11/29/04 MORNING: Browns fans are likely still scratching their heads
to figure out what the 58-48 loss to the Bengals means relative to Butch Davis'
future. So is the media, it seems.
The Toledo Blade decided that the Browns "showed
plenty of life" and that Davis "delayed his exit". The Plain Dealer's Bill
doesn't seem to be able to figure out what it means. The Canton Repository's
Todd Porter, one of Davis' toughest critics over the last several months,
watched the same game and feels that it indicates that
Browns head coach has lost the team.
If Randy Lerner has reached the same conclusion as Porter, it would likely
mean that an interim head coach is in our very near future. In fact, Channel
19's Kendall Lewis is first to the gate with "sources" telling him that
Davis will be canned on Tuesday (thanks for the tip, Dave!). Keep in mind
that WOIO said this last week as well.
While the gang at the Plain Dealer and Akron Beacon-Journal don't seem to
have digested yesterday's activity yet (Terry Pluto talks about Kelly Holcomb
today, not Butch Davis), the PD offers a Davis quote that seems eerily familiar.
To me, at least, Davis saying "It's
tough to explain sometimes how bizarre our games can become" sounds a lot
like Chris Palmer despairing about a "runaway freight train", and probably
belongs in the same grouping of quotes from head coaches gripped by losing
streaks and the accompanying despair.
Elsewhere, the Canton Rep has a brief "Rumor Mill" item
something called the "News-Star". This is actually
the same story we linked and discussed in the 11/27 Coachwatch entry. It was
inaccurate then, and it's inaccurate now, other than the quotes from the LSU
The piling-on continues apace, however. The Orlando Sentinel today gives
Davis the "Pinocchio Award" for
something he said four years ago. Since meaningless awards are free to hand
out, we'll give the Sentinel today's "Kicking a Guy While He's Down Award".
On the Scott Pioli-watch, Browns fans noticed reports from local radio
station WKNR and FoxSports cue-card reader Howie Long about Scott Pioli staying
with the Patriots in New England. These reports actually originated with a story
yesterday which appeared on the annoying registration-obsessed Providence
Journal site. The Boston Herald repeats them this morning, without the frenzy to
get personal information, so
I recommend clicking this link to get the real info.
Basically, Pioli offered up a statement saying that "If I have my way, I will
be staying with the Patriots until the end of my agreement.".
To me, this doesn't mean a lot, although the Boston papers are reading it as
if Pioli just signed a new contract in blood. He didn't. If Pioli refuses a
meeting with the Browns after the season, then it's a story. For now, though,
Pioli's comments just take attention away from the Patriots' GM while they
continue their chase for another Super Bowl. Smart move by Pioli. Perhaps the
Browns should still make that call, eh?
11/28/04 MORNING: The Browns play the Bengals at 1PM, making this the calm
before the storm (if the Browns lose). Alternatively, this may be the calm
before the calm (if the Browns win).
There's lots of terrific stuff in the Sunday papers, as we get the bad taste
of bad journalism out of our mouths from earlier in the week. Hal Lebovitz (not
on the web) is particularly cranky about the inaccurate reports from ESPN, Fox
Sports, WKYC, and WOIO earlier in the week, saying that they have "egg on the
face", but will "wipe it off and enjoy the ratings".
Throughout the chaos earlier this week, BerniesInsiders.com urged caution
regarding accepting the reports, which later proved false. Our sources inside
Berea did not confirm them at any time.
Roger Brown tosses out Al Groh's name as a possibility for the Browns job
if/when Davis heads south. Not sure why Roger tossed that name out there other
than he thinks it makes sense.
The Plain Dealer's Tony Grossi offers, via the
PD's predictions page, a take that is getting increased acceptance in the
local media, namely that Randy Lerner and Butch Davis are involved in a "staredown"
regarding his future role with the team.
I've heard this a couple times over the past week, and have yet to see
anything other than speculation suggesting that there's anything to it. It's a
logical interference based on the $12 million that Davis would be owed as a
severance if fired, but there's been no evidence presented to back it up. If
there has been, I haven't seen it.
More logical, based on what I've heard, is what Lebovitz again presents this
morning via his column: Lerner is hoping that Davis can salvage his job based on
the remainder of the season. The Browns have taken a close look at the Eagles
and Patriots organizations as a possible model. One of the voices in Lerner's
ear is New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, and we hear that Kraft is a fan of
Elsewhere, some of the media is getting a bit vicious now that Davis is down.
The Houston Chronicle's John McClain offers his take that Davis is a
power-hungry control freak. Nice. The Plain Dealer's Bill Livingston, that
nabob of negativism,
offers that Davis is "doomed" and compares him to
Scheherazade of 1001 Arabian Nights, postponing execution with endless
macabre tales. Ugh.
