Berea—Phil Savage addressed the media in his ‘State of the Cleveland Browns' session with the local media that was covered more like a presidential press conference. The press conference was covered live by two local radio stations, a television station and a roomful of reporters.
Savage said the trio of Randy Lerner, Romeo Crennel and himself have been planning the Browns future since early December, thus validating the security of Crennel's job status for next season.
"Randy, Romeo and myself began meeting around Dec. 1 and have been looking at what we could do to get things turned around," Savage said. "We were in position after the Texans game to discuss what would be best for the 2007 season.
"Ultimately, by last weekend we had a comprehensive plan to make the Browns better in 2007 and beyond," he said. "I feel Randy's commitment to Romeo and myself has been 100 percent. I've felt his full support over the last 12 months. As an organization, I think we've made improvements in our communication and in every phase of our operation."Savage covered a wide array of topics, including:
Status of Romeo Crennel:
Search for offensive coordinator:
"We felt continuity was important last year, but now we have some changes to be made," Savage said. "The changes might not be as drastic as some might think.
"It depends on who the coordinator is," Savage said. "If we hire (Jeff) Davidson or (Rip) Scherer in house, those guys know are problems. For the education for our fans, the way the league is structured the guys cannot get out of their contracts.
Key for OC:
"The biggest thing for the offensive coordinator is to get every one on the same page. We need a leader and to get all the players on the same page.
"The coordinator will bring an identity," Savage said. "The face of the Browns offense will be number 17 and 80."
On Prior OC Experience:
"We don't think someone has to have prior coordinator experience, but that would be a plus. When we cast our net it will be broad. Do we want to wait deeper into the playoffs for coaches to free up or act quickly. It might be in a couple of days or it might be in a couple of weeks. We have some people coming in the next couple of days.
How many candidates interviewed so far not on the Browns staff:
Braylon Edwards' future:
"I think our coaching staff has identified what Braylon does best and moving forward that's what we want from him," Savage said. "I think the most important thing is he came back with the knee and had no setbacks. I think he realizes some of things that happened this year will be that he's not that kind of guy or teammate. I think next year will be a fresh start for him. I think Braylon will respond very well this off-season. He is a good person and has a very good family. You don't do what he did at Michigan if he's a bad guy."
The personnel of the Browns
"We've fully reviewed every individual on the team," Savage said. "Once we complete our evaluations, it gives us a road map.
"We're two years into a process," Savage said. "A year or so ago, I was asked if we were closer or further away to our goals. The core of players just wasn't there. We're two years into the process and our record wasn't where we want it to be, but I do think there has been some improvement in place in certain areas."We want to build a core group of players, maintain some stability and try to catch up with some of the teams we're competing with."
Most Difficult Task:
"Overcoming the continuous losing has been one of the most difficult things to do," Savage said.
What Went Wrong:
"When you look at our season, some of our best laid plans went out the window with injuries. The group of core winning players is just not in place yet. I don't know how you can place the blame on one person. I couldn't look in the mirror and say it is Romeo Crennel's fault. The team believes in Romeo and I've had numerous players tell me so."
On Charlie Frye:
"The quarterback situation is just now at the beginning the off-season," Savage said. "Charlie has 16 games under his belt as a starter. I think Charlie going into the off-season is the incumbent. Derek (Anderson) played himself into the discussion. Those guys will be in competition for the starter's job."
On adding a veteran quarterback:
"When you look on the surface who is available there are no guarantees a veteran quarterback is the answer. We could ultimately end up with those same three quarterbacks next year. We went into the season with the idea that we would have a strong line led by LeCharles Bentley to protect Charlie and that didn't help him the way we anticipated. Some of our struggles on offense can't all be placed at the feet of the quarterback.
On drafting offensive linemen in the first round:
"History shows you can find guard-center-guard on day two of the draft. The left tackle position is taken high in the draft. Our offensive line will obviously have some changes in it. We want to find a five-some with backups. With a high pick, you can only address one need at a time."
Status of LeCharles Bentley:
"He's doing well. I met with him for a couple of hours a few weeks ago. I think he's very positive about coming back and playing for the Browns at some point. I'm not comfortable in setting a timetable for him right now. I'll update that before the combine."
On pressure of winning next season:
"We want to win more games but I think our focus is steadily go forward and add quality players and get a little closer to being at a level able to beat those teams in our division."
Will free agency affect the draft:
"There are a number of free agents that we could get our hands on and we're drafting very high in the draft. You end up getting hold the fort or stop gap guys sometimes in free agency. The focus is to try and fix two or three areas of concern.
"I think it will depend somewhat on free agency and certainly will have more certainty as free agency ends. I think if you're going to be in the top five, this is the year to be in the top five."
On drafting a quarterback with the first pick:
"If we're sitting three or four and quarterbacks come off one and two, it doesn't matter, but things can change overnight."
Is Romeo making the coaching decisions:
"I've never had one coach come to me. Romeo is responsible for the coaching staff. I have some input, so it's his coaching staff, just like it's my scouting staff. As general manager, I can stand back and look because I'm not in the eye of the storm and look at things. Romeo is in charge of the coaching staff, but I do have input."
Will Davidson stay:
"We'd love for Jeff to stay with us, whether he's the coordinator or not," Savage said. "He tried to take the situation and make the most of it. He improved us in a number of areas. The game operation and communication on game day definitely improved. There might not totally be a different play book without him. We'd like him to stay as offensive line coach if he's not the coordinator."
"There were three major disappointments to me," Savage said. "Our record, Bentley getting hurt and our offensive identity as to who are we and what are we able to do going forward."
Browns Add Five: The Browns announced they signed five players to reserve/future free agent contracts. They are: OL Andrew Hoffman, OL Pete Lougheed, DB Antonio Perkins, S Justin Sandy and DL Alvin Smith. Hoffman and Perkins were drafted by the Browns and Sandy, Lougheed and Smith finished the season on the Browns practice squad.