Sometimes NFL players enter the league with high expectations, and sometimes they don't live up to them. Most recently the Oakland Raiders gave up on their 2007 draft pick Jamarcus Russell, who went #1 overall and was supposed to be Al Davis' franchise "savior". With him being cut last week he officially was labeled a bust, and all the talk about where he ranks among the all-time biggest busts began.
This happens every time a quarterback or top 10 pick at any position ends up failing miserably, and the name Tim Couch gets brought up more often than not. But is this really a fair comparison? Was Couch really that bad?
Coming out of Kentucky in 1999 he was the first pick of the newly reincarnated Cleveland Browns, who were starting over as an expansion team after Art Modell moved his team to Baltimore and became the Ravens. The question is, did the Browns really give Couch any opportunity NOT to fail?
That 1999 draft the Browns would use 11 picks, 6 in the first four rounds and not a single offensive lineman to show for it. After a predictably bad year the Browns had 13 picks in the 2000 draft, and they picked one offensive lineman in the 6th round. A year later the Browns picked another lineman, this time in round 7. That's 32 picks in Couch's first 3 years, and only 2 lineman total (1 from round 6 and 1 from round 7). It should come as no surprise that he was sacked more times than any other QB in his rookie year of 1999, and 2nd most in 2001.
Another thing to consider, in 2002 Couch Became the first (and so far only) QB to lead the Browns to the playoffs since their return. How many busts lead their teams to a playoff birth? Ironically he was injured and couldn't play that game, and it ultimately cost him his job.
After all this Couch posted a career QB rating of 75.1. Does that really live up to the level of busts such as Ryan Leaf (# 2 overall pick in 1998, career QB rating 50.0)? Jamarcus Russell (#1 in 2007, QB 65.2 rating)? Alex Smith (#1 in 2005, 69.2 rating)? Joey Harrington (#3 in 2002, 69.4 rating)? or Akili Smith (same draft as Couch, #3 in 1999, 52.8 rating)?
Can Couch REALLY be considered one of the all-time biggest busts in NFL history? No one puts David Carr in that category, though he is by far the most comparable to Couch as they come. Both were #1 picks for expansion teams, both had historically bad protection, and while Couch had a rating of 75.1, Carr's sits at 75.2, and their completion percentage is dead even at 59.8%.
Since 1998 that's five QBs drafted in the top 3 with much lower career ratings, and one who is almost dead even. Yet Couch still gets lumped in, not only as a top 10 QB bust of all-time, but a top 10 draft bust of all-time. Does he really deserve that status?
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