Why Tim Couch Didn’t Suck

Tim Couch HatAs we’re rapidly approaching the Browns September 10th date with the Saints (and starting a 6th different QB in their 8 years back) I wanted to take a look back at how the QB situation has evolved since the Browns revival in 1999. The problem with that is I can’t shake everyone’s feeling that Tim Couch was one of the biggest busts of all time.

     This seems to be the prevailing thought in Browns circles.  So much so, that if you even mention Couch you’re bound to get chuckles and comments of how awful he was.  But was he really?  There is no easy answer, but if you take a look back at his career, year-by-year, I think you’ll see that he wasn’t the flop that fans make him out to be. 

So let’s do that.  Below is the Evolution of Tim Couch:

1999:  1st overall draft pick, groomed by Ty Detmer to be the future of the franchise—EVENTUALLY.  Enter 41-0 vs. the Steelers on opening night, and Couch is thrust into the start role.  Here is what he had to work with:

O-Line:  Poor. 

Running Game:  Terry Kirby.  Enough said really…just abysmal.

Best Receiver:  Rookie Kevin Johnson.

He really had absolutely nothing to work with, and he had a decent season, throwing 15 TD’s to 13 INT’s (two of those INT’s came on hail Mary’s at the end of the half).  Seemed like he was poised for success.  Just upgrade the O-Line, get decent RB, maybe some other WR’s and in a couple of years we’d be playoff contenders.

2000:  Incomplete.  The Browns actually started the year 2-1, and through 3 weeks Couch had the highest QB rating in the AFC.  Throw in a bad start against the Raiders, and his Rating was down to 77 through 7 games—which is all he played this season due to hitting his thumb on a lineman’s helmet during practice.  The team took a nosedive after he left, and finished the season 3-13.  Couch gets an incomplete.

2001:  Butch Davis arrives, the team adds Quincy Morgan to the receiving corps, Dave Wahlabaugh at Center, and suddenly the Browns look like a team.  However, the team was still very incomplete:


Running Game:  Top RB’s include Jamel White and James Jackson.  Worst in the NFL.

Top WR:  Continues to be Johnson, but even he is really a #2 at best.  Quincy Morgan is added, but drops as many as he catches in his rookie season.

Couch did struggle somewhat this year, throwing just 17 TD’s to his 21 INTS.  But, given that he probably had the worst 10 guys around of any QB in the league winning 7 games is an accomplishment, especially considering they won only 3 the year before.  If the Browns win the game against the Jags where the refs review a play two plays later, they would have been in the playoff hunt.  Given what he had around him, he did about as good a job as anyone could have.  Football is 11 on 11, and when only 2 or 3 guys are #1 caliber, the results aren’t going to be good no matter who you have behind center.

2002:  The Browns actually address some needs.  They draft Willie Green to help the run game, and add Ryan Tucker to the O-line.  However, the O-line is still in the bottom 10 in the league, and their best runner is a rookie.  Andre Davis the WR is drafted in the second round, and actually looks like he’ll be an impact guy.  Team looks poised for a playoff run.

O-Line:  Still very bad, but slightly better.  Ross Verba misses much of the season which doesn’t help either.

Running Game:  A little better, but Green doesn’t come on until game 7.  Even then, he‘s still a rookie runner and shows a ton of hesitancy.  At worst he prevents defenses from completely ignoring the run as in years past.

Receivers:  The Browns essentially have 4 #2 receivers at this point.  Johnson, Morgan, Northcutt, and Davis are all very decent, but none of them are game breakers.  Certainly the best they’ve had since they were back.

Couch:  This was the watershed season.  Kelly Holcomb started the first two games because Couch had elbow tendanitus (which would ultimately be his downfall).  Holcomb puts up impressive numbers, but the team goes 1-1.  Couch comes in and has a few decent games.  Then there is the debacle on Sunday night against the Ravens where the fans boo Couch while he is hurt, and chant “Kelly, Kelly”.  The seed has already been planted that Holcomb was better, and from this point forward Couch really never had the fans backing.

Couch actually leads the team to an 8-6 record in games he starts, and to their first playoff birth in 8 years.  However he is injured for their playoff loss to the Steelers where Holcomb throws for over 400 yards, and essentially plants himself in the starting role.  His QB rating for the season is mediocre, but again, he still doesn’t have much to work with. 

2003:  In a surprising move, Butch names Kelly Holcomb the starter, and thus essentially ends the Couch era in
Cleveland—a year removed from a playoff berth.  However, the defense was dismantled and a team that looked to be a serious SB contender fizzles with both Holcomb and Couch at the helm.  While he actually puts up his best numbers for the season (and roughs up
Pittsburgh on a Sunday night), the writing was probably already on the wall for Couch.  The fans had already made up their mind, and apparently so had Butch as he followed his ‘gut feeling’ all the way to the end by dumping Couch and bringing in Jeff Garcia.

