Davis Demolishes the D

The Owl has returned from the dark places he flies to, and has found that much has changed in his absence. What does the mysterious Owl think of the changes? Find out as Bernie's Insiders newest Insider offers up his takes on Butch Davis' latest moves.

So the Owl flies off to the Bahamas for a couple weeks of sunshine, gambling and babes, and what does he find when he gets back?

A defense so torn apart the one that takes the field for the 2003 opener will barely resemble the one the Steelers stampeded in the playoffs.

That could be a good thing.

Weren't we shaking our heads all of 2002 about how the defense couldn't stop the run for the fourth straight year? And didn't we see signs in 2001 that the defense wasn't as good as 33 interceptions showed?

Dwayne Rudd is out of a job. No loss there. Yeah, he threw his helmet in the season opener and that cost the Browns a game. Chuck Connors, the Rifleman, starred in another television series. Old-timers probably remember "Branded." He was a cavalry soldier accused of deserting his troops and branded a coward. He spent a half hour every Sunday night trying to clear his name and usually did before the last commercial.

Rudd could have cleared his name for the helmet heave if he tackled anybody on a meaningful play after that ego-induced incident, but he did not. Good riddance.

Next we take a look at Earl Holmes. The Owl says dumping Rudd was the right thing to do. He has reservations about the Holmes decision. Holmes saved two games with goal line stands against Cincinnati and Atlanta. Without him, the Browns don't sniff the playoffs.

Hey, no one ever said Holmes was Dick Butkus. If he were a great player, another team would have signed him before the Browns did. He did lead the team in tackles.

Next to walk the plank was left cornerback Corey Fuller. Fuller is sneaky good. He signed with the Baltimore Ravens about a week after the Browns cut him. Baltimore boss Brian Billick knew Fuller from when they were together in Minnesota.

Billick does not plan to use Fuller as a cornerback. Instead, Fuller will play free safety for Art Modell. The Browns need a free safety. They need Fuller's leadership.

The Browns are a team without a leader. Jamir Miller could be that leader, but Butch Davis would be dumb with a capital D to give Miller a long-term contract with a huge signing bonus.

The Browns were not eager to give Miller a new contract after Miller racked up 13 sacks in 2001. What would make Miller or his chubby agent, Leigh Steinberg, think the Browns want to throw big money in Miller's hands when Miller is attempting to come back from an Achilles tendon tear? Buy any dot.com stock lately, Mr. Steinberg?

Steinberg says four teams have called showing interest in Miller. Time to whip out the old cell phone and set up some visits, old pal.

Last but not least, is Dave Wohlabaugh. Not good enough to play center for the Browns, but good enough to play for the St. Louis Rams, Davis started making plans to dump Wohlabaugh last spring when he drafted Melvin Fowler.

Everybody seems to think Fowler will automatically take over at center. He should be rested since he spent most of the season on the inactive list.

Not so fast, says the Owl. Qasim Mitchell is in the Browns plans for 2003. So why not put Mitchell at right guard, leave Barry Stokes at left guard and let Fowler and Shaun O'Hara battle it out for starting center? The Browns need a push up the middle from one of those guys.

Mark Campbell was traded to the Buffalo Bills for a conditional draft choice in 2004. Yeah, Campbell wasn't Ozzie Newsome. Neither is Darnell Sanders, Aaron Shea or Steve Heiden.

Not included in the group the Browns willingly, albeit grudgingly, gave away, was long snapper Ryan Kuehl. Kuehl signed with the Giants because Butch Davis did not want to get into a bidding war for the player Davis said is the best long snapper in the league.

If Chris Gardocki has a punt blocked for the first time in his career next fall - Yo, Joe, Gardocki isn't automatic anymore - Davis might wish he upped the stakes.


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