BEREA - It's been 10 days since the story broke that General Manager Phil Savage would be fired from the Browns. Since that story broke on ESPN, Browns president John Collins has resigned and Owner Randy Lerner assumed the role of interim president.
Savage met with the local media on Monday evening and answered questions for the first time since the story broke on Dec. 30. He was on the podium by himself. There was some feeling that Lerner would accompany Savage on the platform.
Savage spoke for approximately 55 minutes. He opened with a ten minute statement:
"There were three reasons I accepted the position of general manager of the Browns:
1. Randy Lerner and his commitment to bringing the Browns a winner.
2. To help find a coach for the Browns and we did so with the hiring of Romeo Crennel. I think we have been able to form a good partnership
3. The tradition and loyalty of the Browns fans. I wanted to be a part of helping to restore the tradition and give Cleveland a consistently winning team.
"In the last 10 days, I want to thank Randy, Romeo and the fans for their support," he said. "I don't expect a free pass but I will do every thing in my power to put a winning team on the field."
Savage did not want to comment on the turmoil that surrounded his rumor of being fired, but he said he feels the organization is stronger than it was two weeks ago.
"I'd like to think we're stronger because we're a week and a half to two weeks down the road," he said. "I'm re-energized and really focused on what we can do. There are eight to nine teams going through what we did last year and that gives you hope."
Savage said his duties are no different than what they were when he was hired.
"It's never gotten to a point where I've been told that you're either this or that," he said. "What I'm most interested in doing is fulfilling the duties I was given 11 months ago."
Savage said he doesn't feel as though he needs help in negotiating contracts and managing the salary cap, but is not adverse to asking for it.
"I feel I'm the first one to ask if I need help," he said. "I'm not opposed to anything the owner wants to do. If I need help, I'm humble enough and will gladly go and ask for it."
Savage said the Browns aren't $30 million under the cap as has been reported, but they are in pretty good shape.
"I'm comfortable with it," he said. "It's hard to say you need help when you're significantly below the cap."
Savage said he feels comfortable moving forward with Lerner and the Browns.
"Obviously, Randy and I talked a lot and we're on the same page," he said. "I'm looking forward to working with him. Randy Lerner is a person who has to make choices and decisions and I am confident we're on the same page."
Savage said when all of the rumors were flying around, he was able to stay focused on his job.
""I was never told I wasn't the GM of the Browns," Savage said. "It was not that tough because when it reached the public eye, I was working on Bodden's contract. I tried to stay above it and continue to work. I learned a lesson some time ago when the Browns moved to Baltimore-- at some time need the work I was performing would be needed. We needed to get Leigh Bodden done one way or another."
Savage said the direction for 2006 is clear.
"There is no confusion at this point," he said. "The 2005 season was a fact finding mission finding out what we have and what we need to do to win.
"It's quite clear what we need to do and what needs to be addressed for us to be a competitive team."
Savage said the Browns need to improve upon their No. 30 ranking in run defense and in the number of sacks, as well as their 32nd ranking in offense in the red zone and in scoring points.
Savage addressed questions about personnel issues and contract issues which will be detailed in the Part II of the recap.