Lake Woe Be Gone?

Two years ago, Phil Savage decried the "woe-is-me" 'tude that permeates C-town sports. Fast forward 700+ days, and said GM is now clinging to and grasping at the very notion that he once belittled. Or so says Rich Passan, who has unveiled yet another must-read for those who like their smokes non-filtered, their coffee caffeinated and their toilet paper forest-grade leafy. Oh yeah. It's that good.

When Phil Savage arrived on the Cleveland pro football scene two years ago, he decried the "woe-is-me" attitude of the local fans.

Enough of the negativity. Enough of the defeatism. Enough of the glass-is-half-empty mentality. It's going to stop and it's going to stop now.

"We can't listen to the woe-is-me around town . . . If myself and the organization believe there's validity to that, then we're wasting our time," the Browns' new general manager told reporters at the time. "We need to reshape the mentality of the team. There is a woe-is-me, run-for-the-hills mentality that seems to permeate Cleveland in general."

In the two years that have passed, the Browns have compiled 10 victories and a growing number of fans who are fed up with the kind of football the club continues to play despite the change in the front office.

So much for reshaping.

In his spinfest with the Cleveland media last week, it was somewhat ironic that Savage exhibited a woe-is-me approach to the Browns' problems this past season.

In defending the decision to keep Romeo Crennel as the head coach, he said, "When you look at our season, some of our best plans went out the window due to injury. When you look at the injuries that were incurred by our team, our difficult schedule and the lack of a core group of players, I don't know how you can place the blame on one person."

Let's see. Injuries, tough schedule, not a big enough core group of players. Oh, woe is he who makes excuses like injuries, hard schedule and a paucity of talent.

Is it possible the woe-is-me syndrome has reached out and snagged Savage?

The GM then went on to say, "On a personal note, there is no way I can look in the mirror and say this is Romeo Crennel's fault. It's not fair to him and it's not fair to other people. It sheds the responsibility on the rest of us who have had mistakes as well."

It's also not fair to the fans who get up for every game during the season only to watch their beloved team sink deeper and deeper into a morass of mediocrity and embarrass the franchise name, which has a rich, storied tradition.

Is it not Crennel's fault the club played a majority of their games with the emotion of a tortoise? Is it not Crennel's fault the club was outcoached in practically every game? Is it not Crennel's fault he couldn't control his players? Is it not Crennel's fault the club was ill-prepared to play on Sundays?

Well then, whose fault is it the Browns won only four of 16 games this past season? Whose fault is it the Browns are 1-11 against the AFC North in the last two seasons?

What fault(s) can one attach to Crennel's name? I give up.

Savage, who's becoming a poor man's Carmen Policy with his spin, said the Browns "made some progress, believe it or not, despite the record." Oh really?

He claimed there is "progress in terms of the stability of the organization." Back-to-back losing seasons constitutes stability?

Then Savage said something very strange. "Someone told (owner) Randy Lerner that we have the makings of a good organization," he said, "but it's invisible because of what happens on Sunday afternoons. I do think we've done some positive things behind the scenes."

Was that someone who whispered in Lerner's ear a fellow owner just trying to make him feel good? Or was that someone within the organization looking for some brownie (no pun intended) points?

Then again, maybe that Sunday afternoon invisibility just might be an accurate reflection of the organization.

Instead of trying paint a rosy picture, perhaps Savage should try being honest with the fans and media. What's wrong with saying something like, "We quite frankly didn't play as well as we had hoped in 2006 and understand the fans' frustration, but we still believe what we're doing is right."

Making excuses for the behavior and erratic play of wide receiver Braylon Edwards doesn't help Savage's cause or shrinking credibility with a growing number of fans.

"The fact he's gotten a boat load of money and he's a Michigan Wolverine playing in an Ohio State town, I think he realizes that some of the things that happened this year were mistakes," Savage told reporters.

But if that Wolverine had run more disciplined routes, not dropped passes, not shown up a teammate during a game, not called out another teammate days before another game and put the team ahead of his personal wishes, playing with a boat load of money in an Ohio State town probably would not have been a factor.

Browns fans are very accepting of players – even Michigan Wolverines – who live up to or exceed their expectations. It doesn't take much. All you have to do is look how they have taken to Kamerion Wimbley.

The Savage credibility took another hit when he evaluated nose tackle Ted Washington thusly: "People have talked about Ted Washington. Really, when you go back and look at the tapes, Ted had a pretty consistent year. . . I don't think we were discouraged at all with what he did."

Pretty consistent year? Sure. Consistently bad.

The Browns brought Washington in here as a run stuffer. Shutting down the opposing teams' running game was the prime reason he was signed. The only thing he stuffed, it would appear, was something other than the opposition's running game.

In 2005, the Browns surrendered 2,202 yards on the ground. With the "consistent" Ted Washington in the middle in 2006, the Browns gave up 2,275 yards on the ground, an average of 142 a game.

Not discouraged with what Washington did? Savage has managed to redefine the word and, at the same time, lowered the bar.

One more credibility issue with Savage. Asked who was making the decisions on the coaching staff, he said, "Romeo is responsible for the coaching staff. Do I have some input or suggestions? Absolutely. Does he have input or suggestions to make when it comes to personnel, free agents or the draft? Absolutely. It's his coaching staff just like it's my scouting staff. . . . Romeo is in charge of his coaching staff."

If that's the case, why was large and in charge Romeo reportedly told that if he didn't make changes to his staff on offense, he might as well clean out his desk and update his resume? Those reports were not disputed.

In the overall scheme of things, it appears as though Savage is laboring under the notion that 2007 can't be any worse than 2006. Don't bet on it with Crennel back.

After all, who figured 2006 would be worse than 2005?

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