     So at what point did Couch go wrong?  Really at no point did he have anything around him that resembled an offensive line, or an offense for that matter.  This is why I still contend that we never got a chance to see him with a full compliment of weapons.  Ultimately it was his elbow problems (and not his talent) that cut his career short.

     However, my conclusion is that football is a team game and you can’t judge Couch’s career in a vacuum.  Had we drafted McNabb in 1999 instead of couch, I doubt we would have been much better off.  McNabb went to a team with a great offensive line and defense, and was able to mature slowly into a great QB.  Couch was never afforded such luxury as he was thrown to the wolves from day 1 (actually, day 2).  Had he gone to the Eagles, it very well could have been him leading them to the SB in 2005.

      If you want to see a bust, then take a look at Akili Smith.  Couch at least gave us 4 years of starts, and took us to the playoffs—Smith faded away after just 1 year.  The point is playing QB is different from team to team, year to year, and I’d like to think that Couch’s career is still more of an unknown rather than a complete bust, as many rush to conclude.  It doesn’t change anything, but we’re so quick to tear down our own athletes in this town that I think he deserves at least a second thought, and not a snap judgment.



38 Responses to Why Tim Couch Didn’t Suck

  1. Dan says:

    Oh Couch definitely wasn’t a sucky quarter back. Wanna know why he failed? I’ve got two words for ya. Butch Fucking Davis. That’s three.


  2. Don Wirtz says:

    I don!t know the name of the author of this article, but thankyou so much. The way
    Tim was handled in Cleveland was just horrible, and I just felt sickened by the
    whole thing. JThe only reason I may go back to being a Brown!s fan is that in
    an interview with Channel 5 Tim said he still is. That!s the kind of guy Tim is. He
    is just a terrific young man.

    Talk about the Cleveland brain drain, well we just kicked out a guy that could
    have been a super citizen-forget about football for the moment.. I just hope he
    can make the comeback he wants. If not, I hope he has something to do with
    Pro Football. I would hate to see someone like Tim just disappear from the

    Thankyou Again,

    Don Wirtz

    • mike allen says:

      Tim Couch is and will always be the best kentucky qb in my book and the browns will always suck .They have one of my favorite qb,s in jake d and they will screw him over too .

  3. Clint says:

    Tim Couch was, and always will be my favorite athlete of all time. He was a terrific role model, and you are right, he was not even a fraction of the problem. Joe Montana would have struggled in that offense, and Couch has been the best QB by far since Cleveland’s return to the league. Huge mistake to get rid of him. Cleveland will continue to struggle and when they let tim go I no longer called myself a browns fan. I don’t respect that organization any longer. They don’t deserve to win, and they didn’t deserve Tim.

  4. Seth says:

    Does anyone have any info as to what has happened to Tim and if there is even a remote chance that he would be able to return in someone’s lineup?

  5. Ray says:

    one of the cleveland tv stations did a series of interviews w/him a few months ago. you might be able to find w/a search. he is living and working out in FL w/wife heather kozar (of akron area who posed in playboy) and baby. speculation was the he might need additional surgery.

    i hope next season he is fully healed and comeback player of the year!

  6. PAUL says:


  7. DLM says:

    I think couch could have been a really NFL QB given the right situation. The Number one pick was not wasted on Couch, the rest of the team was a waste. My gosh, how do you bring in a young man and throw him to the wolves like that? Anyone drafted during that time would not have done any better. You gotta protect the QB for crying out loud. Couch had guts and the right mentality, just didn’t have anyone around him.

  8. Mike in JAX says:


    Jags just signed Couch to 2 year deal. I watched Couch when he was with the Brouns beat the tars out of our Jags. I soooo happy about his signing.

  9. Jenn says:

    Tim Was released by the Jags on Saturday. He missed some practice time with a sore back, and they said his arm strength wasn’t the same as it was. It probably would not be after two shoulder surgeries. His career could be over if no one else decides to take a chance on him. However, Atlanta was interested in him as well when Jacksonville signed him, and they may be again now that they have lost DJ Shockey for the season with a knee injury. Only time will tell. Hopefully everything will work out for Tim! I wish him the very best!

  10. Jimbo says:

    It’s amazing that I still get comments on this article even though I never make new posts on this blog, and this article is over a year old!

  11. Jose says:

    I think you guys are looking back at the stats and forgetting how bad he really was. Now, I will admit, he wasn’t as bad as he could of been, but it was deadly obvious he was never going to make it.

