Countdown to 2020: Best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 10

SEATTLE - NOVEMBER 30: Quarterback Kelly Holcomb #10 of the Cleveland Browns passes against the Seattle Seahawks on November 30 2003 at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE - NOVEMBER 30: Quarterback Kelly Holcomb #10 of the Cleveland Browns passes against the Seattle Seahawks on November 30 2003 at Seahawks Stadium in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

Who is the best player to wear No. 10 for the Cleveland Browns?

The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 10 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 10: Kelly Holcomb.

The role of being the backup quarterback in Cleveland is a precarious one. While the backup quarterback’s actual role is to be the understudy of the starting quarterback, in Cleveland, the backup is a fan favorite that most fans prefer over the starter. That fact was never more apparent than in the story of Kelly Holcomb.

Holcomb’s path to the NFL took many twists and turns before he wound up in Cleveland. After graduating as Middle Tennessee State’s career leading passer, Holcomb was picked up by Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent. Holcomb spent 1995 on the Buccaneers’ practice squad but was cut the following year. To continue his football career, Holcomb headed overseas to play for the Barcelona Dragons in the now-defunct World Football League.

The Indianapolis Colts then signed Holcomb where he spent the majority of the time on the practice squad. In 1997, Holcomb appeared in five games and started in one. Although he did not see success on the field, he made an impression on the Colts’ quarterback coach, Bruce Arians.

Arians left his position with the Colts to become the offensive coordinator of the Browns in 2001. Holcomb followed Arians and found himself as Tim Couch’s backup. Holcomb only played in relief in one game in 2001 but managed to throw a touchdown despite only attempting 12 passes.

In 2002, Holcomb played in four regular-season games but managed to surpass Couch in the minds of the fans. It began in Week 1 when Holcomb made his first start due to an injury to Couch. Despite losing the opener, Holcomb threw for three touchdowns and the Browns offense put 39 points up on the board. The following week Holcomb led the Browns to victory and threw two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Couch returned from injury in Week 3, but many fans had already become Team Holcomb. Then in week five against the Baltimore Ravens, Couch left the game in the fourth quarter with a concussion. The fans cheered the injury as Holcomb entered the game with the Browns facing a 23-8 deficit. The backup threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns and had the Browns within striking distance in the final seconds.

The game ended with Holcomb throwing an interception into the endzone. However, it was later revealed that Holcomb broke his leg but refused to leave the game. The news of Holcomb toughing through his injury only further endeared the fans to the reserve gun-slinger.

In the regular-season finale, the Browns faced a must-win game against the Atlanta Falcons and needed a litany of other games to go their way in order to make the playoffs. After Couch broke his leg in the second quarter, Holcomb entered the game. Along with the help of William Green having a career game and a goal-line stand, the Browns emerged victoriously. In a turn of events that Browns fans could not even fathom in current times, every game that they needed to go their way actually did, and the Browns made the playoffs.

Even though the wildcard playoff matchup against the Steelers did not go in the Browns favor, Holcomb turned in a performance for the ages. Holcomb went 26 for 43 for 429 yards and three touchdowns. Going into 2003, the Browns had a clear leader in the clubhouse to lead the team.

As all Browns fans know, 2003 did not go the way they expected it to. Holcomb started eight games but was unable to recapture the magic from 2002. He finished the season with a 2-6 record as the starter, and the shine was officially off the apple. Holcomb left Cleveland after spending a season being Jeff Garcia’s backup in 2004.

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Although his record as a starter was only 8-16, Holcomb provided fans with hope and excitement, and that is why was the best player to wear number 10 for the Cleveland Browns.