Passan: Randy, Listen to Me...

With the Browns sinking, eyes now turn to their owner to decide what path the team will take in the near future. Rich Passan makes a plea to Randy Lerner to take the right next steps with the Browns organization...

Memo (rather lengthy) to Randy Lerner . . .

You said recently that you will not evaluate the 2008 season until January. Don't wait. If you don't know what you have now, you never will.

You've got two eyes just like the rest of us. You see what's going on. You see the losing. You see the way your Browns lose. You see the fans' unrest and anger. You see the empty seats.

It seems as though your style is to hire the people, stand back and let them do their jobs. Give them enough rope, so to speak, to either hang themselves or prove their worth. After four years with Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage, the results should be obvious.

You don't have to wait until next month to realize something has to be done to right a franchise headed in the wrong direction.

You don't need until next month to evaluate the performance of Crennel. The way the players perform for him is all the evidence you need to put an ex in front of his current job title and allow him to continue his career elsewhere.

All you have to do is take note of the way your team has performed for Crennel in the last three games. No touchdowns in that period after Sunday's meek and weak effort against Tennessee. The last – and only other – time that has happened in the long and mostly illustrious history of your club was the 2000 season (one year removed from expansion status) when it went three games and two quarters without scoring a TD.

And they've gone the last 18 quarters without a touchdown through the air. Of the last 50 points scored by your team, Phil Dawson's right foot has accounted for 38. In Sunday's loss to Tennessee, your team created three turnovers in Titans territory and turned them into just six points. If not for a 56-yard field goal by Dawson against Buffalo, your team would own a six-game losing streak today.

Their ineptitude on offense is a disgrace to the uniform.

You also don't need a coach who punts on fourth-and-1 from his 24-yard line with nine minutes left in the game and trailing by 12 points as he did in the Tennessee loss. Or who calls a timeout with less than less two minutes left in the game when down, 28-9, and the Titans on the Cleveland 10. That's not the kind of thinking you should get from your head coach. You deserve better. So do the fans.

That 10-6 record last season? Your Browns did not win all those games because of Crennel. They won in spite of him. If it hadn't been for the offense, an area he was smart enough to keeps his hands off of, 10-6 would never have happened.

When seeking his replacement, don't be blinded by Super Bowl rings. Look for someone who is smart, thinks quickly on his feet, is innovative and has a love affair with common sense. Look for someone who quietly exudes "winner" when he speaks.

There are plenty of good candidates out there. Certainly far better than your current head coach. No sense in getting into names. I'm certain your people will furnish you with an appropriate list. The right names will be on that list.

You've got a lot of work to do. The sooner, the better.

This time, though, get it right because you sure blew it with Crennel. Then you compounded that mistake by extending his contract earlier this year. Somehow, however, I think you've already made that decision and we'll see a new head coach next season.

If you're as smart as I think you are, you've made up your mind and will act on Crennel and possibly Savage as soon as the day after the season-ending loss in Pittsburgh. I wouldn't be surprised if you've already laid the groundwork.

If you're smart, you won't wait until it's too late to make plans for next season. You'll be ready to hit the ground running with your new front office by no later than early February.

Ultimately, I'd like to think you'll bring in a coach who will change the culture of your franchise. Give it some direction.

Right now, your club is at a crossroads. It has the personnel to compete, but needs the right coach to mine their talents. Bring in a man who will develop a system that finally steers your team to the right path and maximizes those talents. You might want to start with a coach who espouses aggressive play on both sides of the ball. Passive football does not work.

Now Savage is an entirely different matter. And I think there is where you might be a little conflicted when evaluating him. You're not certain if 2007 was the real thing or an aberration, considering how the club has performed this season. That's understandable.

There is no question this is a better team than when Savage assumed control in 2005. The talent base and core are stronger. From a personnel standpoint, he accumulates points.

He's correct when he tells you this is a better team than its record. What he says obliquely – also correctly – is that this team has not been well coached and has underachieved. And yet, he resolutely backed his coach publicly until his radio gig around Thanksgiving when he all but trashed him.

The general manager's job, however, is more than scouting, drafting and being responsible for the 53-man roster. And Savage seems ill suited for handling the added responsibilities.

As an administrator, he has a lot to learn about dealing with off-the-field issues and points are deducted. As the point man for your football people, his performance in that area has been disappointing. As a result, your front office has been labeled dysfunctional. It's hard to argue otherwise.

Your general manager is a loose cannon; a man perceived as out of control at times. A very good scout to be sure, but a shaky, at best, administrator. What other general manager would publicly criticize his coach? Stuff like that should be handled behind closed doors. He was correct in assessing Crennel, but wrong to hang him out in public.

His handling of the Kellen Winslow Jr.-staph infection episode was abysmal, especially when he strongly and incorrectly suggested there was more to the case than staph. He embarrassed his player, himself and you.

And his profane e-mail to that fan after the Buffalo victory was a disgrace that reflected poorly not only on the Browns, but the city of Cleveland and the National Football League. Those acts cannot not be dismissed idly.

In that regard, Savage is not fit to be a GM. He does not represent your club well. That's an important part of his job.

He needs to scout. That's what he does best. And if he won't subjugate himself and do that for you, he needs to be cashiered.

He wants control of the 53-man roster. That's the biggest reason, he says, he took this job. But the job entails more than controlling the roster and that's something he hasn't grasped yet.

I'm thinking Savage remains in place only if you can't convince Bill Cowher to leave CBS television and take over the entire program. And there's no guarantee your open wallet would be the deciding factor.

The guess here is that the only way Cowher agrees to come back to Cleveland is if he is offered a slice of the ownership pie.

You also need a president who knows a lot about the game; someone who can sit on Savage, should you choose to keep him, and rein him in when he threatens to spiral out of control. Such a man would have prevented the Winslow and e-mail incidents.

The business end of your operation does not need a president. It can be handled by a vice president. The focal point should be on the football end. After all, isn't that why you're in this business?

I'm finished. Hopefully you're just getting started.


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