Now that he has made the most important decision he probably will ever have
to make as owner of the Browns, Randy Lerner needs to do just one more thing.
Step back and let Phil Savage do the job he was hired to do as general
Lerner made the right choice in Savage. Now it’s time to step back and let
him pick a coach and redesign the team. He has a lot of work to do to clean up
the mess he inherited.
Do not interfere. Trust him.
Lerner and team President and CEO John Collins should not be interviewing
potential coaches now. They know nothing about picking coaches.
Savage has been exposed to Bill Belichick and Brian Billick, who have three
Super Bowl championships between them as head coaches. He knows what to look
for. He asks the right questions.
The only time Lerner should be a part of the process is after Savage makes
his choice. At that point, it’s only right that the owner sit down with Savage’s
choice and place the final stamp of approval before opening the vault.
Up to now, Lerner has shown a proclivity to stay in the background. He
As to the immediacy of finding a new coach, there is no hurry. Better to take
the time and get it right than to rush and perhaps pick the wrong guy. If it
means waiting until after the Super Bowl, so be it.
First, Savage has to determine what kind of coach he wants. Offensive-minded
or defensive-minded? A players’ coach or one with stronger ties to management?
Someone who has been around the block a time or two as a head coach or one who
has never headed a team but is ready to blossom?
On offense, does Savage favor a finesse game or one that spits in your eye?
On defense, does he like the aggressive or passive approach?
If he doesn’t change the Browns into a blue-collar, lunch-bucket team on both
sides of the ball, he is making a big mistake. This town exudes those qualities.
So should their pro football team.
The thinking in some quarters is that the coach should be part of the process
during the upcoming college All-Star games that showcase future pros. Nonsense.
The coach’s main job is to coach the talent he has been given.
It would be nice to have a coach in place for postseason scouting, but not
essential. Savage’s greatest strength is talent evaluation. It’s much more
important that he be at those games.
Then it will be up to him and the coach he selects to put together a strong
staff of assistants. And that aspect of his job should not be minimized.
One of the main reasons the San Diego Chargers turned the 2003 season inside
out and won the AFC West this season was the contribution of offensive line
coach Hudson Houck. Not one member of that line started in the same position as
last season and two are rookies.
Exception to the rule? Perhaps. But it proves that it can be done.
And Houck is available. His contract expired when the Chargers followed suit
in the first round of the playoffs. Open up the wallet and get after this guy.
First things first, though. The fun part right now is watching everyone
taking sides on whom they would like to succeed Butch Davis.
Will it be Romeo Crennel or Russ Grimm or Brad Childress or Jim Fassel or
Mike Nolan? Or maybe someone who hasn’t popped up on rumor radar.
Currently, Crennel has been anointed the front-runner. Not sure why. Maybe
it’s because he’s Belichick’s defensive coordinator in New England and wears two
Super Bowl rings.
This just in: Davis was Jimmy Johnson’s defensive coordinator when the Dallas Cowboys won Super Bowl XXVIII.
The job of coordinator is worlds different than that of head coach. The
responsibilities are much, much different. A lot of successful head coaches
coach their coaches and let the coaches coach the players.
Crennel, by the way, is also the same guy who ran the Browns’ defense in
2000. Remember that team? It surrendered 419 points. In any year with any team,
that’s way too many points. He sure turned smart in a hurry.
One intriguing name in the mix is Grimm. The Pittsburgh assistant has never
been a head coach. Never been a coordinator. A blue-collar guy with a matching
work ethic. Tough as the Steel City he works in. At 45, he is 12 years younger
than Crennel and from the generation of Lerner and Savage.
He’s also a native of western Pennsylvania. Cleveland owes Pittsburgh one in
the coaching department. The Steelers won four Super Bowls under coach Chuck
Noll, a native Clevelander.
A lot of people like Childress because he designs the Philadelphia Eagles’
offense. Rhetorical question: Why does Eagles coach Andy Reid run the offense on
Fassel, the only candidate with head coaching experience, would be a safe
choice because he would bring stability to the job. And right now, this team
needs stability big-time.
Nolan’s only plus is that Savage is familiar with the Baltimore Ravens’
defensive coordinator. But it might be a bigger plus than anyone realizes.
Terry Robiskie? Uh . . . no. It would be very surprising if Robiskie is here
next season, let alone as head coach.
X-factor: Mike Holmgren in Seattle. Once again, the Seahawks disappoint and
Holmgren’s lofty status as a genius takes another hit.
If the Seahawks choose to go in another direction and jettison Holmgren,
Lerner and Savage need to jump all over that in a Seattle second. Certainly
before the San Francisco 49ers lust for him. Holmgren would be a perfect fit
Yes, he is about the same age as Crennel. He’ll be 57 in June. The big
difference, however, is that Holmgren has been down this road before and knows
how to handle it.
One thing is certain. Whoever gets the nod from Savage, the pro football
picture in Cleveland is a lot brighter now than it has been in a long time.