personally i don't agree with what this nincompoop has to say...but i guess there is no such thing as reason and logic in sports reporting....plus he called Couch a "probowl passer"...thpthpfffffffff
There's no mistaking it: Couch is the man for Browns June 30, 2003 By Pete Prisco SportsLine.com Senior Writer
Some used to call Cleveland the Mistake by the Lake.
Now, some reserve that phrase for Tim Couch.
Yes, it's that bad for the former No. 1 pick, the quarterback who was expected to bring back the glory days of passing greats from past Browns teams.
Otto Graham, he isn't.
And that has led to plenty of searing heat coming in Couch's direction. Cleveland's fans can be brutally biting at times, and they've bitten down deep under Couch's skin.
Forget Otto Graham. They would take something close to Brian Sipe.
Instead, they have a guy who is being pushed by career backup Kelly Holcomb, who won over many of these fans last season, especially after his 429-yard passing game in a playoff loss to the Steelers. That led to speculation Couch might be traded or benched. The fans called for his head, preferring the stronger-armed Holcomb.
Maybe Couch summed up the city's feelings best when he said this: "You know, the backup quarterback is always going to be popular."
True, but it's usually not this bad for the guy who is starting. Art Modell was more popular in Cleveland last season.
Browns fans cheered in one game last season when Couch got hurt and had to leave the field. That was bush-league for sure, but the message came though loud and clear: Four years has been plenty enough for Couch to prove he is the guy to take this team to a Super Bowl.
But is that really fair?
Considering Couch has played behind some poor offensive lines, courtesy of some bad free-agent money spent by the previous regime, and the bad luck that came when a penalty flag hit Orlando Brown in the eye, he has never had a solid group in front of him. Moreover, until William Green emerged in the second half of last season as a premier runner, Couch never had a running game to take the pressure off his right arm.
In addition, he has had to learn three different offensive systems in his four years. Add it all up, and it's no wonder nobody is confusing him for Peyton Manning just yet.
"Having been in Dallas with Troy Aikman when he was in his first year, it's easy to understand some of the things Tim has gone through," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "The sad thing for Troy in that 1-15 first season was that he was a quarterback on a bad team.
"It was the same for Tim Couch. There were a lot of high expectations. He was to be the savior of the franchise. Until the supporting cast improved, that wasn't going to be the case. It happens in Dallas with Troy, and it can happen here."
"When you go to an expansion team, which I did, the goal is for the team to improve every year and for me, personally, to improve," Couch said. "And I think I've done that.
"I was right on track to continue that before I got hurt last year. That was the frustrating thing about it. I got hurt and couldn't really show how much I had improved."
The Browns won nine games last season to get to the playoffs and, contrary to what many in Cleveland would want you to believe, Couch started eight of those games. That has to mean something.
Instead, the focus is always on the negative. Couch threw 18 touchdown passes, but he also threw 18 interceptions. He would have a big game, or a big play, and then have a lapse or two. That led to questions about his consistency.
When he played better on the road, the fans said he couldn't handle the pressure of playing at home. It was always something.
So when he had to miss the playoff game, only to see Holcomb light up the Steelers' statuesque secondary, there was a full-fledged controversy on Davis' hands.
And Davis did little to defuse it. In fact, he incited it. One day after the Browns season ended, Davis did not address the quarterback situation directly.
He kept saying, "I feel like we have two outstanding quarterbacks."
He forgot only one can start.
The fact he didn't back Couch as his starter gave a strong feeling Holcomb would be given a chance to win the job in 2003. Forget that old adage about never losing a job to injury. It appeared Couch might be on the verge of doing just that when Davis threw open the door for some competition.
Here's the marquee for that fight: Franchise Boy against Career Backup. Don't fans always like the underdog? "I think competition is extremely healthy for your football team," Davis said. "'I'd love to have that every year in training camp."
Competition is good for backup tackle spots. It's not good at the quarterback position. It can divide a team. There is talk many of the Cleveland players prefer Holcomb, although Couch said he has a great relationship with his teammates and they've been very supportive.
Quarterback competitions can lead to tension, which leads to forced throws or overly conservative safe passes. That is something Davis wanted to avoid when he called in both quarterbacks during the team's offseason work.
He told them he didn't want them playing it safe just to make sure the passing numbers looked better. Dump-offs go as completed passes, but that's not going to win football games. Chance throws down the field are what Davis wants.
"We had a long talk," Davis said. "I know each of them could complete 100-percent of their throws if they took the safe route. That's not what we want. We have to grow. They have to grow.
"They have to push the envelope, make the critical throws. And there will be some they'd like to have over. I told them they'd have to go out and challenge themselves, and they both did that."
Couch might have done it a little better. Davis wised up -- we say that because the position here is Couch should certainly be the starter -- and said Couch would go into camp as the No. 1 guy. That doesn't mean the job is his, but it is his to lose.
Holcomb will have to take it from him, which is the way it should be. But it still remains whether Couch should even be in this position. Does one playoff game mean more than eight regular-season victories?
Davis said he plans to make a final decision on his starter by the third preseason game, although it might come sooner than that. All indications are Couch will be the guy.
"He probably has the edge," Davis said the day before the team ended the offseason program in mid-June.
The only problem is Couch has to have Holcomb and his 429-yard passing day waiting to come off the bench at the hint of any struggles. The fans will make that known.
"I really have thought a lot about that," Couch said. "I can press because he's right there. I just have to go out and play my game, play relaxed. I can't change the way I play because of the situation."
At 25, Couch has four more years left on a contract that will pay him $6.5 million this season. That's hefty money for a backup, but Davis insists money will not factor into his decision. Holcomb, who turns 30 July 9, will make $825,000 this season.
"It will be decided on the field," Davis said.
That's the way it should be, but Couch shouldn't be faced with having to win his job back. He's a much better player than Holcomb, and with an improved offensive line and Green now entrenched as the starter, the league is going to start seeing just how good Couch can be.
He will never be that big-armed thrower that gets all the wows, but with a good cast around him he can be a Pro Bowl passer.
This will never get to Tom Brady-Drew Bledsoe proportions because the Browns appear to be smarting up to the fact Couch is the guy they have to build around.
The Mistake by the Lake will be if Davis decides to sit him down.