Coachwatch: Pre-Game Update
Randy Lerner and Butch Davis earlier in 2004

Posted Nov 21, 2004


The Browns take on the Jets today at 1PM, and your friendly web-mangler will be hanging where the media and team fear to tread: in the stands. While I fulfill a promise to my son to not "work" (heh) during a game, Butch Davis' job hinges on the quality of play. As usual, there will be a big gang o' dawgs in the chat room. Speculation continues to swirl around Browns head coach Butch Davis. Here's today's Coachwatch update...

 

11/21/04: The change in tone from the local media, which began in earnest following the loss to the Steelers, remains in full bloom prior to the game against the Jets. Most writers are rejecting any possibility for the 3-6 Browns to make the playoffs, and are instead making Davis' future with the team the focal point of reports and commentaries.

Lane Adkins has been reporting about conflicts between John Collins and Butch Davis for a while now in Ask the Insiders and Browns Uncensored chat. Reading between the lines of John Collins' remarks to the Northeast Ohio Celebrity Luncheon Club earlier this week, it's not hard to read a lack of enthusiasm for his head coach. 

At the luncheon, Collins mostly says the proper things, but pushes off questions about Davis' reign, saying simply that owner Randy Lerner is committed to winning and one shouldn't talk about such things in the middle of the season. The long-time Manhattanite turned Browns President talks about Lerner's being "a passionate fan, just like us". That's probably true, plus or minus a 90-minute plane flight, or a couple billion dollars here or there.

Elsewhere in the real media, the News-Herald's Hal Lebovitz speculates in his Sunday column (not on the web) that owner Randy Lerner is unlikely to dismiss Davis during the season, pokes at Davis' closing of practice, and gently criticizes the head coach's handling of comments made by Gerard Warren and Jeff Garcia. The Beacon-Journal's Marla Ridenour talks about Butch Davis being in "survival mode" and making CYA comments every other day to the press. In the "For What It's Worth" department, PD columnist Roger Brown says that "sources" are informing him that LSU Head Coach Nick Saban might be interested in the Browns head coaching job and that Butch Davis' Patton-esque rah-rah speeches are wearing thin. Inside sources*, by the way, tell me that Roger Brown has the sweetest gig on the planet. Newsday.com, like a bunch of other sites, talks about Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis as being two strong head coaching candidates.

*These sources are inside, in that they are voices inside my head. They tell me that other people have great jobs, and that I must seek revenge against all the dark, evil forces (and squirrels, oddly) which are out to get me. 


11/19/04: For what it's worth, Plain Dealer rumor-mongerer Roger Brown writes that the Browns are "already nosing around" and trying to determine if there's anything to rumors that Butch Davis is a candidate for jobs with Texas and North Carolina. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)


11/18/04: Offensive tackle Ross Verba appears to point fingers at his teammates by openly criticizing the play of the Browns offensive guards to the media. (Akron Beacon-Journal)

11/18/04: "The Owl", a source close to the team, writes in a column for BerniesInsiders.com that he sees signs of division and splintering within the club, despite protests that the team is circling the wagons. "The Owl" cites two unreported outbursts on the sidelines during the previous game against the Steelers. (Bernie's Insiders, subscriber-only)


11/17/04: Ryan Tucker tells reporters that he spoke with Randy Lerner prior to the Pittsburgh game, and that Lerner re-assured Tucker that Butch Davis would return to the team. “I talked to (owner) Randy (Lerner), and he (Davis) ain’t going nowhere,” Tucker said. “So everybody can relax about that deal.” (Bernie's Insiders)

11/16/04: Davis appears to accept the possibility of working with a General Manager according to a story published by the Akron Beacon-Journal. "Randy and have spoken many, many times, long before this season started about trying to do whatever it takes to enhance this organization in all facets. We've lost (several) executives, and we have not restaffed. That's something that will definitely happen. I welcome anybody that can help this team win.


