Two years and 15 games into his tenure, Butch Davis started to take some of the blame for the Browns dismal season.
In a news conference notable for its conciliatory tone, Davis said he left the team's cupboard too bare of veterans this season and said he would do all he could to fix the team's problems in 2004.
"As the head coach, it's my responsibility," Davis said.
Davis said the lack of veteran backups left the team lacking in too many areas. That was a natural byproduct of releasing so many veterans in the offseason and going with young players who, in the words of one of the released players, Corey Fuller, are not yet ready to play.
"He's got his guys in there now," Fuller said. "But what's the difference between four wins and three wins? We were an expansion team."
The heat has gotten intense on the Browns coach as the year has disintegrated. But he accepted that kind of scrutiny when he took over and took charge of all personnel decisions.
The Browns are built in Davis' image, and they've struggled due to lack of depth, injuries and a constant switching of the quarterback.
The offense, thought to be a team strength, has dragged the team down.
Davis said the offseason would be about fixing the line, deciding on the
quarterback and determining who is going to be the running back.
William Green's future remains extremely uncertain.
But Davis admits he needs to examine a lot of things, among them:
- Are the Browns injuries caused by a lengthy and intense training program that hardly stops?
- Does a long and tough training camp take a toll?
- Does the team need more veteran backups?
- Can the Browns sign a free agent given the image the team has around the league?
- Will the Browns bring back Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb, or do they look for a quarterback?
- Is there a No. 1 receiver and can Dennis Northcutt be re-signed?
- Will Bruce Arians be retained as offensive coordinator, or do the Browns start over yet one more time with a new coordinator and system?
- Is the foundation for a good team present?
That's a lot of questions for a team one year removed from the playoffs.
But the answers will probably determine the future of Davis as the team's coach and de facto General Manager.