Signing Couch a good move for Packers

Packers GM Mike Sherman did a commendable job in the acquisition of quarterback Tim Couch, recently released by the Cleveland Browns. The sixth year veteran signed a one-year $1.25 million contract with the Packers to back up Brett Favre.<p>

Sherman's patience paid off. The Browns were trying to trade Couch to the Packers for a low round pick in the 2005 draft but negotiations stalled. Sherman knew the Browns were set to release Couch as a June salary cap casualty if they couldn't trade him so Sherman bided his time. Friday, the Browns finally released their former number one pick and the Packers signed him as a free agent without having to give Cleveland any compensation.

Couch represents a potential upgrade as a backup quarterback over 37-year-old Doug Pederson. Pederson knows the Green Bay offense, which will put him at a distinct advantage early on, but Couch has a stronger arm, more mobility and is a starting caliber NFL quarterback. Pederson has only started 17 games in his 12 year NFL career. Couch has started 59 in just five seasons in the league.

Still, there are significant questions about the Packers' newest addition. Couch was the first overall selection in the 1999 draft out of the University of Kentucky. Scouts regarded him as a franchise quarterback which means, according to statistics, that he has roughly a 50% chance of being the next Troy Aikman and a 50% chance of being the next David Klingler. On paper, Couch had it all: a strong arm, decent mobility, football smarts and good leadership skills.

Despite the top-notch credentials, Couch's results in Cleveland were mixed. He took over an expansion team and as a result, took his lumps along with the usual growing pains a young quarterback inevitably suffers through in the NFL. Still, as the cast around him improved and he gained experience, Couch's play began to get better. He did help lead the Browns to the playoffs in 2002 but lost his starting job to Kelly Holcomb.

One incident in particular may have spelled the beginning of the end for Couch in Cleveland. In 2002, Couch was injured during a game and the Browns fans voiced their pleasure that Couch was hurt and leaving the game. Couch lost his temper and made some derogatory remarks about the fans in Cleveland. While he later apologized for the remarks, the damage was done and some players and coaches in Cleveland began to question Couch's mental toughness and leadership ability.

Most scouts feel that Couch still has the tools necessary to be a quality starter in the NFL and that a fresh start with a new team is just the thing he needs to get his career back on track. Ideally, the Packers would like Couch to spend a year on the bench behind Favre. This would give Couch adequate time to master the Packers' offense and recharge his football batteries. He can certainly learn a lot about leadership and toughness by watching Favre for a year. Then, if Green Bay can re-sign him for 2005 and beyond, Couch has the potential to become Favre's heir apparent and when need be, successor.

Couch sounded pleased about becoming a member of the Packers. "I'm excited," Couch remarked. "This is a great opportunity for me to start a new chapter in my career. And, I'm going to a team that has a real chance to win the Super Bowl."

Regardless of Couch's long-term future in Green Bay, Packers fans should be pleased with the job Mike Sherman did in acquiring Couch. He brought in a talented quarterback and upgraded the backup quarterback position without spending a lot of money or giving up any valuable draft choices. The rest is up to Couch. The Packers are looking forward to seeing what he can do with this opportunity.

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