Cleveland Browns veteran QBs have been bridge to nowhere
By Thomas Moore
The Browns swung a deal with San Francisco for veteran quarterback Ty Detmer in February of 1999 and the promptly signed the 31-year-old quarterback to a seven-year contract.
The plan was for Detmer to hold down the quarterback spot for the expansion Browns until Tim Couch, who the club would make the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft later that spring, was up to speed. (And so that Detmer, rather than Couch could take the punishment of playing behind an expansion team’s offensive line.)
That plan, naturally, went into the trash bin at halftime of the season’s first game with the Browns trailing Pittsburgh 20-0 in a game that would have a final score of 43-0.
Detmer was six-0f-13 for 52 yards and an interception in that one half against the Steelers before being replaced by Couch as the starting quarterback, a move that head coach Chris Palmer reportedly made on his own.
“What difference does it make if (Couch) starts after the eighth game or the tenth game?” former team executive Carmen Policy said in the 2004 book, False Start. “He didn’t need to take that kind of beating. Our plan was to start Detmer and carry it through at least 10 games. Chris just changed it.”
In many ways, the disconnect between Palmer and front office on the first weekend of that first season back set the Browns down a path they are still trying to get off of.
Detmer would only play one more game for the Browns, the season-finale in 1999. He tore his Achilles’ tendon the following year in the preseason and missed the entire 2000 campaign. Detmer was traded to the Detroit Lions on Sept. 2, 2001 for one of the Lions’ picks in the 2002 NFL Draft. The deal came a week before the start of the 2001 season.
The Browns traded Detmer to Detroit for a draft pick a week before the 2001 season started.
“It was a special time,” Detmer told The Plain Dealer in a 2014 article. “It was an exciting time for the fans and the city. It was a neat thing to be a part of that first couple years and just seeing the excitement around town of having football back again in Cleveland.”
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