Monday, May 10, 2010

Dammit, People, It Wasn't Tim Couch's Fault


It's okay, Tim. I understand.

I'm going to digress from the Bears today (what's that? I do it all the time? Well, no one's reading anyways) and talk about an anecdote from this article by Steve Wyche of NFL.com. In the article, Wyche makes the case for JaMarcus Russell supplanting Ryan Leaf as the greatest draft bust of all time (which, while I may disagree, is an argument with a great deal of merit), but he also lists his top ten draft busts of all time. Wyche has Tim Couch at #3. This cannot stand.

Tim Couch was not a bust at all. I repeat, Tim Couch was Never a bust. Let's look at the statlines of the QBs Wyche has in his list:

JaMarcus Russell- 31 Games, 25 Starts (7-18), 354 comp./680 att. (52.1%), 4083 yds, 18 tds, 23 ints, 6.0 ypa, 131.7 ypg, 65.2 rating

Ryan Leaf- 25 games, 21 starts (4-17), 317 comp./655 att. (48.4%), 3666 yds, 14 tds, 36 ints, 5.6 ypa, 146.6 ypg, 50.0 rating

Tim Couch- 62 games, 59 starts (22-37), 1025 comp./1714 att. (59.8%), 11131 yds, 64 tds, 67 ints, 6.5 ypa, 179.5 ypg, 75.1 rating

Akili Smith- 22 games, 17 starts (3-14), 215 comp./461 att. (46.6%), 2212 yds, 5 tds, 13 ints, 4.8 ypa, 100.5 ypg, 52.8 rating

Heath Shuler- 29 games, 22 starts (8-14), 292 comp./593 att. (49.2%), 3691 yds, 15 tds, 33 ints, 6.2 ypa, 127.3 ypg, 54.3 rating


Notice how Tim Couch is light years ahead of the rest of them (including the two who were BELOW him on this list) in every single category? Hell, compare him to some other first round quarterbacks in the last couple decades who were much worse, like Brady Quinn, Matt Leinart, Alex Smith (he may have turned it around last year, but he was garbage his first four years), Kyle Boller, Joey Harrington, Cade F*&king McNown, Jim Druckenmiller, Trent Dilfer, Rick F*&king Mirer, David Klingler, Tommy Maddox, Todd Marinovich, Dan McGwire, Andre Ware, Kelly Stouffer, or Chuck Long, just to name a few. Statistically speaking, Couch is better than all of them. And that's just the quarterbacks. That doesn't include colossal busts at every other position on the field. That also doesn't include the off-field problems of many of those busts (Cade's assholery, Matt Leinart's partying, Marinovich's drug abuse, Leaf's total dickishness, JaMarcus' missing work ethic), none of which Tim Couch was ever accused of. Tim Couch shouldn't even sniff a top ten busts lists, let alone wind up at #3.

Sure, there are people who will argue that he didn't live up to the expectations of the number one overall pick, or as Wyche says, "he didn't have the makings of an NFL quarterback," but that's absolute horseshit. Couch took over the reigns of an expansion team from the 2nd game of his rookie season and improved each season until he took them to the playoffs in 2002. Couch's rookie season alone was a testament to his ability to perform as well as possible despite the total dearth of talent around him. Couch was sacked a league leading 56 times in 1999, and yet he managed to 223 of 399 passes (55.9%) for 2447 yards, 15 tds, only 13 interceptions, and a 73.2 rating. Compare that to some other quarterbacks placed into similar situations for first year expansion teams:

David Carr (2002 Texans)- 233/444 (52.5%), 2592 yds, 9 tds, 15 ints, 62.8 rating

Mark Brunell (1995 Jaguars)- 201/346 (58.1%), 2168 yds, 15 tds, 7 ints, 82.6 rating

Kerry Collins (1995 Panthers)- 214/433 (49.4%), 2717 yds, 14 tds, 19 ints, 61.9 rating

Jim Zorn (1976 Seahawks)- 208/439 (47.4%), 2571 yds, 12 tds, 27 ints, 49.5 rating

Steve Spurrier (1976 Buccaneers)- 156/311 (50.2%), 1628 yds, 7 tds, 12 ints, 57.1 rating


As you can see, Couch was better than any of those quarterbacks other than Mark Brunell, and he was certainly better than the other three rookies (Carr, Collins, Zorn). Also, Brunell and Collins both benefitted from the fact that the Panthers and Jaguars were both expansion teams run by non-morons that added talent and actually advanced to their respective conference championship games in their second seasons.