    #1) He has the same problem Charlie Frye has right now, he just doesn’t have an eye for the field…You can repeatedly see open receivers, and the QB throws to option #2 guy who is double covered with a safety at his back — often a recipe for an INT. Most of his throws were to the flats, which in the NFL, should be considered a handoff. (Although that ultimately goes down as passing yards)

    #2) He didn’t throw it away, and he was slower than molasses so that he couldn’t scramble, and was sacked repeatedly for it. What makes him different than Charlie Frye, is Charlie is apparantly tough as a coffin nail, as the 2007 season looks like it will be just as brutal due to weak O-Line, just like Couch endured.

    The reason Browns fans got upset with him was he was missing wide-open receivers when the O-Line WAS protecting him(although, admittedly, that was not nearly enough). The first couple years, people wrote this off as rookie nerves/experience, but it became clear he was not improving at all. He couldn’t hit a target if the pass was over 10 yards. He threw high (begging for receiver injury, and INT’s), couldn’t lead a receiver, etc. It was obvious he was not going to get any better, and I think the jury is already out on that fact, as both Green Bay and Jacksonville dismissed him immediately.

    What won the playoff position was great defense (including a great secondary that year) and decent (I stress the word) rushing. And it is true the Couch started a lot of those games that year(stated as a “start” eventhough he didn’t finish), but Holcomb bailed him out of more than one, by hitting Northcutt who showed a lot of promise. Holcomb was not a great QB either, but it was clearly obvious that he had the two most needed talents: ability to scan field, and the ability to throw consistently at target at 10+ yds. I was at the Falcons game when the Brown’s clinched and it was a lucky run at the end of the game that won it for them — the defense holding Atlanta’s score down.

    I think everyone in Cleveland agrees that it was a mistake drafting a 1st round QB. Should have built up an O-Line and defense and went with a tough veteran. BUT, Couch never had it in him. Broken-leg got him sure, but a stubbed thumb is common and tendinitis has nothing really to do with getting sacked. If he had been drafted by the Eagles, he would be, at best, a 3rd-string today. Some players who do well in college, just do not do well in NFL–it happens. They cannot take the severe increase in physical game, speed and overall talent of their opponents.

    I wholeheartedly disagree that the Browns team was mediocre in 2002. Green was a fine rusher, Northcutt was a great receiver (as well as others who were good), and the defense was top-notch (although they were on the field ALL the time, so one had to cut SOME slack). The O-Line was weak as heck, but he missed so many passes. Everyone could see the oppurtunity, which is why when Holcomb came in, and completed the pass to the wide-open guy that Couch would have overlooked, everyone got excited.

    I just think it’s absurd to think that the reason teams are throwing him out of training camps is because the Browns ruined his “confidence”. Guy was mediocre at best, and prone to injury (only 1 (broken leg) of his injuries was due to sack/lack of O-Line). I think a lot of people feel sorry for him for the way the fans treated him (although for every jerk booing, 10 fans were not), and some still cling to the “our new superstar” feeling that just never happened and instead choose to blame Davis.

    As far as the NFL goes though(I don’t have anything against the guy personally), he did suck; and apparently still does. He got 30mil for 3 bad seasons. Don’t feel bad for him at all. Would you take 30mil for 2 years of frustration followed by a year of rejection from a crowd of 20k? I would absolutely — I’d do it naked too! I don’t feel sorry for the guy. He has no financial worries. If anything, he should consider himself lucky that he wasn’t drafted late, as he would of ended up with 5 mil, and still in the same position he is today (less 25 mil of course!).

  12. Jimbo says:

    Jose, I appreciate your passion, but you need to get your facts straight.

    1) Slower than molasses? He was an all-state PG in kentucky, and was also Mr. Basketball. You can’t do that being “slow as molasses”.
    2) I agree with you that our defense was a big reason we went to the playoffs, but the fact that Holcomb “bailed him out of more than one game” is false. Holcomb only came in relief during the final game of the season.
    3) Green was a fine rusher? How come he was never even picked up by another team when the Browns cut him? By your own logic that makes him terrible since you point out that Couch was cut by Green Bay and Jacksonville.
    4) Northcutt is a “Great Reciever”? His best season ever was 66 catches, and nearly 800 yards. And that those are his bests.
    5) “He got 30 mil for 3 bad Seasons”. Again this is false, he was with the team for 5 seasons.
    6) I think you are confusing him with Holcomb in the broken leg department. Couch never suffered a broken leg.

