Was Jeff Garcia’s tenure with the Cleveland Browns *that bad*?
The Cleveland Browns are in the midst of trying to upgrade their roster, and in doing so they’re using the free agency market, the trade market, and eventually the draft pool to do so. They’ve had some mixed results so far but the general consensus is that they’ve put their best foot forward, so we’ll have to see how everything falls into place as the season moves on.
The Browns used free agency to help improve several positions, but the team historically has not been the best at playing the free market. They’ve had some duds like Dwayne Bowe and sadly LeCharles Bentley (for vastly different reasons) but one name that caught my eye as I was scrolling through the interwebs was Jeff Garcia.
Garcia signed with the Browns in 2004, replacing Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb as the team’s starting quarterback. Garcia was a bit older, with him debuting in the NFL in 1999 at the age of 29. So by the time he rolled into Cleveland, he was already 34 years old. The team needed stability at the quarterback spot and then-head coach Butch Davis’ job was hanging on by a thread.
Garcia lasted just 10 games as the team’s starting quarterback before Garcia bounced around the league some, ultimately finding another Pro Bowl selection while in Tampa Bay.
Yet, one older Bleacher Report article claimed that Garcia “set the Browns back years”.
"Jeff Garcia, Quarterback, Cleveland BrownsJeff Garcia was a fantastic quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, earning three consecutive Pro Bowl selections and topping 30 touchdown passes twice.He signed a four-year, $25 million deal with the Cleveland Browns before the 2004 season. During his one year in Cleveland, he won three of 10 starts, tossed 10 touchdowns against nine interceptions and posted a 76.7 passer rating.The Browns were 5-11 in 2003 without Garcia. They went 4-12 in 2004 with Garcia."
But did he?
Randy Lerner and not Jeff Garcia was the reason the Cleveland Browns sucked
After seeing how Garcia played in Philadelphia and Tampa Bay after his stint in Cleveland, it’s fair to say that it was the Browns, not Garcia, that was the issue in 2004. The team didn’t take advantage of his athleticism and had him play more like a standard drop-back passer than San Francisco did, or how Tampa Bay and Philadelphia would.
It also didn’t help that Dennis Northcutt was the team’s best receiver in 2004, over-relying on the likes of Andre’ Davis and Antonio Bryant as their second and third options, and Steve Heiden and Aaron Shea as their “pass-catching” tight ends.
I like Shea, but the Browns did not have a lot of talent at key receiving positions. The Browns also didn’t have a running game to speak of, with Lee Suggs and William Green as their top rushers. If that all wasn’t bad enough, 2004 was arguably the worst offensive line the team has had since it returned in 1999. Relying on Ross Verba as their left tackle and second-year center Jeff Faine.
Garcia’s tenure was doomed to fail, as he was given nothing to work with. He wasn’t successful in Cleveland, but that’s not on him, that’s on the Browns. Garcia proved he was far from washed, he just did so a couple of years later.