The best Cleveland Browns player to wear No. 2 is underappreciated
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 2 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to wear number 2: Tim Couch.
Tim Couch was selected by the Cleveland Browns with the first overall pick of the 1999 NFL draft out of the University of Kentucky. Couch was viewed by many as a can’t miss draft prospect. From a talent and tools perspective, Couch was as talented as any quarterback to come out of college in 15 years.
Couch had all the measurables; size, athleticism, arm talent, football acumen, and toughness. Although, what could not be measured was the weight of expectations that would be placed on Couch by the fanbase and the front office. The fans, who were without a team for three long arduous seasons, demanded immediate success for repayment of their undying loyalty. That is a sentiment that still rings true to this day.
The front office is where the fault lies. While they did invest a high draft pick in Couch, the front office did not build up a supporting cast that would allow for the rookie to develop, let alone flourish. In theory, the idea was to let Ty Detmer be the starter until Couch was ready to take over the team. However, with 10:48 left in the fourth quarter of the season opener, they scrapped that idea, and Couch was forced into action.
While Couch was game, he was not ready, and more importantly; the team surrounding Couch was not ready for a rookie to be behind center. But Couch took to the field each Sunday and competed. On many occasions, the rookie lost the gunfight due to a lack of bullets. The schedule was brutal, in week 7 the Browns faced the eventual Super Bowl Champions, the St. Louis Rams, and were taken to the proverbial woodshed in a 34-3.
However, Couch’s resolve could not be diminished. The following week the Browns played a road game against the New Orleans Saints on Halloween. The Browns had no business even being in the game, they only registered nine first downs and lost the time of possession by 21 minutes and 40 seconds. But with:02 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter the Browns found themselves on their own 44-yard line down by two points. Miraculously, Couch threw a Hail Mary that found Kevin Johnson in the endzone to give the Browns their first win of the season, as well as their first win since re-entering the league.
The Browns only other win in 1999 came against the Pittsburg Steelers, who beat the Browns 43-0 in the season opener, when Phil Dawson hit a last-second field goal. While the 2-14 season was undoubtedly a disappointment, beating the Steelers on the road redeemed the season in the eyes of some. Couch completed 55.9% of his passes which is immensely impressive when you consider he was sacked 56 times, an NFL record at the time. Couch’s 2,447 passing yards and 15 touchdowns were good enough to get him named to the Pro Football Writers of America 1999 All-Rookie Team.
Couch’s second season was cut short due to a broken thumb he sustained in practice. He rebounded by starting all 16 games of the 2001 season. He posted a 7-9 record and threw for over 3,000 yards. Despite the losing record, the Browns went 5-5 inside their division and were definitely making strides.
In 2002, Couch posted the only winning record of his career going 8-6 in 14 starts. However, as is the case in Cleveland, the fans fell in love with the backup quarterback, Kelly Holcomb. Despite leading the Browns to their first, and only, playoff appearance since re-entering the league, Couch had fallen out of favor with the fans.
Couch’s final season in Cleveland came in 2003. A quarterback controversy between Holcomb and Couch resulted in the former number one overall draft pick only starting eight games. At season’s end, Couch was released and never played another down in the NFL.
Couch was failed by the front office, coaching staff, and most ultimately the fans. He always gave it his all, and quite frankly, deserved better than he got. Tim Couch is the best player to wear number 2 for the Cleveland Browns.