Ty Detmer Completes the Circle

Columnist Bill Shea joins the Bernie's Insiders team and catches up with old friend Ty Detmer. Plus, some comments the day after Cliff Lewis' passing.

ALLEN PARK — This time last year, Ty Detmer was taking snaps at the start of Cleveland's training camp in Berea, Ohio.


Now, he's in his first camp with the Detroit Lions. During the 12 months in between, Detmer was traded on the eve of the 2001 season opener, then forced into action when starter Charlie Batch was benched.


"It was kind of a crazy year for me last year," Detmer said.


Crazy, indeed. In his first start, the clearly unprepared Detmer was victimized by the Browns for seven interceptions in a 24-14 loss at Cleveland. Detroit spiraled downward en route to a 2-14 year that saw Detmer in and out of the lineup.


Detmer's circumstances are similar in Detroit to his in Cleveland. He's a an insurance policy in case the big-ticket starters go down with injury.


In Detroit's case, Detmer, 34, is on clipboard duty behind starter Mike McMahon and rookie Joey Harrington, who signed a six-year, $36.5-million deal last week as the Lions' top draft pick.


Detmer understands his role: "They want me to be an extra coach back there."


He knows he and McMahon are keeping the seat warm for Harrington. "They have plans for Joey," he said.


Harrington has zero NFL experience, but Detmer has been impressed with what he's seen thus far.


"As he gets more experience, he'll get more confident," he said.


Detmer also knows he must be prepared to take the helm if the others go down.

"I've got to get myself ready too," he said.


How does Harrington look now compared to Tim Couch three years ago?


"They're both very sharp guys," Detmer said. "For Tim, it was a new team and a new system."


The native Texan, who set 59 NCAA records at BYU, still has friends in Cleveland.


"I still talk to Tim and Aaron Shea," he said.


Detmer said he prefers coach Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast Offense — which he learned while playing for Mornhinweg while with the Packers and 49ers — to the Browns' single back, play action scheme.


"I feel a lot more comfortable now," he said. "It's the same system I was in for several years."


Still, Detmer didn't think he'd be traded. "I just passed it off as rumor."


It wasn't. The Browns dealt Detmer on Sept. 2, 2001, for a fourth-round 2002 draft choice. The Browns took outside linebacker Kevin Bentley from Northwestern with the pick.


The Lions are Detmer's fifth team in 11 seasons since graduating from Brigham Young as the Heisman Trophy winner in 1990. A ninth-round draft pick by Green Bay in 1992, he also played for Philadelphia and San Francisco.


In Cleveland, Detmer was brought in to mentor Tim Couch in 1999, and start until the rookie was ready. Detmer was pulled in the fourth quarter of the season opener against the Steelers, a 43-0 disaster on national television.


Detmer, who's only other start for Cleveland was in place of the injured Couch for the 1999 season finale, missed the entire 2000 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.


THANKS, CLIFF: Ty Detmer was the first quarterback to take a snap for the reincarnated Cleveland Browns in 1999. Cliff Lewis was the first signal caller of the original team.


Lewis, 79, died in his Tampa home Thursday after a long illness.


Before Otto Graham took over, Lewis led Cleveland to victories in September 1946 over the Miami Seahawks (44-0), Chicago Rockets (20-6) and Buffalo Bisons (28-0). The teams played in the All-America Football Conference.


After Graham, who went on to a Hall of Fame career, was named the starter by coach Paul Brown, Lewis switched to safety, where he started regularly until Bert Rechichar took over in 1951.


Besides defense, Lewis returned kickoffs and punts.


The Browns, like the Pro Football Hall of Fame, do not include AAFC statistics when compiling records. Cleveland moved to the NFL when the AAFC folded after the 1949 season.

The OBR Top Stories