QB has three years left on his contract
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.
Buffalo also could release Drew Bledsoe, a longtime starter with the Bills and Patriots.
Baker is confident that Garcia will find a new team.
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.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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