Passan: An Open Letter to Phil Savage

Rich Passan pens an open letter to Cleveland Browns GM Phil Savage. The gap between what the fans see and what the team see, Rich argues, appears to be enormous. Doubt is growing...

An open letter to Browns General Manager Phil Savage . . .

The unwavering optimism you displayed toward your football team in your most recent state-of-the-team address to the media is admirable. Understandable, too.

But you also have to understand one very important aspect of your sanguine assessment of the first four games.

A lot of fans aren't buying it. More than you think. More than what would be considered a small minority. And they're vocal. Very vocal.

That's because they see the warts and blemishes you gloss over in some cases or choose to ignore completely in other cases. In very uncharacteristic fashion, the fans have landed on the side of pessimism, or, as I see it, reality.

They see Derek Anderson struggling like a rookie at quarterback. Certainly you can see that. The fans can't understand why you're so rigid in your support of Anderson when it is so apparent he's not the same guy who led the Browns to a 10-6 record last season. He's not even close. I don't know if he's hurt, but he's not throwing like he did in 2007. The gunslinger has turned into a dump-off artist.

They see the offensive line performing at a level well below last season. Going into training camp, it was considered one of the top five units in the National Football League by many pro football experts. It hasn't come even close to playing at that level.

They see Braylon Edwards dropping all those passes and rounding off his routes and committing those stupid penalties. This isn't the same guy who averaged a touchdown pass a game last season and went to the Pro Bowl.

They see Jamal Lewis two-step his way toward sizable holes the offensive line gives him on occasion only to see them close by the time he arrives. He's not the same guy who ran for more than 1,300 yards last season.

They see Jerome Harrison languishing on the bench. All he does is make plays when he's in there. Strange reward for being successful, don't you think? He truly is The Ghost.

They see Donte' Stallworth go down with the mother of all quadricep pulls while warming up for the season opener and then shake their heads while the club coddles him. Is it any wonder Stallworth's new nickname is Dainty?

They see Romeo Crennel absolutely mangle time management game after game. And call for field goals where touchdowns are needed. And look befuddled much more often than he should during games. This team does not play smart football. Fans worry about things like that. Shouldn't you?

They see Rob Chudzinski pull a Bob Newhart and button down one of the NFL's most potent and entertaining offenses last season.

They see a defense that has trouble getting acquainted in an unfriendly way with opposing quarterbacks. It's a defense that doesn't create many turnovers, although the four against Cincinnati temporarily refutes that notion. But that was against the, ahem, 0-5 Bengals.

They see Kamerion Wimbley play outside linebacker like a rookie although he's in his third season. Isn't it about time to admit he's a defensive end playing out of position?

They see a team that shows up in the first quarter of games as though they haven't practiced all week. There's a lack of urgency that concerns a lot of people.

They see all that and they don't like it at all. Not one bit. Can you understand their concern? Can you understand why they are beginning to have doubts about you?

When you say, "There hasn't been any thought of really changing quarterbacks, changing the coach or anything like that because that is not the thing to do at this juncture in the season," they are baffled because they are not blind to the many broken parts of this team in need of repair.

And when you say, "As I've said, I think (Anderson) deserves the right to build off what was done last year," certainly you can understand they think four games is plenty of time to prove that last year was not a fluke.

But when you say, "I am not going to sit here and grade coaches or players a quarter of the way through the year, but I think with some of the things that have happened, Romeo is going to be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow whether we're 0-3 or 10-3, it doesn't matter," that really ticks them off, probably because a majority of the minority want to see Crennel gone.

When you talk like that, your words ring hollow with angry fans. They understand the PR value of those words, but have a tough time swallowing them. These are loyal fans who share the high expectations you had for this club this season and have chosen to vent their frustration in loud, angry and sometimes very mean ways.

Look, Phil, this club is not OK. It is in trouble. If you don't believe so, take a peek at the schedule the next five weeks. That'll snap you back to reality.

Your team, with one notable exception, plays soft. That's not to mean they are soft. They just play that way. Cleveland Browns physical football is an oxymoron.

They need to arrive at games with an attitude, with a swagger, with a mean streak They need to be the punchers, not the punchees. They need to play with large chips on their shoulders.

What your team needs are players like Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu, Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Tough guys who bring a truculent demeanor onto the field. Guys who inspire teammates to play well beyond their talents. They are players and playmakers. They lead. That's what your Browns lack.

Fans on this Web site speak in disparaging terms when discussing these players. Probably out of jealousy because all they do is succeed.

The only guy who fits that mold for you is Kellen Winslow Jr. Alex Hall, from early indications, could also be one. Winslow cares, but he can't do it alone. If you had about five or six other guys like him, you might be on to something.

You pointed to the Cincinnati victory and called it "the most complete game we have played" this season. Considering it was the Bengals, that's not saying much.

You added, "I think we do have some positive energy going forward." Against the New York Giants Monday night at CBS? Have you seen them play recently?

The bloom has fallen off your rose after three and a half years, Phil. A lot of fans have become highly suspicious of the words you utter these days and have lost faith in what you're trying to accomplish.

Like you, they want results. But unlike you, they're not nearly as hopeful.

And that's too bad.


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