Tim Couch: Everything Bernie Kosar said was correct

Tim Couch lived the struggles of a Cleveland Browns post-1999 quarterback.

Tuesday, he read the critical words of Bernie Kosar about the team's approach to the position (in an interview on WTAM-1100) and nodded.

"I thought everything he said was right," Couch said. "It's been a long 15 years of watching the same thing repeat itself over and over. The biggest that frustrates me is the lack of commitment and loyalty to let a coach see it out and a quarterback play it out."

Couch likes both quarterbacks on the team, roots for the Browns and speaks as an interested observer who has been through it.

He joined the league as the No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 draft. He struggled with the team the first two seasons, but improved in his third. By his fourth season he started 14 games and led the Browns to the playoffs.

But he broke his leg in the 2002 season finale and watched as Kelly Holcomb threw for more than 400 yards in a playoff loss to Pittsburgh. The next season, he and Holcomb -- who remain friends -- were yo-yoed back and forth until Couch was released when the team signed Jeff Garcia. It was one of many experiments that didn't work.

He now follows the Browns closely from his home in Kentucky, and attended the game in Atlanta as a fan.

"You're never great every week," he said. "This is just repeating the same process of the last 15 years, like Bernie said. Whether it was me, Kelly or on and on and on, the finger keeps being pointed at the quarterback.

"It's the team. Build a team and then worry about the quarterback."

Couch even chuckled in a here-we-go-again way at the criticism Manziel has received after his debut.

"Johnny played one game, and granted it was awful, but most people are writing the kid off already," he said.

Couch said the Browns would have been better off committing to Brian Hoyer for the entire season after the win over Atlanta.

"Every quarterback has ups and downs, no matter who it is," he said. "It's a tough league."

He said commiting to Hoyer after the Falcons would have put to bed all the talk and speculation. Without commitment, the pressure can be suffocating, something he said he was unaware of when he played but he understands now that he looks back at his playing days.

"I think Brian is a pretty good player," Couch said. "A solid player. Given the right situation I think he could be a really good player. Put him on a team with a defense around him and solid running game and weapons on the outside, I think he can be a good player.

"I was totally on board with Hoyer. He made such good decisions for so long. He was accurate. All that changed when the pressure mounted on him. He didn't play well the last month, and you can't get away from that.

"But I think it was the result of other influences creeping in on him."

Couch said he felt the same influences.

"Everyone expects a certain amount from you," he said. "It weighs on you when you don't have success. Then doubts creep in. You start to question yourself. And you can't do that at that level.

"Everybody says block it out, but that's just not reality. …It's almost like every throw I made I felt like I had to prove to everyone ‘This is why I was the No. 1 pick.' You don't realize it until you look back.

"I think that's kind of what got Brian a little bit, to be honest. He felt like he was playing for his job every week. If he missed an open wide receiver or threw an interception it got worse. That kind of pressure can eat away at you slowly over time."

Couch said that there was no way Manziel could live up to half his hype, and that his spot in his first start was as difficult as Hoyer's.

"I completely expected him to struggle," Couch said, "not to the degree that he did, but to struggle. I thought there might be flashes of plays, where you think, 'Whoa, unbelieveable.' That he'd extend a play and hit a guy. None of that happened.

"But I still definitely expected him to struggle. The situation, the playoffs, Cincinnati's defense is good, they do things to confuse you. It was tough to watch him and see how frustrated he was. He had only been used to success, but this was a different game."

Couch added he likes coach Mike Pettine a great deal, but he believes Pettine and many of the team's veterans think Hoyer gives the team the best chance to win. He also thinks there was front office influence to play Manziel, though that is his opinion and not from any inside source. (Pettine said "absolutely not" when asked if there was any pressure from ownership or the business side.)

Now, Couch said, the rest of the season is about evaluating Manziel.

"It's never going to consistently work when you're just plugging in guys," Couch said. "You're never going to have consistent success."