When starting quarterback Kelly Holcomb went down with a sprained and ankle and fractured fibula, Couch was thrust into the spotlight. This chance may realistically be his last stand in a Cleveland Browns uniform.
Couch has arguably played his best consecutive games since arriving in Cleveland in 1999. Appearing confident and composed, he has been consistent in leading the team to a 1-1 record in Holcomb's absence.
An AFC scout shares his thoughts on the play of Couch, the team, and what may lie ahead for the Browns as they battle through the mediocre AFC North division.
"Some of the names have changed, but the Browns continue to struggle with issues that have plagued the team since Butch Davis arrived in Cleveland," the scout said. "Penalties, questionable decision making, from players and the coaching staff, and inconsistency have riddled this team. This current regime in Cleveland has yet to address the offensive line in a positive manner, except for reaching for center Jeff Faine in the first-round this year."
"Faine should be a good player in this league and for a team that had problems with the interior offensive line, the player may have been a necessity more than a value pick. It is proven in this league. For as competitive as the league is, a team will not be successful consistently if they cannot run the football, or stop the rushing attack of the opposition."
Statistically, the Browns appear to have struggled against the run again this season, but those numbers are somewhat misleading due to a 295 yard performance by Jamal Lewis.
"The Cleveland defense has improved from last season. Baltimore ran successfully on the Browns, but that game really was more of a situation where the Ravens were on top of their game and the Browns did not execute," the scout continued. "I counted as many as 15 tackles opportunities that were missed in that game by the Browns defense. Until the Browns defense learns to become fundamentally sound, they will have issues to overcome.
"But, this Cleveland team is playing much better in coverage. The speed and quickness they possess off-sets some of their inexperience and schematic breakdowns."
Couch or Holcomb, is the issue with the Browns offense quarterback related, support related, or play-calling related?
"The quarterback position is not the primary problem with this team. The offensive line is average at best, they are a much better pass-blocking unit in comparison to that of run-blocking," the scout said. "Both of the quarterbacks have shown the ability to move this team, Holcomb had some success on center-stage, but you quickly see that a good defensive coordinator will scheme to limit that success once you have some film on a player or team."
"Play-calling is an issue that is argued to a different degree by many. Bruce Arians (Browns offensive coordinator) wants to run the ball, you would think coming from Indianapolis he would be a passing guy, but he really isn't. He knows you have to run the ball and at the very least show the threat of the run, this opens up the passing game, whether it is effective or not."
With eleven games remaining on the schedule and despite their offensive problems thus far in the 2003 season, the Browns still have the ability to make a run at a division title.
It also helps the Browns chances that the AFC North division is without an identity or team that can dominate.