There is no way you can say Tim Couch was one of the biggest busts of all time when you realize just how bad some picks turned out for the Cleveland Browns.
After looking through the entire list of Cleveland Browns draft picks since 1999, it’s impossible to say that Tim Couch, of all players, is somehow still considered a bust, least of all “one of the biggest busts of all time”.
Really? He’s on the same level as Johnny Manziel and JaMarcus Russell? REALLY? No, he’s not. Now, I won’t argue that he was great, he only played five seasons and most of them were injury-plagued. Yet, when you realize he had no offensive line, two solid but not great wide receivers, and no real running back in his five years, what did you expect from him?
His talent was there. Couch was directly responsible for the team’s two best seasons in eight years, going 15-15 combined in 2001 and 2002, leading the 2002 squad to the playoffs. In those two seasons, Couch lead numerous comeback wins, especially in 2002, and was instrumental in his team’s success on it’s way to the playoffs.
While it’s impossible to know anymore just how many interceptions were his fault, Couch’s 18 picks in 2002 weren’t great but were also a symptom of a stagnant offense. For a point of reference, William Green was the best running back the team had in its four years since returning to the league, and he only averaged 3.7 yards a carry. That’s just about what Trent Richardson averaged. Nick Chubb averaged 5.2 in 2019 by comparison.
Imagine if Couch had that type of runner behind him to do a play-action pass with? Imagine if he had a tight end in 2001 who wasn’t O.J. Santigo or if the Browns had more than just Steve Heiden at tight end in 2002?
It also didn’t help that his two best receivers were a slot guy in Dennis Northcutt and a great number two receiver in Kevin Johnson forced to play number one. No wonder when he wasn’t being slaughtered by the defensive line, he didn’t have the best success throwing the ball.
Davis also showed his hand a bit as a head coach. Sure, he had a great run at the University of Miami, but he relied on former Hurricane players far too much, and built a team that was at best inconsistent, and at worst poorly built.
With the Browns, Davis had full control. Opting to take Gerard Warren over LaDanian Tomilson, despite the team’s desperate need for offensive playmakers. They also passed on Chad Johnson for Quincy Morgan in the same draft.
Then the team chose Green over Ed Reed and Javon Walker in 2002. Wanna talk about Kellen “No Knees” Winslow in 2004? No? I didn’t think so. In fact, the Browns didn’t draft a rookie offensive lineman until the 6th round in the 2000 NFL Draft. The first linemen taken in the first day (which covered the first three rounds back then) was Melvin Fowler in 2002. It would take the Browns FOUR years to draft a lineman in the first round of an NFL Draft in Jeff Faine. Faine was actually a good player, not a Hall of Famer but did his job.
Couch’s offensive line was abysmal. The best offensive lineman was Dave Wohlabaugh, and he was a center. The left tackle in 2002 was Ross Verba, more known for his scandals than his play. Though it all, the Browns only “big” addition through free agency was Ryan Tucker, a former starter on the Rams SuperBowl teams. When healthy he played well and was with the team until he left the league. Yet, the team rarely made plays to improve the offense. By the time they did it was too late for Couch.
His shoulder was shot, and all the progress he made from his rookie to his fourth season was washed away with steady and persistent unprotected hits.
It’s hard to call someone a bust when he produced and did something no other quarterback has done in 21-plus years in Cleveland; take the Browns to the playoffs.