Through every free agent signing and every time I hear Phil Savage talk about the draft I say a silent thank you to Randy Lerner for listening to the fans on the final weekend of 2005.
Owl: The Fans' Draft
That the fans helped save Savage's job four months ago there is no doubt. When it came to deciding whether the Browns would be better off with John Collins as team president or Savage as general manager, Lerner made the right decision by retaining Savage. We will be reminded of that again around 2:30 p.m. Saturday when the Browns are on the clock in the first round of the draft.
To be totally objective, we cannot really say at this point Savage engineered a great draft in 2005. Picking Braylon Edwards in the first round was not exactly finding a diamond in the rough. The rest of the draft class has to prove itself, including Charlie Frye, the third round pick who shows great promise but has to do more before we can say he was a great pick for the value.
But even with that, where would the Browns be so close to the draft today without Savage running the show? Can you just imagine what it would have been like to find someone to replace Savage?
What NFL guy would want to walk into a situation in which Savage was fired less than one year on the job after winning two more games than the team he and Coach Romeo Crennel inherited? They'd be lucky to get a good Fantasy League coach who uses the PlayStation game Madden on his resume.
But now that Savage is in complete control with no impediments wearing suits, he must deliver. Picking 12th won't be as easy as picking third was.
Savage has done everything right so far this offseason, beginning with signing LeCharles Bentley, Kevin Shaffer and Joe Jurevicius the first day of free agency. He got the punter the Browns needed in Dave Zastudil and he fortified the defense with Ted Washington and Willie McGinest.
Money is always the big attraction for free agents, so maybe someone else sitting in Savage's chair could have lured those players to Cleveland. But maybe not. One reason enthusiasm is so high is because Lerner put the good of the football team ahead of any business decisions Collins might have made.
Savage and Crennel trust each other. They think the same way when they evaluate the Browns and when they evaluate players the Browns could draft. They agree the primary need for their team is run defense and a pass rusher - though anyone in the OBR chat room at any given time could see that.