Browns may switch to Couch

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 1999

The Associated Press

BEREA – One game, and one ugly kick-in-the-pants loss has Browns coach Chris Palmer convinced he has to make some major changes.

Tuesday, September 14, 1999

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BEREA – One game, and one ugly kick-in-the-pants loss has Browns coach Chris Palmer convinced he has to make some major changes.

And he’s not talking about wearing new colored uniform tops.

Palmer said there is a chance he’ll start rookie quarterback Tim Couch in place of Ty Detmer this Sunday when Cleveland plays the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.

”I’m not saying what we’re going to do as far as the quarterback situation is concerned,” Palmer said Monday. ”I think I’d like to sleep on it another night and have a clear vision and clear decision in my mind before we do anything. I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

Neither did many of the Browns or their fans after the Pittsburgh Steelers drubbed Cleveland 43-0 Sunday night.

As if the flattening from the Browns’ hated rival wasn’t tough enough to swallow, Palmer’s announcement that he might make a change at QB caught many off guard, including Dwight Clark, Cleveland’s director of football operations.

Clark learned of the possible change Monday morning from Palmer, who arrived at work saying he might be ready to start Couch. The Browns had hoped to groom Couch as Detmer’s understudy until he was ready to start.

”During our meeting this morning, he said he might accelerate the plan,” Clark said. ”I was a little surprised. We’re a team that’s in transition. We’re growing and trying to fill holes. We’re open for anything right now.”

If Couch, whom the Browns selected with the No. 1 overall pick in April, starts this week, he could be the Browns’ QB for every Sunday for the next seven years, Clark said.

”By drafting Tim Couch No. 1, we were saying, ‘This is our guy of the future,”’ Clark said. ”When the future starts is up in the air. It could be Sunday, it could be October. It could be anytime.

”But once it starts, it’s on. There will be a growing process he has to go through.”

Cleveland’s pathetic offensive output – 2 first downs, 40 net yards – against the Steelers prompted Palmer’s announcement. He said Couch came close to becoming the starter during the preseason, but his progress slowed over the final three exhibition games.

”We need some identity on offense,” Palmer said. ”We need some guys to step up. We need a flag carrier on offense. Defensively, Jamir Miller is a flag carrier. Chris Spielman was a flag carrier. We need people on offense to do that.”

Palmer said Detmer should not be viewed as a scapegoat and that he wasn’t the only one at fault for the Browns’ humiliating defeat on national TV.

”Something wasn’t in sync. When you get beat 43-0, you’re looking for answers,” he said. ”I don’t want to put all the blame on Ty Detmer. It wasn’t all his fault. There are several guys who need to play better and help him.

”I guess the situation that I’m wrestling with is whether it’s better to have Tim as the starter and have Ty as the guy who comes in and settles things down.”

Despite Palmer’s insistence that he had not made a decision, it appeared Couch may have already been elevated to starter.

Before the Browns began stretching Monday afternoon, Palmer and Detmer spoke privately for about five minutes. Not long after, Palmer, his head bowed and hands behind his back, walked by himself up an exercise hill alongside the Browns’ training fieldhouse.

Later, Couch was behind center with the Browns’ first-team offense as Detmer donned a red jersey to play cornerback with the scout-team defense.

Palmer figures it can’t get any worse, and that seems to be why he’s considering the switch to Couch. He doesn’t think the early-season change indicates any kind of panic or that the team is giving up on the season.

”I hope it’s not interpreted as we’re putting up a white flag,” he said. ”It’s just a situation where we’re trying to get better. Somewhere along the line Tim Couch has got to play, whether it’s tomorrow or next year, he has to play.”

Notes: Palmer said among other changes he is considering would be to get rookie linebacker Rahim Abdullah and cornerback Daylon McCutcheon more playing time. Both players had strong preseasons. … Safety Tim McTyer was bothered by a sore neck following Sunday night’s game. Palmer said X-rays were negative. … Another change Palmer is contemplating is replacing right offensive guard Scott Rehberg with rookie Steve Zahursky. … Miller said he took away one positive thing from Sunday night’s embarrassing loss. ”To never get beat like that again,” the linebacker said.