Phil Savage: Piano Player

Dixiedawg provides this recap of Phil Savage's speech Tuesday night to the Huntsville (AL) QB Club. Proving once again that there is no escape from the OBR - our agents are everywhere!

Huntsville, AL -  Make no mistake about it, Phil Savage is more than football talent evaluator, general manager and senior VP of football operations. He's a story-teller.

"Art Modell had no idea who I was, but I made him laugh," Savage told a crowd of about 80 football hungry Southerners at a Tuesday night meeting of The Huntsville (AL) Quarterback Club. "We had about 15 coaches on staff and I was number 15B."

So how did a skinny all-conference shortstop from Alabama end up running the show in Cleveland? Well, according to him, two things really paved the way – his penchant for impersonations, and Lawrence Phillips.

"We were all sitting around the office one day and the guys talked me into doing a few impersonations of some of the coaches. I looked and Art Modell was doubled over laughing," Savage said. "Art still didn't really know who I was, so when a security guard told me he wanted to see me in his office, I thought someone was pulling my leg. Then I saw his son in the hall and he told me Art really needed to see me."

Savage said Modell called him onto the carpet – the white "executive" carpet to be exact – and asked him what job he wanted in the organization.

"Well, Mr. Modell, you seem to go through coaches and football personnel pretty quickly around here, I think my safest job would be your driver," Savage deadpanned. Modell went on to explain to him that Casey Stengel used to carry a .220 hitter on his baseball team at all times. When asked why he kept such a lowly hitter on the team, Stengel told reporters that the player was great on long road trip because he could entertain the guys and was a heck of a piano player on the train.

"Phil, you're my piano player," Modell said.

And so began a long, relatively improbable journey for Savage. Along the way, he got a pretty big confidence boost by a selection he and longtime friend Ozzie Newsome didn't make in Round 1 – Lawrence Phillips.

"Everyone, including Art, wanted us to take Phillips. He was the glamour pick. But character was important to us and Phillips had some issues (like showing up at Nebraska team meetings wearing a Michigan sweatshirt). We talked about and debated it, then the Cardinals saved us when they took Simeon Rice at  #3," Savage said. "We took Jonathan Ogden instead of Phillips and even Modell was shaking his head over that pick."

Nine Pro Bowls later for Ogden, no one can argue that selection.

And while Ogden has been exceptional for the Ravens, Savage is extremely excited about some of his young players currently dotting the Cleveland roster.

"Let me tell you something, Charlie Frye is outstanding. So are KWII and Braylon. We are really excited about those guys. And Kamerion is a going to be a monster. He will get double-digit sacks this year," Savage said.

Savage knows his young players are still developing, and prone to a few mistakes. But how about that interception Frye threw Sunday in Oakland?

"Charlie came up to me after the game and promised to sign in blood that he'd never do that again," Savage said. "Down 21-3, to come back and win that game was really big for us. Now we need to get that signature win."

According to Savage, Browns fans were pretty resourceful during the Raider game – like finding his email address and blowing up his Blackberry with messages when the Browns fell behind 21-3. "How many more 3rd and long runs up the middle do we have to watch?"  Savage said of his emails. "It was brutal. If we had lost that game, I was going to tell The Huntsville Quarterback Club they may have to change my bio (to ex-Cleveland GM)."

Personally speaking, I'm hoping he doesn't change that title for a long time.


Draft Notes: Savage said Cleveland went into the 2006 draft with two goals definitely in mind: "We were taking an outside linebacker, then an inside linebacker."

Confirming the widely reported, Savage said Haloti Ngata, Wimbley and Broderick Bunkley were the Round 1 targets, while he focused on getting D'Qwell Jackson in Round 2. "We liked Demeco Ryans, but we felt that Jackson was a better fit for us. We had Jackson, Ryans and Roger McIntosh slotted (for Cleveland's Round 2 pick)."

Touching on the 2007 draft, Savage said Auburn running back Kenny Irons was a probable first round pick and the Tigers' offensive guard Timmy Duckworth would hear his name called on day one.


No Bama for Ozzie: Breaking the hearts of most Alabama fans in the room, Savage said he didn't think Ozzie Newsome was coming to Alabama as athletic director anytime soon as has been rumored in the past.

Higher calling? Savage said he told his wife for two years while in Baltimore that "we are not going to Cleveland. It's cold in Cleveland and you won't like it." So when the opportunity presented itself to come to the Browns, the Savages prayed about it. "My wife came to me and told me that after praying about it, she knew we would be going to Cleveland. I told I'd better pray harder!"


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