Originally created 07/24/99

Browns need to pick a starting quaterback



BEREA, Ohio -- Ty Detmer knows his days as the Browns starting quarterback are numbered, and that it won't be long before Cleveland's No. 2 is No. 1.

"I made it to the first day of training camp, so that's good," Detmer joked on Thursday. "Everybody knows Tim's the guy for the future."

Tim Couch's ascension to starting status may not be far away, but as of Friday, Detmer was still the quarterback expected to take the first snap for the new Browns when they make their NFL debut on Sept. 12 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When the Browns acquired Detmer, a seven-year veteran, in a March trade with San Francisco, they had two roles in mind for him: to lead them on the field in 1999, and to serve as a mentor to Couch, the top overall pick in the NFL draft.

Detmer, however, insists he's here for only one thing.

"I'm not here to be a coach," he said. "I'm here to be a player."

During 7-on-7 drills Friday morning, Couch took a three-step drop and threw an incomplete pass into tight coverage. After a brief word with Browns coach Chris Palmer, Couch wandered over to talk with Detmer.

"Every time I have a question, every time I make a mistake and he's standing back watching me, he tells me what I'm doing wrong," Couch said. "He's helping me grow as a player."

Detmer plans to stay ahead of Couch on the depth chart as long as possible, but he also realizes the Browns didn't give Couch a seven-year contract and a $12 million signing bonus to hold a clipboard.

Everything I've heard is that the best player is going to play," Detmer said. "Dealing with coach Palmer during mini-camp and talking with him I believe that. That's the way the organization is building itself, priding itself on a work ethic.

"I don't think any of the people I talked to are going to pull any punches. Whoever is ready to play is going to play and whoever's best for the team and the organization is going to play. If it's Tim, he's going to play. And if it's me, I'm going to play. That's what I've been told all along."

Couch is aware of the situation in Chicago where rookie Cade McNown was all but handed the Bears starting job when the team cut Erik Kramer. He wouldn't mind a similar situation in Cleveland, but he knows he still has a lot to learn before he's ready.

And he'd rather earn the starter's job than have it handed to him.

It's not too hard to look good throwing against rookie cornerbacks and without defensive lineman flushing you out of the pocket. But Couch has been impressive in his first training camp workouts.

He's making crisp throws under the watchful eye of Palmer, a former quarterbacks coach who personally charts each of his QBs passes during selected drills.

Palmer and Detmer have both noticed a big improvement in Couch since the team's June mini-camp.

"He has learned a lot," said Detmer, who can remember the difficulty he had adjusting to the pro game as a rookie. "You come in to the first camp and you don't have a clue. Now he's pretty comfortable with the offense and we'll start focusing on a lot of the little things."

Palmer was an assistant coach in New England when he saw a young Drew Bledsoe -- also a No. 1 pick -- develop into an NFL starter before his eyes. He's waiting for the same moment when it all comes together for Couch.

"The light will go on," Palmer said. "You'll see it as a coach. I think it will be pretty clear when he's ready to go."