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Friday, April 18, 2014
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Published: 10/24/2001

Davis is reason for Browns' turnaround

Feel free to celebrate and swagger. You've earned the right.

The Cleveland Browns are one of the biggest surprises in the NFL, a feel-good story of immense proportions to their long-suffering fans.

And based on what we saw Sunday inside Cleveland Browns Stadium, after embarrassing the Baltimore Ravens 24-14, the Browns have the potential for a lot more improvement by season's end.

Butch Davis' Browns are sprinting in the right direction. They're getting better every week, and I'm starting to wonder what the Browns would look like if Davis wasn't the coach.

Frustrated by former coach Chris Palmer, the Browns looked to replace Palmer with something different.

Browns president Carmen Policy gave us exactly what we wanted.

Davis is a proven winner. He's immensely confident, positive and decisive. He promised to improve the offense and shore up the defense.

That promise, which Browns fans pleaded for, has helped turn a losing football team into a winner.

Sunday's win helped me reach two significant conclusions. First, the Browns, winners of four of their first six games after going 5-27 in two seasons under Palmer, are pretty darn good.

I never thought it possible that Cleveland could be in second place in the AFC Central after Week 6.

And, second, for all of the bad times this franchise has endured, Davis should be the leading candidate for NFL coach of the year.

If the Browns weren't any good, they wouldn't have beaten the Ravens last Sunday - or any other Sunday. If the Browns weren't any good, they wouldn't have taken advantage of the numerous opportunities Baltimore presented them.

The Browns are better than expected because their defense has been downright nasty despite the absence of defensive end Courtney Brown, knocking out two opposing quarterbacks in three weeks.

Davis' specialty is defense, and the Browns' defense is designed to make big plays. The Browns recorded seven sacks and two interceptions and recovered a fumble against the Ravens.

Davis, a former Dallas Cowboys assistant coach when Troy Aikman was quarterback there, watched Browns QB Tim Couch perform a re-enactment of Aikman's finest moments in executing a ball-control offense against the Ravens.

Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians co-starred as Ernie Zampese, Aikman's coordinator in Dallas - putting Couch in position to make plays. And receiver Kevin Johnson was an excellent stand-in for former Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin.

When Davis left the University of Miami for the Browns, he wasn't planning a major rebuilding job lasting three or four years.

Cleveland was 4-12 a year ago. Before the season started, I wondered if Davis was prepared for the challenge. I predicted five or six wins would be a great year.

Davis put his credibility on the line. He told his players they could reach the playoffs - this year.

He signed and drafted defensive help. He added running backs, receivers and offensive linemen.

And now the Browns believe.

John Harris is a Blade sports columnist. E-mail him at jharris@theblade.com.



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