Derry: "My Way" Was Wrong Way For Davis

The long-time Browns analyst looks at the key mistakes in Davis' time in Cleveland.

"And now the end is near, and so I face the final curtain;
My friends, I'll say it clear, I'll state my case of which I'm certain.
I've lived a life that's full, I've traveled each and every highway,
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.

"Regrets? I've had a few … but then again, too few to mention;
I did what I had to do, and saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway;
But more, much more than this, I did it my way.

"Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew,
When I bit off more than I could chew;
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out,
I faced it all, and I stood tall, and did it my way.

"I've love, I've laughed and cried,
I've had my fill – my share of losing.
But now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

"To think I did all that,
And may I say, not in a shy way –
Oh no. Oh no, not me
I did it my way.

"For what is a man? What has he got?
If not himself – Then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words for one who kneels.
Let the record show I took the blows
And did it my way."

Paul Anka and Jacques Revaux first wrote those lyrics, which were originally recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1969 and rerecorded by Elvis Presley in 1977.

But if you carefully study the words, you can envision them being written by Butch Davis to sum up his coaching career with Cleveland Browns.

Barring a last-minute change of heart, come the end of the forgettable 2004 season, owner Randy Lerner will be handing Davis his walking papers, which will come gift-wrapped in millions upon millions of greenbacks.

Davis, from the day he arrived, insisted upon doing things "my way." He's a control freak who wants to make every decision regarding the Browns' personnel. His ego and authority grew even larger when he directed the Browns to the playoffs following the 2002 season, just his second as the head coach and the team's first and only post-season appearance since its return in 1999.

One thing that must be noted is that the majority of the starters on the 2002 playoff  team were holdovers from the Chris Palmer era. But even though those players were finally successful and team leaders, Davis wanted nothing to do with most of them. And so, crying "salary cap problems," he unloaded several team key components from that 2002 squad.

He wanted his own players who had either been signed as free agents or drafted by him. He seemed intent upon distancing himself as much as possible from the Palmer era. In the process he unloaded the backbone of the team.

The one exception to his house-cleaning was the decision to pick up the option years on quarterback Tim Couch's contract. By doing so, the team was committing itself to a guy who had never shown the leadership, or athletic ability, you'd expect from the first overall draft pick.

My guess is that when the final chapter is written on the Butch Davis era, it will become clear that it was former team president Carmen Policy who pushed to keep Couch, even though Davis was not really sold on him.

But if that had been the only mistake Davis made, he still could have had success despite the enormous bite Couch's contract took out of the team's salary cap.

Here are a few other glaring mistakes:

  1. Drafting Gerard Warren with the third overall choice in 2001. Warren figured to be the highest draft choice ever for Davis, who definitely needed an impact-type player after former first-rounders Couch and Courtney Brown failed to live up to expectations. You expect a guy taken that high to be a difference-maker, a big-play maker. Warren has not come close to that standard. Davis has spent a lot of time defending Warren, saying he does what is asked of him in the defense scheme run by the team. But the fact is, you expect him to be along the lines of a Warren Sapp-type contributor.
  1. Never spending enough high draft picks or enough free agent money to upgrade the offensive line. Davis used two high draft picks to select offensive linemen – a third-rounder in 2002 on center Melvin Fowler and a first-rounder in 2003 to grab another center, Jeff Faine. Selecting Faine was proof that Fowler was a mistake. Meanwhile, the guards are probably the worst in the NFL, a situation that has never really been addressed.     
  1. Refusing to listen to those around him. I've never been in a meeting room with him, but from everything that has been said and written, it's pretty clear Davis knows only one way … "my way" … to do things. His refusal to accept input from highly-regarded talent evaluator Ron Wolf, hired last off-season, led to Wolf's quick exit. Davis is an outstanding coach, but a sub-par judge of talent, at least on the NFL level. 
  1. Poor player-coach relationship. For several years, Davis treated most of his players as though they were still collegians, setting down strict road-trip ground rules that left a bitter taste in a lot of his players' mouths, including not allowing his players out of the hotel the night before road games, and may have driven away potential high-caliber free agents. When players such as Kevin Johnson and Corey Fuller spoke their minds, they both found themselves headed out the door.
  1. Lack of belief in players here before him. Rather than try to blend his own draft picks and free agents in with the players he inherited, Davis seemed intent to clean house as rapidly as possible of all of  Palmer's players. In the process, he got rid of a lot of solid player, including Dave Wohlabaugh, Roman Oben, Johnson, Mark Campbell and Chris Gardocki, just to name a few.
  1. The Tim Couch-Kelly Holcomb quarterback fiasco. Davis insisted there would be open competition for the job prior to the 2003 season. But the reality of the matter is, Davis had already decided upon Holcomb based upon his playoff performance against the Steelers. That served to further divide the clubhouse and it also showed why Holcomb has been a backup throughout his career.

I'm sure there are a lot of other reasons why Davis's teams have bombed on the field. Add them all up and you realize why Butch Davis will be hitting the highway.

No doubt, it's time for Randy Lerner to be singing, "My Way."

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