Not only has this season provided ample disappointment on the field for the Cleveland Browns, off-the-field rumors and innuendo have also provided its fair share of distractions.
On an almost daily basis, it seems, word comes from one end of the media spectrum regarding discontent in the Browns front office, only to be trumped by a report from the other end.
Last month, it was a report in the Philadelphia Daily News that had general manager Phil Savage talking to owner Randy Lerner about giving up some of his GM responsibilities to focus solely on scouting and player evaluation. Shortly after that article appeared, Savage flatly denied the report to The OBR via e-mail.
This past Thursday, a report emanating from Yahoo! Sports, written by respected NFL writer Jason Cole, stated that Lerner is becoming "increasingly annoyed with the direction of his team" and reiterated The Daily News report that Savage wanted to give up a lot of his day-to-day GM responsibilities.
That same day, a report on ProFootballTalk.com had Savage eyeing the general manager's job with the Titans should Floyd Reese and the organization fail to reach an agreement on a new contract.
Finally, it seems, Savage has grown weary and frustrated over what he considers to be false claims. In an e-mail exchange with The OBR, not only does Savage completely dismiss the latest round of whispers regarding dissension in the front office and that he's looking to diminish his role, the GM goes on the attack against the sources of some of the rumor mongering.
"This year, the articles/rumors have been utterly ridiculous. I really don't know where some of this stuff comes from," Savage told The OBR. "Unfortunately, the way the league is covered now, sites like profootballtalk and the like, get some credence. It's unfortunate. Fun reading for some, but when your name continues to be out there, it does get old."
During much of his tenure in Baltimore, Savage's name was consistently linked to nearly every GM position which opened up around the league. Before coming to the Browns in January of 2005, the closest Savage had come to leaving the Ravens organization was in late 2002 and early 2003 when he was Jacksonville's first choice to become their new GM/personnel director.
The two sides were painfully close to an agreement that would have pried Savage out from under Ozzie Newsome's wing, but differences on how much power Savage would wield over all personnel matters ultimately led to the Jaguars going in a different direction.
The Browns, however, offered Savage total autonomy on personnel decisions, which was the "X" factor in Savage making the decision to leave Baltimore for Cleveland following the 2004 season. In the GM's eyes, for him to even think about giving up even part of that control and responsibility that he held out for borders on the asinine.
"I have never, one time, considered giving up any duties as GM. Why would my family and I have gone through last year's situation only to step back nine months later? It's the height of silliness," Savage said in the e-mail.
Nine months or so ago, of course, Savage prevailed in a well-chronicled feud with then-Browns President John Collins.
"In the first place, that's the main reason I came to Cleveland from Baltimore, to be the GM. I had the best scouting job in the league at the Ravens. I would only leave there for a true GM position. That's why I didn't go to Jacksonville in 2002."
Savage also addressed his relationship with Lerner and, in the process, makes a veiled reference to the departure of Collins as the turning point in his dealings with the owner.
"As for my relationship with Randy Lerner, it is at an all-time high and has been that way since January 2, 2006," Savage said, referring to the day that Collins resigned as president of the club.
"We actually talk and e-mail more now than ever before. He understands and sees what we're trying to do and has been on board with everything that we have done personnel-wise, from draft picks to free agent signings."
Lerner has yet to respond to an e-mail sent by The OBR seeking comment on the rumors swirling around his team.