Browns Get Another No. 1 — Davis

Wednesday, January 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — The Cleveland Browns made yet another No. 1 pick, and this time they didn't have to worry about his arm strength or if he could stuff the run.

After selecting first in the past two NFL drafts, the Browns finally got to choose their No. 1 coach. And it was one they wanted all along.

Butch Davis, who has always been a favorite of Cleveland president Carmen Policy and was the Browns' preferred choice since firing Chris Palmer, was introduced Tuesday as the team's new head coach.

``It's always important to get your No. 1 choice,'' Policy said. ``When you are in a business that is highly, highly competitive, the slightest edge makes the difference between winning and losing, makes the difference between appearing smart and looking inept.

``When you are talking about a choice that will occupy the most important position in the organization, arriving home with No. 1 is huge.''

The 49-year-old Davis, who resigned at the University of Miami to get back into the NFL, will inherit a young team which went 3-13 last season and was overmatched almost every time it took the field.

Davis has rebuilt programs before, as an assistant in Dallas and later with the Hurricanes. So starting over with the Browns is nothing new.

``It's always going to be a challenge, and you know going into these things that there will be some tough times,'' Davis said. ``There will be some things that you have to overcome, but they are definitely doable. If you surround yourself with the right people and are committed to working hard, it will happen.''

And while Davis may have changed his mind about returning to the pro game, the Browns never did. They felt from the start that Davis was a perfect fit as their next coach.

On Tuesday, after weeks of pursuit capped by a shocking, whirlwind weekend, the Browns finally got their man.

``He is the best example I have ever seen of the complete package — his background, his experience, his resume,'' said Browns owner Al Lerner. ``The coaching piece, as far as I'm concerned, is in place.''

Davis, a 15-year assistant coach under Jimmy Johnson, resigned at Miami on Monday before signing a five-year contract with the Browns, who fired Palmer on Jan. 11.

Davis will reportedly make in excess of $15 million over five years, virtually tripling his salary and making him one of the NFL's highest-paid coaches. Palmer made about $1 million in his two seasons with Cleveland.

Policy wouldn't divulge the exact salary figures, but jokingly took out his wallet and placed it on the table to show that Davis didn't come cheap.

``This is a great opportunity for my family and a great opportunity to get back into the NFL,'' said Davis, wearing one of the two Super Bowl rings he got with the Cowboys.

Davis has dwelled in football's basement before — first with a 1-15 Dallas team and later under NCAA sanctions with the Hurricanes. He relishes the chance to build the Browns into a winner.

``I really felt like if I was going to make the leap — if I was going to make the change and leave the University of Miami — this would be the premier place I could go,'' Davis said. ``This would be the type of organization that would give you a chance and give you the resources to win. ... We're not going to let losing define our character.''

Davis, whose specialty is defense, said he would use an offense similar to the pro-style one he had at Miami.

``Like all good coaches, we steal from everybody,'' Davis said. ``We want to try and be versatile. I don't believe you can be one-dimensional and win. I think we already have some of the pieces of the puzzle in place.''

Davis' hiring surprised every team around the league, but none more so than the Browns.

After preliminary talks with Davis and agent Marvin Demoff earlier this month, the Browns were convinced that Davis was staying at Miami, where he was close to signing a five-year contract extension. Cleveland then interviewed three coaching candidates last week and set up meetings with Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis and New York Giants defensive coordinator John Fox for after the Super Bowl.

Then, late last week Demoff called and said there might be a glimmer of interest ``and maybe more'' on Davis' part.

``He was and still was our No. 1 candidate,'' Policy said he told Demoff. ``That started a whirlwind of activity, conversation and negotiating that lasted until 2 a.m. on Monday morning.''

Davis' hiring led to speculation that Dwight Clark, Policy's hand-picked director of football operations, would be reassigned. However, Policy said Clark would continue to oversee personnel decisions.