History

Year by Year Results: 2003
Team Photo

Back in the old days, the Browns would have taken all the veterans who had played such key roles in getting the team to the 2002 AFC playoffs, and tried to squeeze another year or two out of them.

But the old days had long disappeared by that point. With the constraints of the salary cap, keeping older players and their big contracts for any length of time is nearly impossible.

So in the offseason, Browns head coach Butch Davis lopped off veterans left and right, claiming the team was way over the cap limit. Included in that were all three starting linebackers, Earl Holmes, Dwayne Rudd and Darren Hambrick, along with cornerback Corey Fuller and center Dave Wohlabaugh.

All were good players, and most were leaders of the team.

It took away a lot of the excitement that had been generated after the 2002 club had gone 9-7, earned a wild-card berth and then nearly beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh in a wild-card round game, leading 24-7 in the third quarter and 33-21 with three minutes left only to lose 36-33.

Still, the fans hoped that maybe enough of the star players had been retained and that those, with the young guys mixed in, especially at linebacker where three second-year players in Andra Davis, Ben Taylor and Kevin Bentley would start, would be able to carry the team.

And for a while, it looked as if that indeed might happen.

It was a rough start, though, as the Browns lost the opener 9-6 to the Indianapolis Colts, making the second time in Davis' three seasons that they had fallen by that score in the first game, and then got roughed up at Baltimore in a 33-13 defeat. Ravens running back Jamal Lewis, who would sign with the Browns four years later, rumbled for an NFL-record 295 yards.

So in the first week, the Browns offense had struggled, and then the following week, it was the defense having issues.

This was not the start the Browns were looking for, especially offensively with the way the unit had finished 2002. Kelly Holcomb passed for 429 yards against Pittsburgh in the playoffs and that influenced Davis to let him battle Couch in training camp in an open competition for the starting quarterback job. Holcomb won out, but in the first two games of  2003, neither he nor the offense looked anything like it had down the stretch the previous year.

Overall, things didn't get any better in Week 3, the offense stagnating at 13 points for the second straight game. But that was enough to win at San Francisco 13-12 as Holcomb threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to wide receiver Andre' Davis, including an 11-yarder for the game-winner with 29 seconds left, to erase a 12-0 deficit.

It was discovered after the game, however, that Holcomb had suffered a broken ankle on a quarterback sneak, meaning Couch would return to the lineup.

After he had thrown two TD passes, including a 71-yarder to Quincy Morgan, in the first 20½ minutes the following week against the Cincinnati Bengals, Couch and the offense went silent in a 21-14 defeat.

Then, just as quickly, things turned around -- completely around -- for Couch, but only briefly. He had the best game of his pro career on Sunday Night Football in Pittsburgh, completing 20-of-25 passes for two TDs, and then running for another score, as the Browns cruised to a 33-13 win. It was their most lopsided victory over the Steelers since 1989.

William Green, the team's top pick in the NFL Draft the year before and the man who had performed so well during the playoff run, chipped in with 115 yards rushing.

Green rolled for 145 yards the next week, but otherwise, the offense struggled. All that seemed relative, though, since the opponent was the defensive AFC champion Oakland Raiders. Thus, the Browns were more than happy to get a 13-7 victory, upping their modest winning streak to two and evening their record at 3-3.

And in having surrendered a combined total of just 20 points in those triumphs, the defense was showing signs of coming around. That was uplifting as well.

Plus, with the winless (0-5) San Diego Chargers, guided by former Browns head coach Marty Schottenheimer, coming to the town the following Sunday, Davis' team was licking its chops with anticipation that it could really get going and begin making a push for the playoffs.

But nothing went right for the Browns that day. They couldn't play defense, as they allowed LaDainian Tomlinson to rush for 200 yards, and Couch and the offense struggled again. As the team was falling behind 23-6 late in the third quarter, Couch, who had passed for but 102 yards while being intercepted twice, was lifted for Holcomb. The unsettled, revolving-door situation at quarterback was something that, because of injuries and ineffective play, would plague the team for the rest of the season.