    Look, I’m not saying he was good, the title is “why Tim Couch didn’t suck’. This is certainly open to debate, but at least be factual when you make an argument. It certainly was not ‘deadly obvious’ that he wasn’t going to make it–almost everyone in the league thought he was going to be very good after his first year. In the end we may never know how good he could have been, but he certainly wasn’t terrible.

  13. Matt Snow says:

    I watched Tim Couch all the way through college at Kentucky. As a huge Browns fan when I realized Cleveland would have a team again and Tim Couch was going to be eligible for the draft I was ecstatic! I was overjoyed when they took him 1st overall. Then reality set in. Game after game, year after year I watched Tim not living up to his potential. I understand that the offensive line was horrilbe. Always. I felt so bad for Tim. As a Brown Tim was not good. He was mediocre at best. The guy just came to the wrong team. He was a better player than he got the chance to show but that’s how it went. He didn’t get the opportunity to show his skill and therefore he didn’t show it. Ever. I love the Browns but at that time I have no idea what their administration was thinking. They had no idea how to build a team and Tim got thrown into the middle of a bad situation. I wish he would have had a chance to play behind the line we have this year. Tim, if you’re out there, God bless you my friend.

  14. ben says:

    finnally some1 who agrees with me

  15. Microwavelemon says:

    Jimbo, you must be a real fan of the Browns for even covering the “Couch” in the first place. Kudos to you Bro. I noticed that there were know discussions of “fall guy”. Was he good, was he bad? He was both and everything in between. But, in the end they threw him away. Who in the world spends 30 mil and then turns it’s back? This fiasco speaks volumes of the condition of the Browns franchise at the time. He did get us to the playoffs and we could’nt even do that this year with a 10-6 record. We all know that Anderson blew the big game in Cinnci. Where is all the flack for that one? Of course, thats another whole episode in the saga (see “dawgbones.com”). What was with Butch Davis. He came to Cleveland and treated the players like they were still in college. These guys never even got a chance to grow up. Where’s Butch now? He took his millions and split. Talk about 1 step forward, 3 steps back. Thanks for nothing Coach. as for us Brownies, we deserve respect and anyone who has ever taken the helm as QB deserves twice that. Tim was always there to win. Some of us have to get our heads out of the “Dawgpound”. Yes, I’ve been there and it ain’t pretty.
    Mr. Couch is as tough as any QB was then and is now. I also feel that he has shown alot of character through all of this. The life of a professional football player is beyond most of us. And then some “Yahoo” stirs the pot with steroid use. I’m a body builder and although I don’t use steroids in general, I would for injury recovery. If you have ever torn your biceps tendon of the radius you might be able to relate a little better.
    If you want to know how good Tim Couch really is you would have to ask his former teammates or other Men who have played his postion. They will all tell you the same thing. He was a good husband, a good dad and a good QB. I see him making a full recovery and playing in 2008. So, let’s give it a rest and wish him the best!

  16. Andrew says:

    In my opinion with watching Couch all of his years in Cleveland, it was the wrong place at the wrong time.
    Cleveland just came back and he was thrown into the fire right away because Detmer got hurt. Lets face it. He never had a running back and he never had an offensive line. Look at what both things did for Derek Anderson. You can’t say that Couch didn’t live up to his potential when he’s getting sacked all the time. And whoever this Jose guy is dumb. Don’t even compare Couch to Frye because Couch could actually hit his open targets. And having no vision means you don’t look at your #2 reciever you tool. It means you stare down the #1. This Jose guy is just plain retarded. Anyway, i say if he would’ve went to Philly or even an (eep) Cincy, i think he does better just for the fact that he would’ve had a “decent” supporting cast. Not very good, but still better than Cleveland.

    I mean c’mon, his best offensive linemen he had over the years were Dave Wohlabaugh and Ryan Tucker and they Dave was a center and Tucker was constantly getting injured. Like I said, wrong place at the wrong time.

  17. Andrew says:

    Oh yes and one more thing for Jose.
    I don’t think you’ve ever had serious tendonitis before have you? Didn’t think so. I got it in my right knee from playing football. And you know how? I made a running throw and was caught in the air and came down hard on my knee. Tendonitis hurts very bad but you can play through it, but it stays with you for a long time. I think Couch was tough. Just too battered and beaten all the time.

