The Browns' late decision to waive Couch prevented him from participating in minicamps and opportunity sessions in Green Bay, and in the end that played a big role in Couch's failure to make the roster, Packers coach-general manager Mike Sherman said.
"I think some off-season work definitely would have benefited the player. Unfortunately we weren't able to do that," Sherman said.
Couch was signed to be the backup for, and possibly successor to, Brett Favre. Instead, a sore arm sidelined Couch for much of the last half of training camp. The lack of practice time further retarded Couch's ability to grasp the system.
"We took a shot in hoping that he would be the guy," Sherman said, adding later: "I really thought, at the tapes I studied last year, I really thought it would work out."
Couch, the No. 1 pick in the 1999 draft, came to Green Bay with 59 career starts and was lured by a $625,000 signing bonus. At the end, though, the only thing that mattered to Sherman was the fact Couch "just wasn't productive enough." Couch went 11-for-34 for 96 yards in parts of three preseason games.
"I think you have to deal with the present. It wasn't working right now," Sherman said in regard to discounting Couch's history of moderate success in Cleveland.
Released with Couch was undrafted rookie Scott McBrien. That leaves the same quarterbacking trio as the previous two seasons, with Favre the starter, Doug Pederson the primary backup and Craig Nall the third quarterback.
Pederson, Sherman said, picked up his play dramatically with the addition of Couch.
"I thought Doug Pederson really improved his play," Sherman said. "I thought ... he had excellent minicamps, and I also felt in the preseason practices and the time he had in games, he executed the offense the way we want to execute it. Really, the elevation of him to No. 2 (led to) the decision (to release Couch)."
As for Nall, Sherman looked beyond the preseason statistics. After being sidelined for much of training camp after injuring a hamstring during the first day of practice, Nall finished a woeful 3-of-14 for 71 yards and an interception in his two preseason appearances. His passer rating was 18.5, even worse than Couch (41.5) or McBrien (21.3). Nall, however, had a couple passes dropped against Jacksonville and a couple more dropped Friday at Tennessee. One of those drops, by wide receiver Kelvin Kight, would have resulted in a 76-yard touchdown.
"The other day at the game, I thought Nall threw the deep ball very well. We had some drops in the game. He functioned well in the pocket. He had a fair amount of pressure on him but his feet moved pretty well," Sherman said.
Sherman said it's difficult to make decisions on backup quarterbacks because so much of their success depends on how the players surrounding them — generally rookies and undrafted free agents who don't know the offense — perform.
It's like playing with "11 independent contractors out there at many times," Sherman said. "It's a very difficult evaluation because guys are running the wrong routes, someone's not picking up the blitz. There's not a whole lot of confidence when you're a quarterback when you snap the football and everybody's going to do the right thing."
In the end, Nall's knowledge of the offense and his live arm won out over Couch's history.
"He just wasn't productive enough," Sherman said of Couch. "He's a good kid. He worked. He went to the meetings. He did all those things. It just didn't work out."