As he always seemed to do when he came on in relief, Holcomb played well against the Chargers, throwing a pair of scoring passes three minutes apart at the start of the fourth quarter to close the gap to three points, but it wasn't enough as the Browns fell 26-20.

The Browns never seemed to totally recover from that disappointing loss. They dropped their next two games and seven of eight as their season fell apart.

The lone bright spot came when they routed the Arizona Cardinals 44-6 as Holcomb passed for 392 yards and three TDs. That was the most points the Browns had scored since 1989, and the 38-point spread represented their biggest margin of victory since that season as well.

But there were also three one-sided losses, to the Kansas City Chiefs (41-20), the Seattle Seahawks (34-7) and the Baltimore Ravens (35-0).

En route to all of this happening, wide receiver Kevin Johnson, one of the top pass catchers in team history, was released, and Green missed the last eight games of the season after being suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Those were devastating blows to an already iffy offense.

The Browns won their finale, 22-14 at Cincinnati, to spoil the Bengals' playoff chances and finish 5-11 as Lee Suggs rushed for 166 yards and two TDs, including a 78-yarder.

But all that was of little consolation to the Browns. Their short-lived success of the previous year seemed as if it had happened in another lifetime, and they headed into the offseason fully realizing that if they wanted to right themselves, they had to first figure out their muddled quarterback situation.

