Q&A with Butch Davis

Cleveland's coach comments on the Jets - Browns game and his former player, Santana Moss.

What are your thoughts on the Jet's offensive performance last week?


They obviously appeared to be very much in sync and very much in rhythm.  They used virtually everything that they had.  I'm sure they were very glad to get Curtis Martin back.  They have four really good running backs and they have used them all as full backs, and tailbacks.  So they have gotten that part of their game going and I am sure that missing him earlier in the year was certainly a struggle.  Loveranues Coles and Santana Moss and Chrebet are three really talented receivers.  They have a lot of weapons going now at one time. 


What do you think of your own pupil Mr. Moss?


Santana was a dynamic player for us in Miami.  He brought a lot of versatility.  A terrific kick returner, an explosive player with big-play capability not only in the passing game, but in reverses which they have used.  He just brings a lot of excitement.  He has a quick change of direction, good speed, good hands, and he is a very talented player.  They are not using him on PR right now.  Is that sort of a sigh of relief?  Are you surprised?


To be honest, I am not surprised considering the way that Chad ha been performing for them on KR and punts and stuff.  He has done a great job so that gives them two guys that are extremely talented.  And I know Santana has been nicked a little bit.  Whether it is their decision to protect him, or whether it is based on Chad's performance, you certainly can't say that Santana not being in there has hurt them.


What do you remember about recruiting Santana?


He had just about the most unproductive high school career for anybody with that much physical talent.  His team is a perennial state title contender.  They have one of the really fine administrations.  Great principal, great head football coach.  It is a great school.  They are always in the playoffs.  Their coach up there, Vince Lombardi would love this guy.  Woody Hayes.  They just run the ball, run the ball, maybe they will throw the ball, I don't know the exact statistics for Santana.  But they won the state championship his senior year and he couldn't have had more than 12 or 15 catches the entire season.  Because of that, he probably didn't get enormous attention that a lot of guys in south Florida get nationally.  But you could just see the explosion—the things he was doing for their track team, and the vertical jump.  He plays like a 6'1 player.  He was a great addition to our team. 


Did you get the chance to talk to Santana last year with him being hurt and everything?


I wish that I would have gotten the chance.  But not being in Miami as the same time as him all of those things.  He has a lot of really strong faith and he has a terrific family.  His mother and father are great people.  So he knows that when things are going the way that you would like for them to go, he has a lot of really good support.  You know that he will be fine. 


Do you see the team, especially the young players, growing as this season goes on?


I do.  The last two seasons we have been in a lot more close games than I can remember in a long long time.  I do see our football team growing.  We have been nicked up, and we were missing some players over the first half of the season.  We have played without Ryan Tucker for games and Kelly Holcomb for games, and a whole list of other guys.  In spite of that, I have noticed our football team making some strides in every single week.  When I went to Dallas in '89 on Jimmy Johnson's staff, and going back to Miami, the process appears to be slow but if you are internally looking at it and seeing the day to day progress of some of you rookie players, some of your young players, some of your second year players, you start to see the growth.  And they start to sense that there are some elements of the team that were shortcomings or struggles start to diminish to some extent.  Early in the season our receivers were playing very well, and they carried, to some extent, our offense.  Our defense at times has been somewhat inconsistent over the last couple of weeks.  We have started to rush the passer better, and so I see elements of the fact that we are definitely moving in the right direction. 


How, as head coach, do you keep the team's morale alive after all of the close losses?


It is a challenge.  One of the most important thing a head football coach can do is always bring that element of hope—the big picture vision of what we are trying to get accomplished.  And it is tough because everyone is so critical and sometimes expectations are so high. And players' expectations and coaches' expectations are every bit as high as the media.  When things don't go your way, you have to be able to define what is important, and what is minute, and what you should and shouldn't struggle with.  You get the players thinking about what they can accomplish better, and keep them working, and hopefully you have a football team with strong character and good leaders and they will stay in there and champion the messages.  Hopefully you will fight through it and come out with a victory and then build on top of that. 


Do you have to keep your own morale up?


