Stronger Supporting Cast Should Aid Couch

With the 2002 season started, most Browns followers hesitated before uttering the word "playoffs". But starting quarterback Tim Couch was optimistic about the team's prospects, as this story by Frank Derry shows. This article was originally published in the 8/6/02 issue of Bernie's Insiders magazine.

Tim Couch says he used to lay in bed at night, wondering what more he could do to turn the Browns into a winning franchise.

"But I knew all I could do was continue to study, try to learn as much as I could and then go out and play as well as I could on Sunday," he said.

"I also knew I couldn't try to put too much on my own shoulders."

Unfortunately, the reality of the matter was that without a strong supporting cast, neither Couch, nor virtually any other quarterback who has ever played in the NFL, can do things single-handedly.

And when you're an expansion team, there isn't enough time to put a strong supporting cast in place for several years.

"I knew when I got drafted it wasn't going to be an easy road the first couple of years," he said. "But I also knew that this is a great franchise and the personnel we have in the front office is the best there can be.

"Mr. (Al) Lerner and Mr. (Carmen) Policy run a first-class organization and I know one day real soon we are going to be a football team that will be a contender on a year-in, year-out basis."

As Couch enters his fourth year as the starting quarter-back for the Browns, he's convinced that a combination of factors will indeed make this the year the Browns become a legitimate contender.

From a personal standpoint, Couch knows he has learned a lot during the three seasons since he was made the overall No. 1 draft pick in the draft by the Browns.

"I just feel as though I have learned so much," says Couch, who, at 21 years old, left the University of Kentucky a year early in order to make himself available to the Browns.

But that was a bad news/ good news situation.

The bad news is he left a winning team to join an expansion squad that was almost guaranteed of having to travel a very bumpy road the first few years.

The good news was he got an opportunity to play.

"There aren't many guys who have the chance to go out and start as many games as I have this early in my career," said Couch, who started 14 games as a rookie, seven games his second year and all 16 games in 2001. An ankle injury cut short his sophomore season.

"Hopefully, all of those starts are going to be what pays off for me in the near future," he said.

What also figures to pay off is a rock-solid offensive line, the addition of William Green at running back, and a steadily improving receiving corps. Couch raves about gigantic right guard Tre Johnson, who likely will anchor the unit.

"Having Tre up there is huge," Couch said. "He's been a Pro Bowl player in the past and he's going to be a Pro Bowl player in the future.

"Tre is one of those guys who you want on your side. If he's with you (as a teammate) he'll fight for you. Actually, we have five guys up front who will do that," said Couch, rattling off the names of projected starters Ross Verba at left tackle, Shaun O¹Hara at left guard, Dave Wohlabaugh at center and Ryan Tucker at right tackle.

"Those guys are going to open a whole lot of holes for the running game and give me a lot of time to throw the ball," said Couch, who recalled an early Training Camp play when he actually had time to find his fifth receiver on a particular play. "It's pretty nice to be able to pick out guys and make throws."

He also anticipates a better season from this group of wide receivers, who are once again led by Kevin Johnson.

"KJ has really become a leader for this group," Couch said. "He knows all the young guys are out there watching how he performs in camp and he in turn watches them."

Couch looks for big things from Quincy Morgan, the second-year receiver who displayed flashes of excellence as a rookie, but also was guilty of dropping more than his fair share of balls.

"Quincy has shown me so much this year in all of our camps," Couch said. "I really think he can go out and be an awesome football player."

Asked what happened to Morgan a year ago, Couch said, "I think we all go through some of that as a rookie. Sometimes you'll look great, sometimes you'll look lost. Quincy is no different than any other rookie. But he's shown signs of being a great player and I think he will be."

Finally, Couch says the running game should be vastly improved with the addition of Green and the big horses up front.

"It's really important to have a dominant running game," he said. "Really good teams have great running backs, guys like Eddie George, Jerome Bettis, and Marshall Faulk. You can count on them getting 100 yards every week. The running game is what make the offense go and makes everything else easier."

Including sleep for Couch, who shouldn't have to spend nearly as many restless nights this year if indeed his supporting cast lives up to expectations.

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