11/15/04: In a chat on their web site, Plain Dealer Browns reporter Tony Grossi says that he feels that Davis "lost" the team due to an unreported incident in practice the week before, where DT Gerard Warren tore into Dave Campo and Davis failed to step up for his defensive coordinator.  (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

11/15/04: Davis, in talking to reporters for the first time after the loss to Pittsburgh, says that he is confident that he has Randy Lerner's support. He pushes away any talk of interest in college coaching jobs by saying "My entire purpose is to do everything humanly possible to build a team that wins a Super Bowl for the Cleveland fans and the Browns. That's my obsession." (Bernie's Insiders)

11/15/04: A change in tone is obvious among the local media after the Browns (3-6) lose to the Steelers, 24-10. The Canton Repository's Todd Porter leads the way, calling for Butch Davis to be dismissed. Others, such at the Plain Dealers Bud Shaw, are less severe but are sharply critical of Davis. This article summarizes and links the local media's commentary. (Bernie's Insiders)


11/14/04: The Browns lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-10. The Browns were clearly not competitive with the Steelers, particularly in the trenches, where the Browns offensive line was dominated and the team looked confused about how to handle the Steelers 3-4 defense. Following the game, Jeff Garcia (who was removed in the second half) was critical of the team's offensive strategy (Various)


11/13/04: The Texas Longhorns - and Head Coach Mack Brown - dodge a bullet as Texas comes back to beat Kansas, 27-23 (Inside Texas)


11/12/04: Peter King, on ESPN Radio, is asked about whether Scott Pioli might be a candidate for a General Manager position with the Browns. Matt, a Browns fan in Florida, let us know about King's thoughts via the Bernie's Insiders Tipline.

Peter King stated that he knew Pioli pretty well and that he "is not a Broadway or South Beach kind of guy" in that he doesn't want the limelight. Here is the really interesting quote though. King stated that "if Pioli is to leave the Patriots it is much more likely that it would be for the Cleveland Browns." He stated the following reasons for this:

  1. Pioli's familiarity with the organization as he got his start with the Browns in the early '90's where he worked under former Browns head coach and current Patriots head man Bill Belichick.
     
  2. Pioli's best friend is Indians GM Mark Shapiro.
     
  3. Ownership is stable and in place in Cleveland, which would allow Pioli to do his job without much, if any, interference.

     
  4. Pioli was fond of his time in Cleveland and admires the "passion of the fans."

King went on to say that if Pioli were hired in Cleveland he would likely hire one of the college coaches that he previously worked with in Cleveland, either LSU's Nick Saban or Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. He mentioned that current Patriots coordinators Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel were possibilities as well, but he felt one of the college guys would likely get the job. (Bernie's Insiders Tipline / ESPN Radio)

11/12/04: Don Banks, via CNN/SI, says that Randy Lerner "seems intent on pursuing Scott Pioli" to come to Cleveland as a General Manager. Banks echoes Lane Adkins thoughts about Davis going to Texas, quoting "NFL insiders", and echoes King's opinion that Pioli would take a job with the Browns rather than going to Miami. Banks also states that Kraft would want to block Pioli from leaving, but has no legal ability to do so. (CNN/SI)


11/9/04: Dave Wannstadt steps down as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, becoming the first NFL head coach to exit his position during the 2004 season. More will certainly follow in the months ahead. (Various)


10/31/04: In an interview with the Columbus Dispatch, Browns owner Randy Lerner did not come out and say that he would retain head coach Butch Davis, but offered his feelings that the team has improved: "I'm very satisfied with how he's doing," Lerner said. "He's working extremely hard, and I think the signs of what he was able to accomplish when he had the tools and the support are starting to reveal themselves in terms of the depth at many positions, certainly not all." (Columbus Dispatch, subscription-only)


10/21/04: Lane Adkins writes in Bernie's Insiders Magazine, and makes another reference in Browns Uncensored Chat, to his suspicion that Butch Davis will leave the Browns to head to the University of Texas in the short-term future if the head coaching position opens up. (BerniesInsiders.com)


4/7/04: Following the announcement that John Collins would replace Carmen Policy as president of the Browns, Lerner talked to reporters and was asked about Davis' status with the Browns. "I would not fire Butch right now under any circumstances," Lerner told reporters, "It makes absolutely no sense to me. I think Butch is a winner. (Canton Repository)


3/30/04: New England Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli was named NFL Executive of the Year, becoming the youngest executive ever to be given the award. (Washington Post)


1/23/04: Browns team owner Randy Lerner awards Butch Davis a two-year contract extension. The move is greeted with curiosity and skepticism from NFL insiders. (BerniesInsiders.com)


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