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Published: Tuesday, 12/7/2004

Brown likes Browns' future

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Jim Brown, perhaps the greatest running back in NFL history, says his old team will be fine under owner Randy Lerner, now that 'those San Francisco people' are gone. Jim Brown, perhaps the greatest running back in NFL history, says his old team will be fine under owner Randy Lerner, now that 'those San Francisco people' are gone.
JAMIE-ANDREA YANAK / AP Enlarge

CLEVELAND - What can Brown do for you?

UPS asks that question incessantly on its TV and radio commercials.

The Cleveland football team asked the same question on Sunday. Its answer was to trot out the greatest Brown of all time, Jim Brown, and hope it took the attention away from the not-so-great Browns of today.

It worked.

Jim Brown was stationed in the middle of the locker room after Sunday's 42-15 loss to the New England Patriots and, sure enough, the media saw him as a welcome option to the tried, true and tiresome quotes from players who continue to insist "We're playing hard," when most evidence is to the contrary.

The Hall-of-Fame running back made it clear that he is a fan of Browns owner Randy Lerner, calling him a "young man who will lead this resurgence."

And that resurgence, said Brown, will come from a return to business, Browns style, now that "those San Francisco people" are gone.

Actually, those San Francisco people, ex-president Carmen Policy and ex-general manager Dwight Clark, have been gone for awhile now.

But he makes a valid point in his insinuation that their actions live on in haunting the team, although one might have figured at the time, as did late Browns owner Al Lerner, that Policy's and Clark's affiliation with the 49ers should have qualified them to know a thing or two about building a Super Bowl contender.

In reality, the Policy-Clark team, in tandem with the team's scouts and its expansion coach, Chris Palmer, selected a total of 61 players in the 1999 expansion draft as well as the '99 and 2000 college drafts.

Only two of those 61, cornerback Daylon McCutcheon and receiver Dennis Northcutt, were in the starting lineup on Sunday. Another, defensive end Courtney Brown, is out for the season with an injury, and two others, tight end Aaron Shea and defensive back Lewis Sanders, are backups who see playing time.

So Butch Davis, who resigned last week after more than 3 1/2 years as coach with powers that extended to running the entire football operation, walked into an almost untenable situation and did nothing to make it better with some ill-fated draft picks and free-agent signings of his own.

Randy Lerner has stated that he will begin the rebuilding process by hiring a general manager to head the football operation and oversee the hiring of a new head coach.

Brown said he would like to see the general manager's job go to either Ozzie Newsome, the onetime star tight end for the Browns who is now the GM and executive vice president of player personnel for the Baltimore Ravens, or Phil Savage, Newsome's top lieutenant.

"I think Ozzie would be a great choice and he's a Cleveland Brown," Brown said. "And Phil has a great reputation."

With the season ongoing, NFL rules dictate that Lerner would need special permission from the Ravens, which he probably would not get, to discuss the job with either candidate, because they remain under contract with Baltimore.

Brown, however, indicated that he would open the dialogue. He said he is not under the same constraints "because I'm not employed by the Browns."

Cleveland has lost six straight games, four of them at home, to fall to 3-9. Only two NFL teams have worse records, and the Browns' situation may not improve much with three of their last four games on the road, beginning with Sunday's game against the resurgent Buffalo Bills.

So the new general manager, whoever he may be, will likely have a very high draft choice with which to begin the climb back.

Brown, however, doesn't feel it will be all that difficult a climb.

"It shouldn't take a lot of time, to be honest," he said. "There are a lot of fine players here."

Had he looked around the room, however, he would have seen only one great Brown.

And he'd have needed a mirror to find him.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:

dhack@theblade.com

or 419-724-6398



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