• 52°

Browns rookie QB proves he’s no Couch potato

The Associated Press

CANTON – Cleveland fans welcomed back their beloved Browns and got a glimpse of the man they hope will return the team to greatness.

Tuesday, August 10, 1999

CANTON – Cleveland fans welcomed back their beloved Browns and got a glimpse of the man they hope will return the team to greatness.

Rookie Tim Couch shared the spotlight with the Browns’ return to the NFL Monday by passing for a touchdown and completing 10 consecutive passes. He left after the third quarter, with the Browns pulling out a 20-17 victory in overtime.

”Tim’s a good player. From the beginning we’ve said he’s going to be the foundation of our franchise,” Browns coach Chris Palmer said.

The No. 1 overall draft pick out of the University of Kentucky finished 11-of-17 passing for 137 yards, guiding the Browns to 10 points.

”I thought we did a real good job,” Couch said. ”Obviously, we didn’t do everything just like we wanted, but we won the game. That means a lot.”

Palmer was particularly pleased with the play of starter Ty Detmer and Couch. He said both Detmer and Couch handled the game plan correctly, although the execution faltered at times.

”Tim went out there and was very comfortable,” Palmer said.

Browns President Carmen Policy said Couch showed why the Browns made him the top pick.

”Everybody knows that if it works – and we believe it will – that this is going to be a long-term deal,” Policy said.

But that doesn’t mean the team has a big decision to make on a starter just yet. After his first victory as a pro head coach, Palmer said the matter will be resolved in due time.

”When it becomes clear, everyone will know it,” he said. ”I’ll know it and the fans will know it.”

Before the opening kickoff, dozens of former Browns standouts were introduced before the new Browns expansion franchise played its first game. The previous incarnation of the team had been moved to Baltimore in 1996 and renamed the Ravens by owner Art Modell.

Couch gave a pro-Browns crowd of 25,156 at Fawcett Stadium – a Hall of Fame exhibition game record – a glimpse of the future instead of dwelling on the past.

The strong-armed quarterback out of Hyden, Ky., came in for Detmer to start the second quarter. He threw deep for wide-out Kevin Johnson on his first snap, barely overthrowing his fellow rookie.

But Couch rectified that by hitting his next 10 attempts, including a 24-yard scoring pass to Johnson – his seventh straight completion – to give the Browns a 14-7 lead.

”It was really special to have my dad, my family, here for my first touchdown,” Couch said. ”That was definitely a great feeling.”

During the streak, he showed remarkable poise and versatility. He avoided a sack by stepping up in the pocket to get away from the outside linebackers and deftly flipped a 5-yard pass to fullback Tarek Saleh. Couch scrambled for an 8-yard run and a first down on his first series and later was rocked hard on a Dat Nguyen sack for a 7-yard loss.

”It was good to get a couple hits on you,” Couch said. ”You kind of get the cobwebs knocked out of you.”

He was 9-for-10 for 88 yards in the opening half, opening a few eyes.

”Tim Couch had a nice first half,” Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman said. ”He hung in the pocket well and did a good job of picking up his secondary receivers.”

On his first attempt of the second half, he underthrew Darrin Chiaverini down the right sideline but Chiaverini adjusted on the ball and won the jump ball with the cornerback for a 31-yard gain.

Couch was watching from the sideline – wearing a ballcap and wide smile – as Phil Dawson kicked the 20-yard field goal that gave the Browns the victory in the overtime.