Sure.  I think your faith plays an important role in what your true beliefs are.  And you have to keep reminding yourself that it is a process.  There is no quick fixes, there is no way to snap your fingers and make things that aren't there immediately materialize.  Going 1-15 in Dallas with Jimmy's staff in 1989 was a great learning experience for me as an assistant coach because it really challenged everything that you believed in fundamentally X and O wise, and as far as the way that you practice and the expectations that you have of players, the loyalty.  I told our team that during times of frustration and difficulty, sometimes builds character, but it also sometimes reveals character.  When you are going through tough times you hang in there and you stay together and hopefully things will turn. 


Where is Tim Couch's head now after that whole thing with the home fans?


I think he has moved past it.  I think there were certainly a couple of days where it was very difficult and I know he was frustrated, I know he was angry that the fans would take that kind of shot at him.  You go the week before being the NFL's offensive player of the week, and completing 36 of 50 passes for three TD's and lead the team to a dramatic come from behind win, you are the toast of the town, the hero and the next week they are booing.  Unfortunately is part of life in the NFL.  It is a media-gratification, microwave generation and everybody wants it perfect all of the time.  I think he was able to process that, and certainly last week there was no evidence of that.  A big thing too was the support that he got from his teammates and we had voted for team captains, the players voted him as one of our offensive captains.  All of those things were positive things for him and then he played well last week. 


What type of pro do you think Santana can be in the long run?


I think he will always be a good pro because of his versatility and the things that he can do.  He has the capability to stretch the field with the speed he's got.  He had courage and toughness, he can catch the ball over the middle, he can catch it on the short, quick run-after-the-catch type things.  I would envision, barring any injuries, he should be a 7-10, 11 year guy.  He is very durable and he works very hard in the weight room so you wouldn't suspect that injuries would bother him throughout his career. 


Was he really a walk on, or were you limited in scholarships so you had to come up with a  creative way to get him in there?


He was not a walk on.  He took a track scholarship.  After I had taken the job back in the fall of '95, about six months later when they found out that they were going to take 31 scholarships away from our football program over the next couple of years, self-imposed penalties, and all of those things that we had to go through, we had to figure out some creative ways because we had back to back recruiting classes where they were only going to allow us 13 one year and 12 the next year.  That was virtually half of what everyone else in the country was afforded.  If that was what we had to adhere to, this place is going to be horribly decimated because were not only losing a lot of fine players, we were also losing a lot of the high-profile players going out early.  Ray Lewis left early, Canard Lang, Jermaine Mack, we just had a whole bunch of players that left early.  Edgerrin James left early.  So in the midst of trying to rebuild, your best players are leaving early and you can't bring anybody in.  We sat down and said "let's see if there are guys that we can maybe be in on track scholarships so after they are in the program for a year, flip them into football scholarships as they become available.  The school said that was okay, but you can't phony up any players.  You couldn't go get a 6'5, 275 lbs. OT and tell everyone that he was the state 100 meter dash champion.  They had to legitimately do things.  So we signed a player fist who was the state discus and shotput champion in Texas, and Santana was a long jump, triple jump, sprinter who ran on relays.  Historically, Miami had also had a lot of football players—anywhere from 15-18—who would legitimately run track.  And they had won the Big East indoor or outdoor, and really contributed significantly to the track program.  We got Gonzales, who is on our team here, who came on an academic scholarship.  He turned down the chance to go to Harvard and some places football-wise.  Fortunately because of the unselfishness of some of those guys were able to whether some of the storm.  


He is not a track guy playing football?


He is a football player that can run track. 


How healthy does your secondary look to go up against Santana?


That is a legitimate concern because of the quality of the receivers.  We won't know until the week goes along and see our guys practice, and get some treatment.  The players were off yesterday and they came back from meetings this morning.  So they have had 48 hours from Monday and Tuesday to have some recovery time and do some rehabilitation and get some therapy.  As the week goes along we will have a little better idea of the status of your secondary.  We did make one move on Monday we released a DL Mark Smith to move Ray Walls from our practice squad up for insurance and to help on special teams.

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