Ponder this question. Would you take $12 million to have people savage you in
the press and then present your firing in loving detail?
Yeah, I would too. ;-)
11/27/04 MORNING: Things have calmed down just a tad in recent days,
following the damage control efforts of the Browns and the fortunate
intervention of the Thanksgiving holiday.
Peace and calm is dull, though, so leave it to the media to twist some things
around a little. We read
this little excerpt this morning:"Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis, who
reportedly will be fired after the season, said last week he is interested in
the Florida and LSU coaching jobs. Florida has an opening. LSU does not, at the
Erm, um. Uh... no. No, he didn't say that.
In fact, he said that he hadn't contacted anyone else. Of course, Davis said
that through the safe and cozy confines of the Browns spin-o-matic official
site, which didn't leave room for follow-up questions about whether any of his
buddies had inquired for him. But, be that as it may, Davis most certainly
hasn't said that he's interested in being anything other than the coach of the
Browns. In fact,
the Orlando Sentinel talks about the believability of said remarks.
Meanwhile, closer to home, the Browns beat writers
actually talked with Davis yesterday and found him in a more reflective mood
following the holiday, even going so far as to quote
philosophical mutterings of ex-Brown running back Ben Gay.
Meanwhile, Baltimore Ravens "consultant" Jim Fassel
ponders his next move. Stay tuned.
11/22/04 EVENING: Three media entities have published stories claiming
that Butch Davis is done as coach of the Cleveland Browns in the short or near
term. The Plain Dealer's Tony Grossi, according to
folks in the Watercooler, said in his chat earlier today that the Butch
Davis era in Cleveland was over and done with, and that it's mostly a matter of
"when". I've tried listening to the chat, and it crashes my browser, but it's
quoted pretty effectively in the Cooler thread. Later in the day,
tips on the
tipline started flowing in that Fox Sports Jay Glazer said on Sirius radio
that the decision has been made to fire Davis and that it would likely happen
before the end of the season. Later in the day,
Chris Mortenson of
ESPN offered more detail, saying that Davis was nearly fired on Sunday
night, but that his status is week-to-week. Thanks to the dawgs on the tipline
for bringing these reports to our attention.
One note of caution. When you start seeing these reports from national
columnists, it normally means that they have picked up the phone and talked to
someone who may have an axe to grind. No sources were named, only that they were
"league" and "team". While these sort of reports might make Davis' fate a
self-fulfilling prophecy due to the distraction they cause, we advise you not to
assume that they are a complete picture of the story behind closed doors.
11/22/04 MORNING: As the Browns losing streak hits four games, Davis' few
defenders in the media turn quiet and the vultures start circling a little
Local Media Continues to Bang on the Browns: Despite a weathered Butch
attempting to stay positive, the News-Herald's Jim Ingraham uses a rolled-up
bouncing off of empty seats as a metaphor for the Browns moribund state,
begging Randy Lerner to take action. Sheldon Ocker, filling in for a
vacationing Terry Pluto,
permanently assigns "embattled" as an adjective to describe the Browns head
coach. The Canton Repository's Todd Porter, who called for Davis' head last
week, can't even do it again, preferring just to
document the misery of Browns fans. Acerbic Plain Dealer columnist Bud Shaw,
part of the Cleveland colossus' cadre of grumpy old men,
piled on as expected. As of this overcast Cleveland Monday, the exit of
Davis from the Browns appears to be a fait accompli in the eyes of the
The Lerner Watch: According to
a contribution from Mark on the tipline, the Fox pre-game show on Sunday
reported that the Browns have already turned to a headhunter to attempt to
secure a general manager for the 2005 season. Scott Pioli is assumed to be at
the top of the Browns list, as he is highly regarded and will not require
compensation in the form of draft picks. BTW, we've learned that the pay-off
amount for Butch Davis if he is let go after the season is $12.5 million.
Elsewhere: Fox Sports reports that the Miami Dolphins have already
decided not to part with draft picks to land Denver's Mike Shanahan, and that
Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress is being pushed at Miami as a
possible new head coach. The Dolphins are also interested in LSU's Nick Saban,
who is presumably a candidate in Cleveland.
Despite Ron Zook's win against Florida State and a likely Peach Bowl bid, he
was fired four weeks ago and Urban Meyer
looks like the first guy in line to replace him, although Davis' name
continues to come up. Yesterday, Tony Grossi
named the obvious front-runners for a Browns GM job to be Ozzie Newsome and
Scott Pioli. With Newsome requiring either guilt for their thievery on the part
of Baltimore (yeah, right) or compensation in the form of draft picks, Pioli
looks like the top contender. Grossi doesn't mention Ravens' Phil Savage,
however, who wouldn't require compensation if he jumped to a GM job.
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.