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Tim Couch Deserved Better

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Tim Couch was not supposed to be a savior for the Cleveland Browns’ franchise. Tim Couch was supposed to be the franchise.

For a football-starved city with outrageous expectations, the Kentucky quarterback was a symbol of resurrection for a team that had been gone for three years. Given all of that, maybe it’s not surprising that eight years later, he is seen as a bust. That’s got to be a hard thing for a player, particularly a No. 1 draft pick overall, to accept.

Couch had a chance (albeit a small one) at redemption earlier this summer, when he signed a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. But he was cut just a few weeks after signing.

Couch hasn’t taken a snap in an NFL regular season game since 2003. But he found himself in the news Tuesday when it was reported that he used a training regimen that involved human growth hormone and anabolic steroids. Couch, for his part, has admitted to taking HGH – under doctor’s supervision – to recover from a shoulder surgery. In one day, fair or not, Couch went from a draft bust to a drug-using draft bust.

Couch’s legacy could be forever tarnished by this information, and his legacy wasn’t all that positive (on the field, anyway) to begin with. I’ll hold off on his off-the-field issue for the moment, because I’m not a steroid expert or a drug-law expert. All I know is that no matter what happens from this point on, Couch will be seen by many as not just a draft bust, but as someone who cheated in an ill-fated attempt to get back in the show.

I’ll choose to remember Couch as a player who tried hard to live up to ridiculous expectations, but never had the chance to because the players around him weren’t good enough.

Couch actually wanted to come to Cleveland. (Why do players want to go to expansion teams? Oh, right, money.) He got his wish. But I wonder now how much better Couch’s career could have been had he been drafted by the Eagles, Bears, or Saints. Those teams weren’t great at the time, but at least they had complete organizations in place. He might not have been a Hall of Famer; he might not have had the career Donavan McNabb has. But he certainly would have had a better chance than with the Browns.

In his first season, Couch got smacked around in his 14 starts, finally being forced out due to injuries in Week 15. The Browns went 2-12 in those starts.

 In his four seasons as the Browns primary starter, he only had one healthy season – 2001. It was not a great season, but Couch did throw for more than 3,000 yards. In 2002, Couch started all but two regular season games, and went 8-6. It was the only season the Browns have went to the playoffs since coming back.

But Couch missed the team’s playoff appearance, and thus was on the sidelines when Kelly Holcomb – his backup – threw for 429 yards in a 36-33 loss to Pittsburgh. With that game, the Couch era in Cleveland was essentially over. Browns’ coach Butch Davis decided to go with Holcomb as the starter. Couch started a few games for the team after that, but didn’t do well enough to convince Davis to keep him.

Couch signed with the Packers, and some optimistic folks saw him as a possible successor to Bret Favre. Instead, he was released before taking a regular season snap.

I have heard some analysts say Couch wasn’t tough enough for the NFL. I don’t see how anyone could play behind that Browns offensive line in 1999 and not be tough. What I do know is Couch was in a miserable situation. Since Couch was drafted in 1999, the Browns have had four head coaches, eight losing seasons, and 10 starting quarterbacks. A lot was expected of Couch, and he didn’t deliver. After almost a decade of general incompetence from the Browns’ organization, it’s hard to see how he could have.

You just hope people remember that before they criticize him, at least for his play on the field.

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About Zach

  • Hey, I’m working this side of the street! Nice article, nonetheless, Zach.

  • Kyle Cooper

    Great article on Tim Couch. You show that you are fair minded and I respect that.

  • Bob Roussel

    Good Article….Fair & Balanced.

  • odouglas

    What kind of growth hormones are you on? I’m a browns fan that watched Couch play and he just wasn’t any good. Of course the team wasn’t very good. But every time he didn’t play the back up played much better, Give it a rest.
    The NFL is full of players that could have been great if only every player on the team was all pro.
    Check out Mike Phipps.

  • Jeff Dotson

    Odouglas, You must not know much about football to think that Tim Couch wasn’t any good. I had the great privelage of seeing him play in high school, college, and in the NFL and I can honestly say that his high school team had a better all around program than the Browns. Tim set several national records in high school and led Kentucky to a bowl game for the first time in years. He wasn’t a Brady or Farve but he was not a bad player. So pay attention to the team and not one player then maybe you would understand the game better, and this coming from a true Browns fan!

  • Mike Mackay

    FAO Odouglas. Couch was in an awful situation. Crap defense, terrible O-Line, no running game, raw young receivers and some coaching changes. If there isn’t a QB out there bar the elite (Manning, Brady) who wouldn’t struggle with that then I’d be very surprised.

  • odouglas

    whatever, Couch couldn’t read a blitz and go to the hot receiver cutting off a route which caused half his sacks just like Fry., couldn’t read zone 2 coverage, never threw back across the direction of a blitz, didn’t have the arm to throw an out, but you know football because he was great in high school.
    I suppose Fry was great too because he was awesome in high school and did a good job at Akron.
    A half decent qb makes an offensive line look good ala D. Anderson and he is no Manning either.
    couch was a bust, move on.

  • rob koons

    Tim Couch was a class act and ran into a train wreck that Butch Davis created. With good coaching which Cleveland has not had since their return to the NFL, Couch could of rivaled the talent of Manning!!! Im a lifelong Browns fan and was one of the 3 that started the beer bottle throwing incident. Tim your welcome to come to Cleveland anytime and you will be treated with the greatest of respect. You derserved better but you will always have my respect.

  • Don Wirtz

    In answer to Rob Koons, Tim was in
    Cleveland about the time Rob wrote
    this message. I believe it was for the
    Detroit Game, and yes he is a class act.

    I don!t know if he is still and analyst
    for the UK football Team or not. I just
    wish him luck and hope the comes back
    more often.

    Incidentally the Browns did beat Detroit.

  • Dave

    whatever, Couch couldn’t read a blitz
    Huh? Every offensive play for Couch was ablitz!

    and go to the hot receiver – Hot receivers?? Who on his team was a hot receiver.

    I watched the same pro games. I never saw him play in HS. The guy was running for his life and yet never once complained about his coaches or o-line. Perhaps he should have demanded more. Do you know d-bag Palmer let couch get hurt during practice??? WTF?

  • nick

    if the browns had 7blockers theyd still get beat by a 2 man blitz!
    no recievers or running game doesn’t help that.

    He wouldn’t have been like manning or brady but he wouldve been good