Curious and Curiouser

In the NFL, anything short of being the league champion is generally considered unacceptable. Mediocrity is shunned, and below-average performance gets publicly condemned. It's no surprise then, that the two-year extension of Butch Davis' contract on the heels of a 5-11 season caused some league execs to scratch their heads. Here is more exclusive analysis from TheInsiders...

Butch Davis' Cleveland Browns team went 5-11 last season.

And he was given a two-year contract extension.

In a move that raised many eyebrows among Browns fans and brought quizzical looks around the league, Browns owner Randy Lerner and team president Carmen Policy decided that their belief in Davis warranted more years on his deal -- no matter that the bottom dropped out in 2003.

In giving the extension, Policy said Davis took over "a challenging situation in January of 2001."

"And we are in much better position today than we were three years ago," Policy said. "We certainly have not achieved the lofty goals we have established for ourselves, but I am convinced we are not as far away as some may believe."

Davis certainly does not think the Browns are far away. He believes that a solid left tackle will galvanize the offensive line, and he believes that his young defense will only get better.

But some of the reaction around the league to giving an extension to a coach with two years left on his deal was less surprising than the decision to extend the contract.

"How does that happen?" asked a front office rep from another team.

"Interesting," said another.

Very. Especially since Davis was also given the additional title of Executive Vice President.

Davis took over after Chris Palmer was fired after two years with an expansion team. He led the Browns to 7-9, 9-7 and 5-11 seasons -- with a playoff appearance in year two.

He blamed the 2003 struggles on injuries, but some players wondered about his personnel moves.

Davis tends to blame the personnel moves of those who preceded him -- Palmer and Dwight Clark. He says the roster he inherited was as bad as any he's seen, and he took over with no impact players.

Yet after three of his drafts, the Browns still lack impact players, and they've missed on as many picks (Gerard Warren over Richard Seymour) as they've hit on (middle linebacker Andra Davis).

Davis has replaced the strength coach and cleaned out the coaching staff and personnel of the defense (after 2002) and the offense (after 2003). He's resisted the cries for a general manager -- but gave in to bringing in Ron Wolf as a consultant, an announcement that will be made shortly after the Super Bowl.

Wolf, like Davis, is a client of agent Marvin Demoff, so the willingness to work with Wolf seems a tad incestuous -- thought it's not a bad idea given Wolf's keen eye for personnel.

Davis now is tied to the Browns through 2007. He has stability, the coaches he wants, the players he wants and the front office "adviser" he can agree to.

With this kind of support and structure in place, it's clear the Browns' ship will sink or sail based on the work and decisions of one man.

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