Levine: On-the-Job Training

Les takes a look the impact of having rookies in the front office

I have pointed out on several occasions that the new make-over of the Browns front office is mostly positive, but there are some downsides.

Every one of the key positions is comprised of people in those positions for the first time, starting with owner Randy Lerner.  Lerner's first major decision as owner was a mistake---extending the contract of Butch Davis and expanding his power within the organization.  CEO John Collins has never, until now, been part of a football decision with this or any other organization.

The hiring of Phil Savage as General Manger looks like a good decision, but the reality is that his previous success came under the watchful eye of Ozzie Newsome.  Likewise, head coach Romeo Crennel is a first-timer.

It stands to reason that all of them will make mistakes early on in the process, but the hope is that they are minimized. 

Two examples occurred with Savage this week.  Last Thursday, in a conference call, he told several members of the media that he expected to wrap things up with Eric Mangini by Saturday. Not one participating media member could have walked away from the call thinking that a deal wasn't close to being struck.  

Very few people in Savage's position would have talked so positively about the impending deal.  Even though the deal fell through, it was refreshing to hear Savage speak honestly and from his heart. He may learn to word things differently in the future, but after what we have seen and heard in Berea over the past few years, I hope he doesn't become too slick in his pronouncements.

Another minor mistake was made on Monday, when the Browns announced that Jeff Garcia had been released.  An hour later they had to make a clarification that he could not officially be released until February 22.  Again, this goes back to inexperience in dealing with certain league guidelines, but it's not a big deal.

It will be a big deal if misunderstandings of league guidelines involve salary cap issues, signing deadlines, etc., but I would expect these intricacies will be worked out without serious problems.

Despite the belief that Mangini would leave New England for Cleveland, apparently he changed his mind.  Loyalty to Bill Belichick has been cited as the main reason, and that very well may be.  I think there is more to it.  If Mangini's ultimate goal is to become a head coach in the NFL, it is easier to believe that he can become a household name easier and quicker in New England, with a proven product, rather than in Cleveland, where there are so many questions.  I don't think money was the issue, and the lure of joining his brother-in-law Mark Shapiro in Cleveland was strong, but the hopes of becoming a head coach was stronger.

ESPN Classic has named Tim Couch and Courtney Brown as two of top ten worst Number One draft picks in the history of the NFL.  There also seems to be a lot of ‘revisionist history' going on in regards to Couch's performance in Cleveland.  People must have forgotten that Couch was mistakenly given the starting job in Game 2 of the expansion franchise, and then went on to lead his team to the playoffs in the third year. 

To buy in to the fact that Couch was a total bust, you have to buy in to the theory that Butch Davis knew what he was talking about in regards to the quarterback position.  His ‘gut feeling' told us that Kelly Holcomb was the answer for this team in 2003 --- he wasn't --- and that Jeff Garcia really was the answer in 2004 --- that couldn't have been more wrong! 

Do you really believe, that if Couch didn't get hurt, he would have been worse than Holcomb in '03 and Garcia in '04?  Sorry, I don't buy it.

Even if Holcomb winds up being the starting quarterback, and performs well, he isn't the answer at that position.  He certainly is a quality backup, and might succeed as a stop-gap for this year, but after seeing him as a full-time starter in the past, there is no reason to believe he can be anything more than either of those things.

I don't know who it is going to be, but I have a ‘gut feeling' that this year's starting quarterback isn't on the roster yet.

‘More Sports & Les Levine' can be seen M-F from 6-7pm with replays at 11pm on Adelphia Channel 15.  E-mail msandll@aol.com or www.leslevine.com



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