Sunday Morning Browns
Speculation quickly arose surrounding the state of the Browns after the unfortunate passing this week of Al Lerner. Rumors persisted during the past week that the Browns may be sold, rumors that appear to have had some substance, to be all but true. From what we've been told, Randy Lerner, the son of Al Lerner, will run the team and there are no thoughts of selling. The financial stability provided by the Lerner family is expected to stay in place, although the cast of characters may change in the future. Some talk over the past months had Carmen Policy linked to a group which would purchase the Browns from the Lerner family, if selling was the direction the Lerner's were to go in. This isn't going to happen and Policy himself may not be in the picture too much longer. Some indications making it to Bernie's Insiders this week are that Policy may have a short time frame for continuing in his active position with the team. Some small talk when the Browns returned to Cleveland with Policy as a major front office influence was that Policy would maintain his position as President for a few years, maybe five, then pass the reins along to a readied member to carry on the growth and development of the team. Comments from Policy over the past few days seem to indicate that this time line may be on course. Another area of concern lies with the current head coach of the Browns, Butch Davis. Mr. Lerner was the driving force that brought Davis to Cleveland, he was the factor that lured Davis. Davis' utmost respect for Mr. Lerner ( and a 3-million dollar per season deal) are believed to be the reason that he left the University of Miami for the Browns job. There are indications that the professional football world of the NFL, the atmosphere in the pro game, and of course the Cleveland weather are not exactly what Davis for a long term future, sources close to the team tell Bernie's Insiders. Coming off a 7-9 season in 2001, the first year under head coach Butch Davis, the Browns appeared to be poised towards a run at respectability. Playing competitive football for almost the first time since their return to the league in 1999, the Browns headed by youth and enthusiasm were projected to be playoff contender heading into the 2002 season. How quickly times change. Struggling through the early portion of the 2002 season, the same Cleveland Browns are fighting injuries, inconsistency, and to some degree self-doubt. Leading up to the regular season, Davis spoke about the increased difficulty teams have improving upon a 7-9 record in comparison to a 3-13 record. From what we've been told, there is for the first time some doubt and serious disappointment within the ranks in the Browns training facility in Berea, Ohio. "Coach (Davis) expected the team to have their struggles, their growing pains this season. But, nobody in the organization expected this team to perform at the level that they have," the source said. "A lot of time has been spent revamping this roster, which is far from the roster that Davis wants. The play of the offensive line has been a sour point for Davis, as well as the extremely and surprisingly slow learning process displayed by first-round draft selection William Green. He (Davis) did not expect Green to step in here and set the world afire, but consistency and growth was expected." "The slow developing line is a major cause for concern. The run-blocking has been poor, resulting in many of the Browns opponents primarily attack the quarterback. When a team knows it can get to the quarterback with a three and four man defensive line, it spells trouble for any offense. For the first time, Davis has spoke of this team being shortly removed from expansion, rather than the positive, playoff contending team that he thought he had prior to the season." Onto That Game Plan: While offensive coordinator Bruce Arians receives the brunt of the Browns offensive woes from Browns fans, there is more to the story that meets the eye. Some have called the game plan utilized by the Browns as being unimaginative and predictable, those closer to the situation claim quite the opposite. "Much of the blame game falls squarely on the shoulders of Davis. Arians has to work within the structure that Davis allots, which is basically conservative and there is a reason for that conservative play," a team source tells this column. "Davis has a theory, control the game and minimize the possibility of mistakes. He does this because there is a strong feeling among the team that he does not have the confidence necessary to let players make plays. All the talk is that the team has all these weapons, but they are not utilized." "He (Davis) can talk all he wants about his thoughts on certain position players, but there are players in key positions on this team that are not leaders and the sentiment is growing that not all the best players are playing. Read into it what you want, but we have played terrible football on the offensive side of the ball for weeks, something has to give. It isn't the play-calling of Coach Arians, he wants to open things up and has called plays to do so. When you don't or can't execute consistently, there is a problem. Teams in this league are too damn good, they will capitalize and expose every weakness." The Quiet Storm Is Not in Season: A scout in the National Football League took a few moments to share his thoughts on the very quiet storm, Courtney Brown recently. "Brown is a physical specimen. He has all the tools, it really makes you wonder why he has not developed into the player that almost every scout believed he would be," the scout said. "Granted, he is playing against much better competition, but his game has not grown, actually he looks like he has regressed since his rookie and second seasons." "Watching him play, he appears sluggish off the ball and utilizes only about three moves, often engaging the offensive tackle, rather than work around or through him."
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