Steve King,
Staff Writer

Year Results
Preseason Results
National Football League: 1-3
at Tennessee Titans (68,809) 6-10
Green Bay Packers (70,348) 31-38
at Detroit Lions (59,333) 17-38
Atlanta Falcons (69,618) 20-9
Regular Season Results
  Regular Season Playoffs Combined Record
League W L T PCT W L T PCT W L T PCT
NFL 5 11 0 .313 0 0 0 .000 5 11 0 .313
Date Result Opponent Att.
9/7 L 6-9 Indianapolis Colts 73,358
9/14 L 13-33 at Baltimore Ravens 69,473
9/21 W 13-12 at San Fransisco 49ers 67,412
9/28 L 14-24 Cincinnati Bengals 73,428
10/5 W 33-13 at Pittsburgh Steelers 64,595
10/12 W 13-7 Oakland Raiders 73,318
10/19 L 20-26 San Diego Chargers 73,238
10/26 L 3-9 at New England Patriots 68,436
11/9 L 20-41 at Kansas City Chiefs 78,560
11/16 W 44-6 Arizona Cardinals 72,908
11/23 L 6-13 Pittsburgh Steelers 73,658
11/30 L 7-34 at Seattle Seahawks 64,680
12/8 L 20-26 St. Louis Rams 73,108
12/14 L 20-23 (OT) at Denver Broncos 75,358
12/21 L 0-35 Baltimore Ravens 72,548
12/28 W 22-14 at Cincinnati Bengals 65,362
Score By Periods
1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Tot.
Browns 46 79 50 79 0 --- 254
Opponents 74 102 59 84 3 --- 322
Team Statistics
Browns Opponent
Total First Downs 276 283
Rushing 91 100
Passing 153 160
Penalty 32 23
3rd Down: Made/Att 74/202 87/222
3rd Down Pct. 36.6 39.2
4th Down: Made/Att 6/18 8/13
4th Down Pct. 33.3 61.5
Possesion Avg. 29:21 30:39
Total Net Yards 4504 4959
Avg. Per Game 281.5 309.9
Total Plays 961 994
Avg. Per Play 4.7 5.0
Net Yards Rushing 1670 2113
Avg. Per Game 104.4 132.1
Total Rushes 412 457
Net Yards Passing 2834 2846
Avg. Per Game 177.1 177.9
Sacked/Yards Lost 40/282 35/203
Gross Yards 3116 3049
Attempts/Completions 509/313 502/297
Completion Pct. 61.5 59.2
Had Intercepted 18 15
Punts/Avg. 73/41.8 76/41.4
Net Punting Avg. 73/34.7 76/35.3
Penalties/Yards Lost 98/767 141/1095
Fumbles/Ball Lost 32/15 24/7
Touchdowns 27 31
Rushing 8 14
Passing 17 13
Returns 2 4
Scoring
Ru Pa St Df PAT 2Ru 2Pa FG Saf TP
Dawson, Phil 0 0 0 0 20/21 0 0 18/21 0 74
Davis, Andre 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 30
Conway, Brett 0 0 0 0 3/3 0 0 5/7 0 18
Jackson, James 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 18
Morgan, Quincy 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 18
Browns 8 17 1 1 23/24 0 0 23/28 0 254
Opponents 14 13 0 4 31/31 0 0 35/43 0 322
Rushing
No Yds Avg LG TD
Green, William 142 559 3.9 26 1
Jackson, James 102 382 3.7 18 3
Suggs, Lee 56 289 5.2 78t 2
White, Jamel 70 266 3.8 23 1
Northcutt, Dennis 12 83 6.9 21 0
Browns 412 1,670 4.1 78t 8
Opponents 457 2,113 4.6 82t 14
Receiving
No Yds Avg LG TD
Northcutt, Dennis 6 729 11.8 44 2
White, Jamel 46 303 6.6 22 1
Johnson, Kevin 41 381 9.3 41 2
Davis, Andre 40 576 14.4 49 5
Morgan, Quincy 38 516 13.6 71t 3
Browns 313 3,116 10 71t 17
Opponents 297 3,049 10.3 55t 13
Interceptions
No Yds Avg LG TD
Little, Earl 6 41 6.8 21 0
Griffish, Robert 2 3 1.5 3 0
McCutcheon, Daylon 1 75 75.0 75t 1
Bentley, Kevin 1 25 25.0 25 0
Henry, Anthony 1 19 19.0 19 0
Browns 15 168 11.2 75t 1
Opponents 18 391 21.7 54t 4
Punting
No Yds Avg In20 TB LG BLK
Gardocki, Chris 72 3,019 41.9 18 10 60 0
Dawson, Phil 1 29 29 1 0 29 0
Browns 73 3,048 41.8 19 10 60 0
Opponents 76 3,146 41.1 18 8 59 1
Punt Returns
No Yds Avg LG TD
Northcutt, Dennis 36 295 8.2 38 0
Davis, Andre 1 7 7 7 0
Browns 37 302 8.2 38 0
Opponents 33 316 9.6 49 0
Kickoff Returns
No Yds Avg LG TD
Davis, Andre 38 803 21.1 69 0
Suggs, Lee 14 318 22.7 42 0
King, Andre 9 172 19.7 30 0
Maddox, Nick 3 58 19.3 26 0
Morgan, Quincy 2 67 33.5 47 0
Browns 71 1501 21.1 69 0
Opponents 60 1231 20.5 77 0
Field Goals
1-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+ Tot
Dawson, Phil 2/2 7/7 4/5 3/5 2/2 18/21
Conway, Brett 1/1 0/0 1/3 3/3 0/0 5/7
Browns 3/3 7/7 5/8 6/8 2/2 23/28
Opponents 0/0 13/13 9/10 10/16 3/4 35/43
Passing
Att Cmp Yds Pct Av/At th th% Int Int% LG Tkld Rating
Holcomb, Kelly 302 193 1,797 63.9 5.95 10 3.3 12 4 68t 21/166 74.6
Couch, Tim 203 120 1319 59.1 6.5 7 3.4 6 3 71t 19/116 77.6
Boyer, Brant 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 39.6
Jackson, Frisman 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 39.6
Johnson, Kevin 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0/0 39.6
Browns 509 313 3116 61.5 6.12 17 3.3 18 3.5 71t 40/282 75.2
Opponents 502 297 3049 59.2 6.07 13 2.6 15 3 55t 35/203 72.9