Balancing act awaits coach Davis
Any football coach wants his team to be balanced,
and the Browns' Butch Davis has achieved that to
He has situations developing on offense and
defense that he has to address.
On offense, if Davis picks the wrong quarterback
between Tim Couch and Kelly Holcomb, or if he
lets the controversy divide the team and become a
huge distraction then the Browns will be in big
Select the wrong signal caller, the most
important position on either side of the ball,
and you might have just written the death knell
not just for the team but for yourself as coach
Sam Rutigliano was an offensive genius until he
said publicly that he could win with Paul
McDonald just like he had won with Brian Sipe.
Then he was a buffoon and quickly out of a job.
McDonald looked more like a guy whose first name
Bill Belichick was considered a bright young
coach here until his lack of decorum caused him
to move Bernie Kosar out of the quarterback job
with all the subtlety of an atomic bomb. Even a
trip to the playoffs later with Kosar's
successor, Vinny Testaverde, couldn't alter
Belichick's gloomy legacy in this town.
So tricky are quarterback situations that
sometimes the best thing to have on your side is
old-fashioned luck. In the early 1970s,
Pittsburgh coach Chuck Noll picked Joe Gilliam
over Terry Bradshaw. But Gilliam's off-the-field
issues forced him to give the job back to
With Bradshaw at the helm, the Steelers won four
Super Bowls and he and Noll both made it to the
Hall of Fame. The legacy of those two would have
been so different if Gilliam had lived the life
of a Boy Scout.
Now Davis is facing all that. The public opinion
is against Couch, the player in whom the Browns,
including Davis, have invested so much time and
money since 1999. Does Davis truly recognize
that, and does he sense that there is a real
clamoring to give Holcomb the job to see what he
Davis has been known as a coach who has a real
eye for talent and an acute knack for relating
with players. The Couch-Holcomb situation will
certainly test his ability.
Not far behind that on the measuring stick will
be how Davis' defense performs this year after he
let go three linebackers and a starting
cornerback from 2002. He's taking a gamble in
tearing apart the defense of a team that made it
to the playoffs.
If he succeeds and the defense and the team
become better than they were, then Davis will
have been correct. But if things backfire and
don't work out quickly enough then Davis will
have a lot of explaining to do.
Keep in mind, although the quarterback gets most
of the hype, it is the defense that drives any
good team. Couch and Holcomb can throw for a
million yards, but it won't mean a hill of beans
if the defense gives up a million and one.
This is Davis' team. Moreso now than ever, his
imprint is all over the club.
And he's a smart guy, so he knows what he has
gotten himself into. He never lacks for
confidence, so he's sure that he's doing the
right things at the right time.
The problem is, this season, Davis has to be
right on both sides of the line of scrimmage. He
has to keep his balance, for if he falls, it may
be hard for him to ever get up.