Tim Couch: Three More Games, One More Chance

Tim Couch gets to lead again, but is it too late?

Tim Couch's future will be determined in the next three games.

Couch will take over as the Browns starting quarterback for the final games of a season that has turned amazingly dismal. The loss to the Rams drops the Browns to 4-9, and five more players were put on injured reserve the day after the loss.

Eleven players have missed a total of 53 starts this season, and Couch faces the unenviable task of taking over a lackluster offense with a team that may not have enough players to compete.

No matter, this is his chance -- again.

And you have to wonder if Couch is playing for the Browns or for himself.

Couch has two years left on the seven-year deal he signed when he was the first overall draft pick in 1999. He is due to be paid $7.6 million in 2004, a figure Carmen Policy has said is too high and will have to be re-done if Couch is back.

This season, Couch lost his job, got it back when Kelly Holcomb was hurt, wound up buried way deep on the bench after the bye week and now is starting again in light of Holcomb's recent struggles.

Couch played well Monday night against St. Louis, and he did help lead the Browns to the playoffs last season.

But the jury remains out on him. He plays well one week, not-so-well the next. There was a reason, after all, that the Browns did go to Holcomb at the beginning of the season.

Nobody knows what will happen.

Will Couch be the star everyone expected? Will he be dragged down by the lack of a supporting cast? Will he just go through the motions the final three games? Will the events of this season bring something out of him fans have yet to see?

Couch has been careful about saying all the right things this season. As recently as Monday night he said he'd like to be with the Browns next season.

Does he mean it? Nobody knows.

If he stayed in Cleveland and Butch Davis comes back as coach -- which is expected -- Couch would be playing for a coach who basically told him this season he didn't believe in him.

Couch also admits that every game he's auditioning for other teams. For that reason alone it's in his interests to play well.

In this little game within the game, Couch holds the cards.

He can stay and earn a very lucrative salary. If he really wants to be in Cleveland and the Browns ask him to redo his deal, he can go along to help the team and earn a mere lucrative salary.

But if he doesn't want to stay in Cleveland, all he has to do to leave is say no to the restructuring idea, which would force the team to cut him and allow him to hit free agency.

It wouldn't be surprising if, in a private moment, Couch admitted that his major concern the final three games is to stay healthy.

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