BEREA, Ohio - Butch Davis sat stoically between Cleveland Browns owner Al Lerner and president and CEO Carmen Policy while the Browns brass delivered a litany of praise about the defensive-minded coach they officially hired yesterday.
Even though the Browns expressed a week earlier they were no longer pursuing a college coach to fill their coaching vacancy, Policy said the University of Miami coach was always considered their “No. 1” choice as Chris Palmer's replacement. Yet, a deal with Davis wasn't finally struck until late Sunday.
Lerner sees the post Super Bowl XXXV hiring of Davis as a case of better late than never.
“He is the best example of the complete package,” Lerner said at a news conference at the Browns' training center. “His background, his experience and his resume speak for themselves.”
Davis, 49, has 28 years of experience, including stints as an assistant at Oklahoma State (1979-82), the University of Miami (1986-88) and the Dallas Cowboys (1989-94) before taking over a Hurricanes program in turmoil and under NCAA sanctions in 1995. He posted five winning seasons in six years at Miami, including an 11-1 record last season that resulted in the Hurricanes finishing No. 2 in the nation.
Davis reportedly agreed to a contract worth $15 million over five years, which makes him one of the highest paid coaches in the NFL. The deal more than doubles what he was expected to earn had he agreed to a contract extension at Miami. He reportedly earned $900,000 last year.
Policy believes Davis, who becomes the 10th head coach in Browns history, will step in and get the Browns moving in the right direction.
“Any organization plays off of the strengths and personality of its leader,” Policy said. “Butch Davis is the leader of the Cleveland Browns football team and I think that these young athletes are definitely going to be a reflection of the man you see seated in front of you.”
Davis has been a winner. He led Miami to a 51-20 record during six seasons, including a 4-0 mark in bowl games. He's been a member of coaching staffs that have won national championships and Super Bowls.
He takes over a team that has won a total of five games the past two seasons.
“It's an extremely exciting day,” Davis said. “I'm thrilled to death and very honored that Mr. Lerner and Carmen had enough faith in me and trust me to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
“It's a great opportunity. It's truly one of the most dynamic organizations in all of professional football.”
Recognizing there's plenty of work to be done to turn the Browns around, Davis isn't predicting quick fixes. Nevertheless, he's leaving the Florida sunshine believing brighter days are ahead for the Browns.
“We want to compete,” Davis said. “I want to put us in position to think that we've got a chance every single Sunday.”
His optimism for improving last season's 3-13 showing is based on believing there's talent on the roster and knowing the Browns own the No. 3 pick in the upcoming draft. He likens quarterback Tim Couch to Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman, who led the Cowboys to three Super Bowls during the 1990s. He believes defensive end Courtney Brown is the real deal to anchor the defense.
The Browns were one of the worst offensive teams in the league last year and Davis intends to change that by employing more balance. At Miami, Davis said he utilized offensive schemes he learned over the years by studying the San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and the Washington Redskins during the Joe Gibbs era.
“I'm an imminent believer that you've got to be good in all areas,” Davis said. “Obviously my defensive background lends itself to the fact that I truly and passionately believe that you have to have a strong defense.”
Davis expects to have his coaching staff in place soon. He was expected to meet the assistant coaches presently under contract with the Browns last night. He's also expected to discuss the coaching positions with some of his Miami staff.
Davis feels ambivalent about his last-minute decision that surprised Miami players and supporters.
“There's not a good time ever to make a change, whether it's the beginning of the season, middle of the season, end of the season, or the summer time,” Davis said. “You just have to make the change when the change is right to make.
“That team will play and play well and it will be one of the most exciting and best teams in college football next year. They will replace Butch Davis.”
Sylvester Croom, who was offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions the last four seasons, was picked yesterday as running-backs coach for the Green Bay Packers.
Croom, 46, replaced Kippy Brown, who left to become head coach of the Memphis Maniax in the XFL.
Croom previously served as running-backs coach for the San Diego Chargers from 1992-96, and also served as an assistant with Tampa Bay and Indianapolis.