The Cleveland Browns team that the Washington Redskins will face Sunday doesn't just have one crisis -- it has two.
The Browns, 1-2 after a season-opening victory over Baltimore, have faced the identity crisis that goes with the addition of a new quarterback, one used to a different offense. And then there are the injuries.
The adjustment hasn't been easy since the team signed free agent quarterback Jeff Garcia from the 49ers in the offseason to replace former No. 1 overall pick Tim Couch, a major bust who was released in the offseason.
Garcia was a master of the West Coast offense employed by San Francisco, but the Browns have been trying to become a power running offense despite fielding a mostly mediocre offensive line blocking for a backup running back in William Green.
Only in the second half of a 27-10 loss Sunday to the New York Giants did Garcia seem to finally look comfortable.
"I think he's getting better every week," Browns Coach Butch Davis said. "It's the trust factor. As he starts to trust not only the protection, is he going to trust that receiver if it's a 15-yard route, is he going to go 15, is he going to go 17, is he going to go 13? . . . They all have to grow together."
A week after becoming only the sixth quarterback since 1971 to have a 0.0 quarterback rating following a dreadful day in Dallas (8-27 passing for 71 yards, three interceptions and no touchdowns) Garcia completed 14 of his 17 second-half passes against the Giants for 122 yards. Many were in classic West Coast quarterback style -- short drops and quick throws for modest gains that at least kept the chains moving for a while.
"As crazy as it sounds, and it probably sounds blatantly crazy, there were some positive steps taken by our offense," Davis said. "Not good enough to win, but there were some positive steps."
Before the Giants game, offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, a longtime assistant with the Washington Redskins and a short-term interim head coach after Norv Turner was fired four years ago, said he was starting to get a better feel for Garcia.
"It's just a matter of trying to get him on the perimeter a little bit," he said. "We have to do some things to get him out of the pocket and get him to scramble and do the things he can do."
After the loss to New York, Garcia said he believes there is still time to get things straightened out on offense.
"It's not a matter of confidence," he said. "But there is a sense of urgency. We've struggled the last two weeks and it's not real positive right now in the locker room. But it's not the end of the world."
The injuries have been equally critical. Among those who have been lost to injuries are the top two defensive linemen, the best running back, the starting cornerbacks and the No. 1 draft choice, rookie tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., now out for the remainder of the season after requiring a second operation to his broken right leg.
Second-year running back Lee Suggs of Virginia Tech suffered a neck stinger in practice a few days before Cleveland's final preseason game and hasn't played since. But the Browns said yesterday he will return to workouts this week and is expected to be in the lineup Sunday against the Redskins. Both starting corners, Daylon McCutcheon and Anthony Henry, could be back.
None of this is making Davis's fourth season an easy one. He is coming off a 5-11 record last year, has had only one winning season -- 9-7 in his second year -- and already is employing the second offensive and defensive coordinators of his troubled tenure. He's struggling to find the right touch.
"Sometimes coaches have a tendency to over-think," Davis said after the loss to the Giants. "You're missing this guy, you're missing this guy, that guy and you feel like you have to compensate for the guy that's down. These guys are professionals. You've got to let them play."