Les' takes on Phil Savage, the coaching search, and more...
Everywhere I go and every night on my television show,
I am asked if the Browns made the right decision with their selection of Phil Savage as General Manager. The answer is simple---nobody knows. And we won't
know until the end of the next three or four seasons.
The choice certainly appears solid, but the questions
are understandable. After all, this decision is the biggest one that owner
Randy Lerner has had to make. His previous biggest decision, the extension of
Butch Davis' contract along with almost total control of the franchise, is
already in the record books as a failure. And President/CEO John Collins, who
oversaw the signing of Kellen Winslow, Jr., has never really had to make a
‘football' decision, yet he, ultimately will be responsible for the success or
failure of Savage.
While Lerner and Collins have had the time to get a
feel for their positions before making the important decision regarding a GM,
Savage will not have the luxury of time before making the biggest decision of
his career. While all three men will come to a joint decision, ultimately the
final say has to come from Savage. And he'd better be right. It is fair to say
that it would be surprising if great success came to the Browns franchise in
Savage's first two years. But three years is not out of the question. Even at
three years, 2007, that would mean almost twenty seasons of frustration, since
the relative success of the 80's, which ended with Bud Carson's first year as
head coach in 1989. As I have pointed out in previous columns, there was one
playoff appearance in the 90's, and one in 2002, in addition to the three-year
hiatus after the move to Baltimore.
there was one appearance in Bill Belichick's five years, none in Chris
Palmer's two years, and one in Butch Davis' four years. The next coach has to
do better than that, or Randy Lerner will be no better off than he is right
now. The franchise had to ‘rebuild' in 1999, and again prior to 2005. The
thought of rebuilding again in 2008 or 2009 is something none of us needs to
Unlike the selection of Phil Savage as General
Manager, I don't think there is a popular choice out there for the head coaching
position. Savage was probably in the top three picks of the fans and media (and
football people), along with Scott Pioli and Ozzie Newsome. But when the new
coach is named, I would doubt that there will be rejoicing in the streets. That
is meaningless, by the way. Say what you want about the lack of success of
Butch Davis in his tenure here, but it seemed that there was unanimous support
when he was introduced by then-owner Al Lerner and CEO Carmen Policy.
According to a knowledgeable source in the Browns
organization, Butch Davis wanted to release Gerard Warren prior to the New York Jets game, but was talked out of it late at night. According to the source,
Davis threatened to take players out of the game if they committed senseless
penalties or turnovers. Players didn't take kindly to this, and this source is
convinced that a couple of players wanted to challenge Davis' authority by going
offsides on purpose to see what would happen. On the first defensive play of
that game, the Browns were called for an offsides penalty. You be the judge.
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