Couch’s turn comes early

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 16, 1999

The Associated Press


Thursday, September 16, 1999

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BEREA – No. 2 will start at quarterback in Week 2 for the new Cleveland Browns.

Tim Couch, selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft to be the Browns’ quarterback of the future. will replace Ty Detmer as the starter Sunday when Cleveland, coming off an embarrassing opening loss to Pittsburgh, travels to Nashville to play the Tennessee Titans.

”I didn’t know when this would happen,” Couch said Wednesday. ”If it would be this year or not. I’m grateful for the opportunity. Hopefully, I’ll go out and do what I’m capable of doing. Go out there and put some points up on the board.”

Browns coach Chris Palmer announced he was making the switch because he thinks Couch is ready to start and because Detmer would be better at coming off the bench.

”I’m very confident in the move,” Palmer said. ”I feel very upbeat, positive. I think it’s the best thing for the team. I know there’s steps along the way. Some of those steps look like mountains, but you have to take them.”

When asked what would precipitate starting Detmer again, Palmer said: ”I don’t know that will happen this year. It could. I’ve said all along I know what Ty Detmer is. Couch obviously has upside, because he hasn’t played in the league, and he has to grow. I just think Tim has more upside than Ty at this particular time.”

Palmer hinted at a quarterback change Monday. After consulting with his staff, he decided on Tuesday night to start Couch.

The Browns had planned to bring Couch along slowly, grooming him as Detmer’s understudy while the rookie from Kentucky learned the complexities of the pro game. But Palmer scrapped the plan, partly after seeing Detmer struggle in the opener and because of Couch’s potential.

”I’m looking for guys to make plays,” Palmer said. ”I’m not disappointed in Ty. I think Ty would be able to do a better job in this situation as a reliever compared to Tim as a reliever.”

Couch, who signed a $48 million contract before the Browns even selected him, threw an interception on his first pro attempt against the Steelers. He finished 0-for-3 and also fumbled.

That’s hardly a performance worthy of taking away someone’s starting job. But Detmer knew his days were numbered.

”It’s a lot sooner than I expected,” Detmer said. ”The way things had gone, and things that had been said, but that’s the NFL. A lot of things happen during the course of a season and during the course of a week. It’s a decision that’s been made and you move on.

”As a No. 1 pick, there’s always going to be plans for him to play, and the plan is for him to play now. I don’t think it’s a panic move, I think it’s a move to try and get him ready.”

Quarterback isn’t the only position where Palmer is making a change by replacing a veteran with a rookie. Daylon McCutcheon, who had three interceptions in the preseason, will start at right cornerback over Antonio Langham and Steve Zahursky will start at right offensive guard in place of Scott Rehberg.

Couch looked like he was ready to take Detmer’s job in the exhibition opener last month, rallying the Browns past the Dallas Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game.

He started the home opener in the new Cleveland Browns Stadium. Against Minnesota’s first unit, he made some rookie mistakes on his reads and in picking up blitzes.

”I definitely feel more comfortable having one start under my belt in the preseason,” Couch said.

But the regular season is entirely different as Couch learned when the Steelers came right at him. He’s expecting no different from the Titans.

”They’re going to test me,” he said. ”Anytime you play a guy making his first start in the league, they’re going to come after me. If I show them I can handle the blitz, then maybe they’ll back off a little bit. But I’m sure early on they’ll come after me.”

Couch said he has received assurances from Palmer that he won’t be pulled for a bad decision.

”They are going to give me plenty of time to make something happen,” he said. ”But if the game gets in the third and fourth quarter, and I’m not doing too well, we’ve definitely got a guy in Ty who can come in and move the football team.”

Offensive tackle Orlando Brown thinks Couch is up for the challenge.

”Man, he’d better be ready,” Brown said. ”He’s got that confidence. He was a first-round pick. He carries himself like a successful player. He’s got the fire.”