When you think about stability at the quarterback position in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns are the first team to come to mind. The Browns have had 31 starting quarterbacks since 1999 — yup, as any good GM would tell you, starting 1.3 signal-callers per year is the formula for success. For comparison, the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots have had seven and eight, respectively. Yuck.
The Browns’ fortune (or misfortune as some people might say) started in 1999 when the league brought the team back to Cleveland after the original franchise moved to Baltimore in 1996. The expansion meant the new Browns were awarded the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.
Who did they select? Tim Couch.
Couch’s name has become synonymous with bust, but after a retrospective look back on his career, the circumstances surrounding him doomed him from the start. It’s been nearly 20 years since he appeared in an NFL game, but where is he now?
Tim Couch’s High School & College Career
Tim Couch was born and raised in Hyden, Kentucky. Growing up in the Bluegrass State, it was only natural for Couch to fall in love with hoops. He was a hardwood star at Leslie County High School first and foremost, averaging 36 points per game as a junior and finishing his prep career with 3,023 points.
He wasn’t bad on the gridiron, either. Couch set several national high school records including most pass completions, passing yards, touchdown passes and completion percentage for a season. He was named Kentucky’s Mr. Football in 1995 and ESPN named him the sixth-best high school athlete ever, following his graduation.
Couch was determined to play football and basketball in college, but only a handful of programs were willing to allow him to do both. One of those was his home state Kentucky Wildcats. Couch had a full scholarship to play QB under head coach Bill Curry, and UK hoops coach Rick Pitino was going to allow him to walk on. However, his hoop dreams didn’t work out and he chose to concentrate on football.
In Lexington, Couch turned into a star once he became the team’s full-time starter as a sophomore. To say the University of Kentucky threw a lot when Couch was under center would be an understatement. The signal-caller tossed over 1,000 throws in his two years as a starter. 1,100 to be exact! This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Couch’s offensive coordinator was air-raid guru Mike Leach.
Anyway, Couch lit it up on the college football stage, particularly as a senior. That year, he threw for 4,275 yards and 36 touchdowns while completing 72.3-percent of his passes. The Wildcats finished with a 7-5 record, and Couch was named the SEC Player of the Year, a First-team All-American and First-team All-SEC player and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting.
Couch chose to forego his senior season and enter the 1999 NFL Draft. He left school with the SEC record for most offensive yards and most passing yards in a season and hopes were high that Couch could replicate that success in the NFL.
The Cleveland Browns selected Couch with the first overall pick of the 1999 NFL Draft. The Browns intended to pull an Alex Smith-Patrick Mahomes situation and have Couch sit behind veteran Ty Detmer as a rookie. But, head coach Chris Palmer grew impatient and made Couch the starter in only the second game of the season.
Throwing a rookie quarterback in to lead an expansion team is one of the many reasons Palmer is a coaching legend with five career wins to his name. For some reason, he ended up being let go after the 2000 season and his replacement, Butch Davis, went back and forth between starting Couch and Kelly Holcomb. Along with playing under impeccable coaches and having a horrible offensive line, Couch battled a plethora of injuries and could rarely stay healthy for an entire season. He did, however, lead the Browns to a 9-7 record in 2002 that culminated in the franchise’s only playoff appearance of the 21st century before Baker Mayfield led the team back to the Promised Land in 2020.
The first-round draft pick was eventually released by the Browns in 2004. He attempted a comeback with several NFL teams such as the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Tennessee Titans Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars before calling it quits in 2007.,
Tim Couch Now
The former Browns quarterback moved back to Lexington following his pro football career and married Heather Kozar. The couple has two sons together. He stayed involved in football by co-hosting “SEC Gridiron Live” on Fox Sports South for five years while also working as a color analyst.
Now, Couch spends his time on the advisory business council of his brother Greg’s wealth management company, Meridan Wealth Management. He also plays a lot of golf, works out and supports the Kentucky Wildcats. And yes, before you ask, Couch still roots the Browns.
“I love the Browns,” Couch said in an interview with Cleveland.com in 2017. “I always will. They are my team. The fans have been real good,” he said. “As time passed, people realized it probably wasn’t all my fault up there. I think most people realize I was probably a decent player.”
Couch is associated with being a bust, but he was put in a situation where he was set up to fail. He was a more than serviceable NFL QB when healthy.