Monday, February 26, 2001

Browns coach has big goals

Running back among priorities for Davis

By Mark Curnutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDIANAPOLIS — While the Bengals often talk about being competitive, Butch Davis — the Browns' new coach — is selling playoffs and Super Bowl to his players.

        “We're going to present a program to them that we think they will be excited about, that gives them the optimism that we're going to be in the playoffs sometime in the near future and that we're going to play in the Super Bowl some time before they get out of there,” Davis said at the NFL's annual scouting combine.

        Davis was named Browns coach Jan.30, and has wasted no time putting his stamp on one of the league's most popular franchises. His presence alone has raised expectations.

        Cleveland is 5-27 in its first two seasons as an expansion team, and the former University of Miami head coach liked some of what he saw on film in 2000. Most of it, however, he didn't.

        “They were 3-13 for a reason,” Davis said. “We're going to address everything. There is no quick fix.”

        Davis, who led the Hurricanes to an 11-1 record and a No.2 national ranking, turned the Miami program around. He'll have a similar challenge in Cleveland.

        He was 51-20 in six seasons in Miami, taking over after NCAA sanctions had reduced available scholarships. He'd like to infuse the Browns with some of the talent he assembled in Miami.

        “I'd like to sign about nine of them as free agents today; we'd get better in a hurry,” said Davis, who was defensive line coach and defensive coordinator in Dallas when the Cowboys won Super Bowls in 1992 and '93.

        The cupboard is not bare in Cleveland.

        “I'm very excited about Tim Couch, Courtney Brown and Daylon McCutcheon,” Davis said. “There are some guys we've looked at on film and think they're good players. Dave Wohlabaugh, the center, we feel strongly about. There are some other good players. It's not that they're totally void.”

        Davis plans to fill holes with a combination of draft choices and veteran free agents. Top on Cleveland's needs list is running back, and reports out of northern Ohio say the Browns are interested in signing the Bengals' Corey Dillon.

        “We're looking at everybody,” Davis said when asked about Dillon. “We're going to look at every avenue to upgrade our talent level.”

        Does that mean he wouldn't want to sign Dillon?

        “I didn't say there was any hesitancy,” Davis said. “I just said we haven't decided what direction we're going to go.”

        Dillon, who will become a free agent Friday, rejected what his former agents say was a $60 million, eight-year offer from the Bengals.

        But Dillon might not be the right player for Davis. Dillon, although a punishing runner who developed break-away speed, doesn't play on third down because he is not a good receiver and has been indifferent about blocking.

        “You want the complete guy,” Davis said of his running back prototype. “We want somebody you don't have to take out of the game. Ideally, you don't want to do running-back-by-committee. You want Edgerrin James, Emmitt Smith.”

        Davis coached James at UM, and Davis was on the Dallas staff in Smith's heyday.

        A former Hurricanes player, Dan Morgan, one of the top linebackers in the draft, liked playing for Davis.

        “He's a great leader,” Morgan said Sunday. “He's a person you want to go into battle for.”

        Davis handled the pressure of restoring one of college football's top programs. And he appears ready to restore the winning tradition in Cleveland. The grace period for the new Browns appears to be over.

        “One thing that is blatantly apparent is they are passionate about the Cleveland Browns,” he said. “The fans have college enthusiasm for the Cleveland Browns. You go in about any place, grocery stores and gas stations, and people are wearing Cleveland Browns (clothing) and are talking about the Cleveland Browns in the dead of the winter.

        “And obviously they want to get the franchise back to winning and back in the playoffs, and it means a lot to them. It's exciting. You want to be some place like that. I don't want to be out on Thursday begging people to come to the stadium.”


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