Strain Showing in Davis, But Hope Remains

Butch Davis has had a very rough 2003, but his character has shown through in recent weeks. The Insiders offer their perspective, and suggest how the season can end on a hopeful note...

It's been a long, difficult season for Butch Davis.

The Browns coach has seen injuries hamper his team's growth and losses pile on losses.

He's also seen some of his key moves backfire -- especially the quarterback switch from Tim Couch to Kelly Holcomb.

As the Browns season disintegrated with seven losses in the last eight games, fans grew angry. Cries for Davis to be fired were heard -- cries that fell on deaf ears.

Both team owner Randy Lerner and team president Carmen Policy stand behind their coach.

Barring an unexpected surprise that would see Davis leaving of his own accord -- and some still think he'll leave if the Oklahoma job opens up and is offered -- he will be back in 2004.

"Our head coach is going to continue being our head coach," Policy said.

In fact, instead of being fired the opposite may happen. Instead of looking for a job, Davis may be given a contract extension in the offseason.

That extension would allow him to hire the coaches he wants and offer them security.

Davis has had an especially tough time as loss has piled on loss. He's working harder than ever, and to his credit has never turned the end of this season into any kind of effort to evaluate players for the future. His sole goal has been to win.

When the Browns didn't win in Denver, Davis showed the emotion.

He appeared near tears, and spoke to his team from the heart. He knows how hard they are working, and he wants them to finish on a positive note.

The Browns have that chance in the final two games, when they play Baltimore and Cincinnati to finish the season. It's possible the Browns could eliminate one of those two teams from the playoffs.

Sunday, for instance, if the Browns beat Baltimore and Cincinnati wins the Bengals clinch the division title.

It's probably the only thing that can save a dismal season -- a win that would knock Art Modell's team out of the AFC North race, on the field where his teams used to play.

In a season that has grown grimmer by the week, the Browns amazingly still have a chance to finish on a bright note.

SERIES HISTORY: Tenth meeting. The Ravens lead the series, 6-3, including a 33-13 win at M&T Bank Stadium in Week 2. The Ravens have won two of the past three meetings. Three months ago, the Ravens beat Cleveland on the strength of running back Jamal Lewis, who ran for an NFL-record 295 yards. He set the tone on the first carry of the game, breaking an 82-yard run for a touchdown.

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