    And dont say that he missed his targets when the o-line did protect him…because THEY NEVER DID. He still had a career completion percentage of 59.8%.
    Now for sack totals
    1999 15 games 14 starts – 56 sacks
    2000 7 games 7 Starts – 10 sacks…YAY improvement
    2001 16 games 16 starts – 51 sacks…OUCH
    2002 14 games 14 starts – 30 sacks….ehhh
    2003 10 games 8 starts -19 sacks

    Career sack percentage of 8.8%
    and was sacked in a total of 59 starts….get ready….166 times.
    Enough said

  18. J Bing says:

    Thanks to someone (didn
    t see the writer’s name) for finally printing the truth.
    It’s about time someone was fair–have only seen bashing of Couch up ’til this point.
    I’m from KY and followed Couch through HS and college and consider myself fair even when it comes to athletes from my region. I wanted the Cleveland Browns to succeed under Couch, and still do. I think that they have an oppurtunity under the current management.
    I am not here to claim that Tim was an absolute world-beater because he wasn’t. He wasn’t even a very good NFL qb. But in all fairness he didn’t really have a chance to prove what he could do. He always had a mediocre line and a questionable running game at best. He could’ve had better receivers at the same time.
    History (which is usually a harsh judge- in spite of the “ready-to-gloryify” media) owes Tim and the Cleveland team he guided a bit of leniency.

  19. Microwavelemon says:

    Well then, does anyone know what Tim is up to these days? I’m sure, like me, many of us would like to give him our support. All being said, Tim Couch was a Brown and still is in my book. We Dawgs never abandon our champions, no matter how bad things get. He was one of the few who made it to the pinnacle of the NFL. He deserves all the best. I’m still hoping he’ll make a comeback.

    Best of luck Tim, where’er you are!

  20. Joe says:

    I’m glad others agree with me on this one. So many are ready to bash the guy without really looking at the whole picture. He was on a terrible team…that simple. And honestly, with that supporting cast, I’d say he performed pretty good.


    “How long will he give himself to make a comeback? Probably just this year.”

    He probably decided to call it a day after the Jags cut him. They stated that they cut him because they had too many QBs (5 at the time) and his arm just wasn’t strong enough anymore.

    I’m glad they gave him a chance and I’m happy that he tried his hardest. Could he still be an NFL QB? I think so, Chad Pennington has been an effective (and shown little respect ala Couch) QB with a weak arm. However, I’m thinking he’s not gonna give it another go.

  21. kwilson says:

    best article. I have been defending Tim Couch for years now, it is great to actually hear about other browns fans who agree with me. I still wear my #2 jersey on Sundays!

  22. kreig boyer says:

    i absolutley 100% agree if couch had the team we have now he would have been a lot better

  23. Dave says:

    As season ticket holder since the first game in 99 the problem has bee the ownership of the Browns. The Lerners are nice guys, have money but are clueless about building a team. Carmen, Savage, Davis, Crenel give me a break. You build a team from the inside out. Then a Top Gun QB becomes effective. Tim was brutalized during his playing time. He is the toughest kid we’ve had here bar none. Good luck to him and spend Al,s money….

  24. kyle says:

    i feel so sorry for tim

  25. kyle says:

    i hope he can find a decent team it seems the bengals can use a quarterback and the 49’ers

  26. Cody Begley says:

    he’s my cousin hell yeah

  27. Cam Eisen says:

    YO TIM,
    you got some fans right here. i’d sign ya if i could. I just need a football team and 10 Billion dollars…anyone?

  28. Don Wirtz says:

    Tim was in Cleveland last August, and attented a
    Preseason Game. He seems to be doing OK. Does
    anyone know exactly what he is doing now?

    Let!s keep this conversation going!

  29. Don Wirtz says:

    Tim Was in Cleveland last August and attened a Pre Season Game. Does anyone know what he is doing now?

  30. timmy says:

    tim could have been one of the best ever if he had been drafted by the vikings instead of the browns, i mean culpepper had moss and carter to throw to and a descent team around him. i guess it is not always that good to be drafted #1.

  31. Nick says:

    Look, Tim was a great player. If you gave him an actual NFL team instead of some undrafted DIV II wannabe’s he could’ve won. I mean seriously, how are you supposed to play QB and not expect to get injured when you have an O-Line the quality of a JV team.

    The run game was questionable at best as they had no talent. I will agree that, at the WR position, given a few more years he could’ve had some talent to work with. But handing over the keys of an organization to some rookie QB you drafted while an expansion team, you aren’t going to get good results.

    Look, he had basically no talent around him at all besides a few #2 receivers. You can’t expect a rookie QB to come into the league and become the next Brett Favre. You need to be patient and give him time to develop. If you don’t, well look at Matt Leinart and Jamarcus Russell. At least Brady Quinn had his moments. Give them a year or two and the next thing you know, you got the next Peyton Manning.

  32. […] the worse he is?).  I myself am guilty of thinking that Tim Couch would eventually be the man.  Heck, I kinda  still think he could have been.  But I’ll be the first to admit that it’s almost impossible to predict how good a QB will be […]

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