The Owl: A Good Start

Hiring Phil Savage is a smart first step for the Browns, or so says our wise feathered friend, The Owl. While the sage fowl is dispensing some advice, he has some for the new team that the Browns are assembling...

People ask The Owl, "So, what do you in the offseason.

And I say, "You mean the last two weeks of June?"

This offseason will be especially busy for the Browns, as evidenced by the way owner Randy Lerner and team president John Collins jumped into the general manager search Monday, the first day they were allowed to interview candidates.

All signs point to Lerner selecting Phil Savage to run the football department. Everyone The Owl has spoken to says the Browns would be getting someone that knows how to evaluate football players, and not only that, but someone who has the skills to guide the organization through the process of turning the team around.

The first thing the new general manager has to do is be honest with the fans. It would be dumb to sit at his introductory press conference and say, "We have a lot of talent right here. With just a few more players, there is no reason the Browns can't contend for the AFC North title next year."

It would be dumb for a few reasons. The biggest is Browns fans are not dumb. Does anyone really believe the Browns are close to being on the same level as the Pittsburgh Steelers? Even with all the injured players healthy, who on the Browns could start for the Steelers? Kellen Winslow Jr., Courtney Brown and Ryan Tucker would be about it.

It would be a dumb thing to say also because it would set up the GM and the new coach for failure. With big promises come big expectations. Savage, or whoever ultimately gets the job, should say, "We have some work to do here, but we're confident we can get it done. If everything was fine, Randy and John wouldn't have sought out a general manager and they wouldn't be looking for a coach. We're asking you to come along for the ride, because the way we have it mapped out it's going to be an exciting one."

Lerner and Collins are conducting their searches with patient urgency, and that's the way it should be done. They are being thorough, yet they are not wasting any time.

The goal is to have the GM in place as quickly as possible because he must assemble a scouting department and be ready for Senior Bowl Week, which begins two weeks from Sunday. Ideally, the Browns would have their head coach selected, though not necessarily signed and on the job by then.

If their first choice for head coach is Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel – and from this perch he looks like the favorite - the Browns are going to be patient. The Patriots have a bye in the playoffs this weekend. If the playoffs unfold as expected, New England and Pittsburgh will play for the AFC championship Jan. 23 – the day Senior Bowl Week begins.

The plan is to be certain the head coach they want will take the job if he is a coach on a team going deep into the playoffs. They do not want to count on a coach and then have him change his mind and leave Lerner and Collins scrambling to sign a coach they could have had weeks earlier, such as Browns interim coach Terry Robiskie or someone from the Ravens. Ravens consultant Jim Fassel and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan are available now.

The coaching staff can be filled during Senior Bowl Week in Mobile, Ala. Mobile is where out of work coaches or coaches looking for a promotion hang out.

Finally, it seems the Browns are going to get it right. Former team president Carmen Policy had to scramble when the late Al Lerner and Policy were awarded the expansion franchise in September 1998. Chris Palmer, not their first choice, was hired in January of 1999 to be the head coach and Dwight Clark, no football genius but not as bad as revisionist history has made him out to be, was hired as Director of Football Operations; Policy knew him, and there was no time to get anyone else.

Policy wanted to make a big splash on his second coaching hire, so he lured Butch Davis from the University of Miami. The Owl isn't going to back down from supporting Davis the coach. The error was making Davis the king.

This time around, Randy Lerner and Collins are more interested in getting the right people. Phil Savage is a good place to start.

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