Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The plan is the first step

My 2-year-old niece visited this weekend. She is in the midst of that age-old right of passage called potty training. So it was a big moment when she came downstairs with “Gamma” and announced she had completed number one on the big potty.
She received a standing ovation from the family and a reward of M&M’s for what is essentially an every day necessity.
It would not be that far of a stretch to go from poop to, as my father will forever call them, the New Browns’ draft history.
Much has been made that the Browns have not drafted a Pro Bowler since their return. It goes much deeper than that — they didn’t even get that many football players.
Sure, the Browns’ first three number one picks, all of which were top three overall, are gone from the team. That alone is shocking and disappointing, but let’s take an even deeper look into just how inept Dwight Clark and Butch Davis were in the draft. The Browns had 32 picks in the 1999, 2000 and 2001 drafts. Only FOUR players remain on the roster: Daylon McCutcheon (3rd, ’99), Dennis Northcutt (2nd,’00), Aaron Shea (5th,’00) and Michael Jameson (6th,’01).
Only McCutcheon is projected to be a starter next season. In fact, only seven players (if that) from the Browns first six drafts are projected starters this season. Not a good ratio.
WTAM radio host Kevin Keane was fond of saying “In Butch we trust.” What he meant was we really had no choice but to believe Butch knew what he was doing. It turns out, he didn’t. So, do Browns fans really have any choice but to pick up the mantra of “In Phil we trust?”
Phil Savage was brought on board because of his reputation in evaluating talent. On day one of the draft, he resisted temptation and trusted the scouting system he put in place. In the first round, he took the top player on his board in Michigan’s Braylon Edwards. In the second round, he took the highest remaining player on his board in Oklahoma safety Brodney Poole, regardless that the position seemed one of the team’s strengths. In the third round, he found the value he wanted in Akron quarterback Charlie Frye.
Savage has talked repeatedly about not having to hit a home run in the draft but just piling up the singles and doubles. He found a coach in Romeo Crennel who shares the same school of thought. Together, and with their staffs, they did the work and then trusted they made the right decisions. Savage had a plan and he followed it.
Every team loves their draft the week it happens. The proof doesn’t show up until the season begins and sometimes, not for years after. But the national NFL experts were impressed by the Browns’ efforts on the draft’s first day. Both ESPN’s Mark Clayton and Yahoo’s Charles Robinson had the Browns on their lists of day one winners.
Wisely, Savage has repeated his message that the team can’t be fixed in one off-season. It would seem he is attacking the team’s weaknesses in the right place with the acquisitions of guards Cosey Coleman and Joe Andruzzi, defensive backs Gary Baxter and Brian Russell and defensive tackle Jason Fisk. Savage traded for a 1,000-yard rusher in Reuben Droughns and found a veteran quarterback in Trent Dilfer who won’t disrupt team unity but will be a true leader. Dilfer knows he is meant as a transitional quarterback. He won’t shy away from tutoring Frye and Josh Harris.
The roster has been upgraded. Our top two picks from last year were injured and are bonus additions which will enhance this year’s draft. Day two of the draft, the Browns drafted four defenders and an offensive lineman. It is here where a year from now we will discover if Savage’s reputation is well deserved. You would hope we can get two starters from this year’s entire draft plus some special teams players who can build the depth of the team.
Will all of Savage’s moves work? Of course not. But it is essential that you have a plan and then be committed to making that plan work.
If I just took away my niece’s diapers and told her I will buy her a car if she masters the use of the toilet — I don’t think that would get the job done. There has to be a plan and then there has to be the patience to see it through so that one day she will be a functioning, normal, well-adjusted person. Of course, I leave those details up to my sister and her husband as I am going nowhere near her diapers.
So it is with the Browns. We have no choice but to trust in Phil and his plan. And for that he deserves some M&M’s.