Hell, compare Couch's rookie season to that of some other QBs taken #1 overall in recent decades:

Matthew Stafford, 2009: 10 G, 10 GS (2-8), 201/377 (53.3%), 2267 yds, 13 tds, 20 ints, 6.0 ypa, 226.7 ypg, 61.0 rating.

Eli Manning, 2004: 9 G, 7 GS (1-6), 95/197 (48.2%), 1043 yds, 6 tds, 9 ints, 5.3 ypa, 115.9 ypg, 55.4 rating.

Tim Couch, 1999: 14 G, 14 GS (2-12), 223/399 (55.9%), 2447 yds, 15 tds, 13 ints, 6.1 ypa, 163.1 ypg, 73.2 rating.

Peyton Manning, 1998: 16 G, 16 GS (3-13), 326/575 (56.7%), 3739 yds, 26 tds, 28 ints, 6.5 ypa, 233.7 ypg, 71.2 rating.

Drew Bledsoe, 1993: 13 G, 12 GS (5-7), 214/429 (49.9%), 2494 yds, 15 tds, 15 ints, 5.8 ypa, 191.8 ypg, 65.0 rating.

Troy Aikman, 1989: 11 G, 11 GS (0-11), 155/293 (52.9%), 1749 yds, 9 tds, 18 ints, 6.0 ypa, 159.0 ypg, 55.7


You can see from these stats that Couch actually played better than most, and comparable in many categories to Peyton Manning. But whereas Aikman or the Mannings played on teams that went out to add talent around their young quarterback (Irvin and Emmitt Smith for Aikman, Edgerrin James, Marvin Harrison, and Reggie Wayne for Peyton, and Plaxico Burress, etc. for Eli) Couch played for the Browns, who failed to take a single offensive lineman in the first two rounds during Couch's tenure, or to draft a runningback until they picked the woeful William Green in the first round in 2002. The four second round wide receivers the Browns picked during that time, Kevin Johnson, Andre' Davis, Quincy Morgan, and Dennis Northcutt, proved to be major disappointments, leaving Couch largely isolated without a running game or playmakers to take the pressure off of his offensive line. Couch was thus sacked almost 10% of the time he dropped back to pass, and the injuries began to pile up. He simply wasn't put in a position to take the next step forward like many of his fellow #1 picks.

The ineptitude of the Browns (and the fact that it wasn't, in fact, Couch's fault) can be seen in the performance of every other Browns quarterback but Couch since the restoration:

Tim Couch (posted again for comparison's sake): 62 games, 59 starts (22-37, 0.373 win%), 1025/1714 (59.8%), 11131 yds, 64 tds, 67 ints, 6.5 ypa, 179.5 ypg, 75.1 rating.

All other Browns QBs since 1999: 149 games, 117 games started (37-80, 0.316 win%), 2075/3685 (56.3%), 22731 yds, 127 tds, 147 ints, 6.2 ypa, 152.6, 69.6 rating.

As you can see, Couch is, once again, superior to all of the rest of the QBs the Browns have thrown into the fire, and the franchise as a whole had a better winning % when he started than when he hasn't.

Tim Couch's problems are entirely the fault of the Brown's organization. Tim was a guy that played in a spread offense at Kentucky before anyone really knew what that means. Rather than letting him sit the bench and learn a pro-style offense for a year or two, they threw him out there and let him get clobbered behind a god awful offensive line. Even then he performed far better than most rookies, and far better than most rookie spread QBs (I'm looking at you, Alex Smith). His arm strength wasn't great, but it was at least NFL-quality and it was nowhere near as poor as most people have retroactively graded it until he suffered repeated shoulder injuries. The shoulder injuries are also the reason he's failed in every comeback attempt. The Packers cut him when they saw just how frayed his ligaments were. The Browns organization truly had ruined him.

You can say that the Browns never got what they hoped for out Tim Couch. His career was indeed a disappointment, but not for any failings of his own. I think it's more apt to say that Browns fans, and Tim Couch, haven't gone what they hoped for out of the Browns organization.