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Beat up Couch

Browns offense struggling to find groove in preseason

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Latest: Tuesday August 22, 2000 03:19 PM

  Tim Couch Couch has sought the advice of friends and teammates on how best to deal with the rather critical Cleveland media. Tom Pidgeon/Allsport

BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- The Cleveland Browns haven't run the ball or passed it very well. However, they're doing a nice job of protecting quarterback Tim Couch this preseason.

On and off the field.

Couch, Cleveland's second-year QB, hasn't been sacked in three starts behind the first-team offensive line. However, he has taken some hard hits in newspapers, on television and radio talk shows for his sub-par play.

"You feel bad for the guy," said Ty Detmer. "I've been there before."

Detmer was at Browns' practice for the first time Monday since undergoing season-ending surgery after tearing his right Achilles' tendon two weeks ago while scrambling at Chicago.

If anybody needed a pep talk it was Detmer, whose leg is in a cast from the knee down for the next six weeks. He drove around the practice fields on an electrical scooter before hopping over to a bench to meet reporters.

Detmer talked about the disappointment of being out for the season, and how strange it was watching his teammates on TV. But mostly Detmer, a nine-year veteran and team leader, said he's been hurting for Couch, whose struggles have led some Browns fans to call him 'Tim Slouch.'

"I'm sure once the regular season starts he'll pick it up and you'll see him playing with a lot more fire and cutting it loose," Detmer said. "In the preseason he's just been afraid to make mistakes. You feel for the guy because we've all been there at one time or another."

Couch hasn't looked good, and neither has the Browns' offense, which managed just 156 yards on 50 plays in a 24-0 loss to the Washington Redskins on Saturday night. When the starters were on the field, the offense had no play longer than 10 yards.

Couch No Slouch
First-year passing ratings by
QBs selected No. 1 (1967-99)
Player  Year  Rating 
Jeff George, Ind.  1990  73.8 
Tim Couch, Cle.   1999   73.2  
Peyton Manning, Ind.  1998  71.2 
Jim Plunkett, N.E.  1971  68.6 
Drew Bledsoe, N.E.  1993  65.0 
Vinny Testaverde, T.B.  1987  60.2 
Steve Bartkowski, Atl.  1975  59.3 
Troy Aikman, Dal.  1989  55.7 
John Elway, Den.  1983  54.9 
Terry Bradshaw, Pit.  1970  30.4 

There are other, uglier numbers for Cleveland's offense:

  • Zero points in the past eight quarters.

  • Six points in the last six periods.

  • 18 yards rushing in 13 attempts behind the first-team line.

    "I'm disappointed in the offense," Browns coach Chris Palmer said. "The execution has to improve. Our timing on offense isn't good. We need to practice that and continue to grow. We've got to get better."

    There are some excuses for the offensive doldrums, though.

    Couch has been without wide receiver Kevin Johnson -- his main target last season -- the past two games. Johnson has missed almost three weeks of practice with a hamstring injury.

    And Errict Rhett, expected to be Cleveland's starting running back this season, missed the Washington game with a broken nose.

    The last two weeks, Couch has been throwing to three new receivers. JaJuan Dawson and Dennis Northcutt are rookies and David Patten is in his first year in Cleveland after signing as a free agent.

    In addition, Couch is still getting comfortable running new offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael's system. One of the new wrinkles is Couch using more three-step drops to get rid of the ball quicker.

    Despite the dismal stats from Saturday, Couch saw some positives.

    "There were some opportunities there that we could have taken advantage of," Couch said. "A guy messing up here, a guy messing up there. We just have to work to clean that mess up. The positive sign is there were opportunities to make plays. We've just got to go out and make them."

    Couch admits the onslaught of criticism has effected his play and said he has sought out others to help tune it out.

    "I've talked to my brother quite a bit and some guys on the team that I'm good friends with," he said. "You just have to get some stuff off your chest now and then and have somebody to talk to. I've definitely got those guys."

    One of them is cornerback Corey Fuller.

    "I think the criticism of Tim has been very harsh," Fuller said. "It takes time. There's not a potion that can make you go out there and have Joe Montana's success. ... I told him, 'Look, fans are like the weather. If you win, they're with you. Lose, they're like a hurricane. Don't let them get to your psyche."

    Related information
    Roundup: Browns' Detmer placed on injured reserve
    Redskins roll to 24-0 victory against Browns
    King's Browns Postcard: A truly bad team
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