the Cleveland
Browns," general manager Phil Savage said, "and I think the
feeling is mutual."
Meanwhile, Robiskie, who went 1-4 as Cleveland's interim coach
after Davis quit, will stay with the Browns as wide receivers
coach. That was his position for three seasons before being named
offensive coordinator last year.
Crennel also named Jeff Davidson his offensive line coach and will
retain Jerry Rosburg as Cleveland's special teams coach. Davidson
has spent the past eight seasons with New England. Rosburg has been
with the Browns since 2001.