Levine: Only Time Will Tell
Phil Savage speaks to the Cleveland media on January 7, 2005 (Barry McBride / BerniesInsiders.com)

Posted Jan 13, 2005

Les' takes on Phil Savage, the coaching search, and more...


Everywhere I go and every night on my television show, I am asked if the Browns made the right decision with their selection of Phil Savage as General Manager.  The answer is simple---nobody knows.  And we won’t know until the end of the next three or four seasons.

The choice certainly appears solid, but the questions are understandable.  After all, this decision is the biggest one that owner Randy Lerner has had to make.  His previous biggest decision, the extension of Butch Davis’ contract along with almost total control of the franchise, is already in the record books as a failure.  And President/CEO John Collins, who oversaw the signing of Kellen Winslow, Jr., has never really had to make a ‘football’ decision, yet he, ultimately will be responsible for the success or failure of Savage.

While Lerner and Collins have had the time to get a feel for their positions before making the important decision regarding a GM, Savage will not have the luxury of time before making the biggest decision of his career.  While all three men will come to a joint decision, ultimately the final say has to come from Savage.  And he’d better be right.  It is fair to say that it would be surprising if great success came to the Browns franchise in Savage’s first two years.  But three years is not out of the question.  Even at three years, 2007, that would mean almost twenty seasons of frustration, since the relative success of the 80’s, which ended with Bud Carson’s first year as head coach in 1989.  As I have pointed out in previous columns, there was one playoff appearance in the 90’s, and one in 2002, in addition to the three-year hiatus after the move to Baltimore.

That means there was one appearance in Bill Belichick’s five years, none in Chris Palmer’s two years, and one in Butch Davis’ four years.  The next coach has to do better than that, or Randy Lerner will be no better off than he is right now.  The franchise had to ‘rebuild’ in 1999, and again prior to 2005.  The thought of rebuilding again in 2008 or 2009 is something none of us needs to go through.

Unlike the selection of Phil Savage as General Manager, I don’t think there is a popular choice out there for the head coaching position.  Savage was probably in the top three picks of the fans and media (and football people), along with Scott Pioli and Ozzie Newsome.  But when the new coach is named, I would doubt that there will be rejoicing in the streets.  That is meaningless, by the way.  Say what you want about the lack of success of Butch Davis in his tenure here, but it seemed that there was unanimous support when he was introduced by then-owner Al Lerner and CEO Carmen Policy.

According to a knowledgeable source in the Browns organization, Butch Davis wanted to release Gerard Warren prior to the New York Jets game, but was talked out of it late at night.  According to the source, Davis threatened to take players out of the game if they committed senseless penalties or turnovers.  Players didn’t take kindly to this, and this source is convinced that a couple of players wanted to challenge Davis’ authority by going offsides on purpose to see what would happen.  On the first defensive play of that game, the Browns were called for an offsides penalty.   You be the judge.

‘More Sports & Les Levine’ can be seen M-F from 6-7pm with replays at 11pm on Adelphia Channel 15.  E-mail msandll@aol.com or www.leslevine.com

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