Sunday, December 9

Tim Couch's Finest Moments

The offensive success the Browns have enjoyed this season has naturally led to much discussion of the team's quarterback situation - they've got a guy (Derek Anderson) who is showing that he is a solid NFL starter, plus an untested rookie who seems a very safe bet to succeed. This whole QB situation, along with the random appearance of a dude at the Capital District Browns Backers last Sunday sporting a #2 jersey, led my thoughts to none other than Tim Couch.

Couch, as you almost certainly know, was the New Browns' #1 pick when they re-entered the league, helmed the club off and on for five tumultuous seasons, and never really made it back into the league. Debates are ongoing as to whether Couch was a victim of an unfortunate situation or simply not an effective QB. The right answer is probably a bit of both. Couch played behind a terrible line, usually trailed thanks to poor defense, and rarely had any semblance of a running game. Still, he was maddeningly inconsistent even when given time to throw and never really developed into the type of QB you expected to lead the team forward.

But we're not here to talk about that. We're here to reminisce over the Best of Tim Couch. Let's not forget that the guy had some really awesome games, and a pretty solid campaign overall in 2002, when he led the Browns to an 8-3 record down the stretch and their lone playoff berth of the new era. For fun, and to give the guy some credit, let's talk about the five greatest games of the Tim Couch Era. To eep it to 5 (which I didn't actually manage to do), I had to leave off his commanding performance in the 2000 win over Pittsburgh (127.9 passer rating, 23-31 for 316 yards, 2 TD's, no INT) and efficient work in the first 2001 over Baltimore (124.5, 11-18, 149, 2TD, 0 INT). Still, I wanted to give them Honorable Mention as an excuse to talk about those great wins over those two rival clubs.

Onto the list...

5) 21-16 over NO (1999), 21-20 over JAX (2002)
If you need a guy to play consistently week-in and week-out and direct a high-scoring offense while making smart decisions and not turning the ball over, Tim Couch wouldn't be your first choice. But if you need someone to throw a desperation jump-ball into the end zone at the end of a game, you can't do better, as these two ridiculous wins prove. The first one, of course, was hauled in by Kevin Johnson in the Superdome, giving the resurrected Browns their first victory over a stunned New Orleans team. The second, one of about 300 improbable events that had to happen for the '02 squad to qualify for the playoffs, was lucky but not entirely so. They wisely sent everyone to the left side of the end zone except Quincy Morgan, who hauled in the catch near the right boundary over two defenders. After surviving a replay challenge, the Pittsburgh Browns Backers club I was at erupted in celebration over the victory and the bizarre season rolled on.

4) 24-21 over NYJ (2002)
The week after Al Lerner's death, Couch led the Browns to an inprobable comeback win in the Meadowlands, highlighted by an absurd hook-shot falling-down throw that was somehow completed for a game-tying two-point conversion. They were behind by like 18 points or something in this game and still came back and won it in dramatic fashion. For the game, Couch finished with good-not-spectacular stats: 97.0 rating, 32-48 for 294 yards, 2 TD's and 0 interceptions, but I'll always remember that 2-pointer.

3) 41-38 over TEN (2001)
One of the wildest games in New Browns history, this was the only contest the Browns won out of their last six in 2001, after starting the year 6-4. After four straight losses, the Browns promptly fell behind 14-0 to the Titans and things didn't look good, to put it mildly. I was barely into my first beer by the time McNair threw his 2nd TD pass. But Couch and the Browns offense never gave up; Timmy posted a line of 20-27 for 336 yards, 3 TD's and just one pick for a sparkling passer rating of 137.3. The Browns trailed late, needing an onside-kick recovery and a TD pass from Couch to Northcutt to force overtime, where they quickly put the stunned Titans to bed with a Phil Dawson FG. This one is Couch's best shootout, trailing only DA's gunslinging against Cincy earlier this year and Holcomb's loss to Cincy in 2005 among new-era slugfests.

2) 14-13 over Baltimore (2002)
If the Browns only scored 14 points and Couch's passer rating was a so-so 86.6, how is this the second-best game of his career? The final drive, that's how. Trailing 13-7 to the Ravens on the road in the season's penultimate game, back when Baltimore was still pretty awesome on defense, Couch and the Brownies had only 2:08 and no timeouts to go 92 yards for a TD and keep their playoff hopes alive. I still don't know how they did it. I almost hit my head on Mike's ceiling when they scored the winning TD. The icing on the cake was Couch sarcastically waving to Baltimore's fans on his way out of the stadium - it was great to see such a beleaguered fellow so happy.

1) 33-13 over Pittsburgh (2003)
Easily Couch's finest hour, this Sunday night special is the only time we've taken down the Steelers in about the last 800 tries. Couch wasn't even supposed to start this game - Holcomb was a late scratch. I was living in Pittsburgh and remember listening to a radio DJ doing a remote and announcing to the crowd that Couch was starting and everyone laughing. All Couch did was lead the Browns to a dominating victory, completing 20-25 passes including two scores and running for a TD(!) by halftime. All this while wearing orange pants.


Nick said...

It's pretty amazing that such a mediocre, if not lousy quarterback, playing on a team that was almost always terrible, gave us some extremely memorable games. That 2002 team has to be one of the worst AFC playoff teams of this decade.

TheNaturalMevs said...

You're forgetting 2 huge Couch games and there were more. There was no bigger fan of Tim than myself.

The Tennesee win in 2002 that was the first win of the season. Couch returned from injury missing the first two weeks, threw for over 300, 38-50 with 3TD, was NFL offensive player of the week.

Also how about in 2000, the first win in Cleveland Browns stadium man? Maybe Couch's best game as a pro, on a terrible team against the Steelers. Threw for 316 if I'm not mistaken, no INT's. When Couch was in a zone, and he was on those days you listed as well as I did; he was UNSTOPPABLE. You could just tell sometimes.

Anyone (Nick above) who says Couch was lousy doesn't have a clue about football.