You are Cleveland Browns coach Butch Davis. As you steer your
Chevy Tahoe into the parking lot of the team's training facility
at 5:53 a.m. on a dog day of preseason camp, you think about how
much there is to do. When you control all football-related
issues for a four-year-old expansion franchise that's hungry to
make the playoffs, no day--be it in July or January, on the
field or in the draft room--is slow.
This is an article from the Sept. 2, 2002 issue
Here's what's on your mind at the start of what promises to be a
sweltering day in Berea, Ohio: scripting the morning and
afternoon practices; asking the groundskeeper why Field 1 looks
so worn this early in camp; finding out whether your injured
players will be able to practice; reviewing the video of
yesterday's drills before meeting with your coaches; catching up
on the news in USA Today; meeting with your college scouts to
get their blunt assessment of the players in camp; being briefed
by capologist Lal Heneghan on pressing contract issues; getting
your pro scouts' opinions on possible roster moves; finalizing
the details for the next day's trip to Rochester, N.Y., for a
scrimmage against the Buffalo Bills; sitting down with your
special teams coach to change kickoff-return assignments;
briefing club president Carmen Policy on practice and travel
plans; rehabbing your aching right knee; pondering the merits of
redoing wideout Kevin Johnson's contract; taking the pulse of
your team in the weight room; chatting up stadium luxury-seat
holders; pondering whether to bring in oft-injured, free-agent
defensive end Andre Wadsworth....
But as you get out of the SUV in the 23rd waking minute of your
day, it is Michael Josiah who is foremost on your mind. He is an
undrafted rookie pass rusher from Louisville who has almost no
chance to make your team. But his left shoulder is injured, and
he is telling the doctor one thing (it's fine) and the trainer
another (it hurts). You've been told that Josiah doesn't know
whom to trust. As the clock strikes six, you get trainer Mike
Colello alone in his office and you ask, "Do I need to talk to
Michael to see if he'll come clean?" You decide to meet with
Josiah later in the day.
Walking to your second-floor office, you consider a visitor's
question: Is coaching, managing a staff, engineering a draft and
cajoling everyone in a $530 million organization through an NFL
season too much for one man? By taking on one and sometimes two
front-office jobs, are power-hungry coaches acting in the best
interest of the organization? "It would be impossible for one man
to do it by himself," you say. "Just like it would be impossible
for one man to coach a team. But if you surround yourself with
people who take a lot of the work off your hands, people you
trust, it's doable. I don't want to tell the tight end coach what
to do all the time or check on the trainer to see if he's
rehabbing guys right. That's their job. If I have to be the idea
guy for everybody, it pisses me off."
You have served under Jimmy Johnson and seen how well he
delegated as he coached his teams to championships in college
and the pros. You rebuilt the University of Miami program to the
brink of a national title, making all the important decisions
along the way. You have been paid $3 million a year by one of
the richest men in America, Browns owner and credit-card magnate
Al Lerner, to rev up a flagging expansion team. Last year, your
first on the job, you took a team that was 5-27 over its first
two seasons, a team you said "had no vision, no blueprint," and
made it competitive. For going 7-9 and remaining in the
wild-card hunt until late December, you were rewarded by Lerner
and Policy. They forced out director of football operations
Dwight Clark and have given you authority to make every
significant football-related decision in the organization. You
are already one of the most powerful men in the NFL, and you
know what it takes to keep that power. Work. Lots of it.
It's 6:20 a.m. You sit at your desk with a computer mouse at your
fingertips. You click on video of the two-minute drill from the
previous day's practice, and it flashes on the big screen across
the room. You watch franchise quarterback Tim Couch try to get
the offense into the end zone against a defense that is the more
talented of the two units. You are pleased by Couch's accuracy as
well as the chemistry and timing he is developing with speedy
second-year wideout Quincy Morgan. You click on video of other
drills. You study middle linebacker Earl Holmes, your biggest
free-agent signing of the off-season, and you learn something you
didn't know. "He's got a little more slither to him than maybe we
thought," you say quietly. This is why you watch video.
You scan USA Today. "Can you believe Jim Kelly's taking 1,100
friends to his Hall of Fame induction?" you say. "I don't have
1,100 friends! Who does?" It's 7:30 as you rise from the chair.
"Time to check the pulse of the community."
You stick your head into tight end coach Steve Hagen's office
and point out a blocking error you've seen two tight ends make
repeatedly. You gab with wideout coach Terry Robiskie about
Morgan's progress. You finalize practice plans with coordinators
Bruce Arians (offense) and Foge Fazio (defense). You ask
secondary coach Chuck Pagano what he thinks about playing
linebacker Dwayne Rudd more in the nickel defense. You meet with
director of player programs Jerry Butler to wrap up plans for
the NFL's traveling seminar, which will stop at Browns camp next
week. You can choose up to four issue-focused skits and
lectures. The biggie among your four is "Relationship
Difficulties with Spouse and Significant Other."
You oversee special teams practice for an hour, and then you
chat up the players in the weight room. The pulse of this part
of the community is key. You mention Conway Twitty, one of your
favorites, to a couple of your rookies: "You don't know who
Conway Twitty was, do you?" And one of them replies, "No idea,
Coach." You sidle up to Holmes on the leg-press machine, and
then yell across the room to linebacker Jamir Miller, the
defensive leader, "Hey, Jamir! Earl wants to know if he can take
the afternoon off."
"Nawwww, Coach!" Holmes says.
"Forget it!" Miller yells back.
"Why'd you do me like that, Coach?" Holmes asks with a smile. You
Colello motions you into the trainer's office. Josiah is waiting
inside, but instead of talking directly to the young lineman,
which might embarrass him, you talk to Colello in front of
Josiah. You say to Colello that Josiah may be hesitant to tell
club officials about injuries because his former coaches perhaps
didn't believe him when he said he was hurt. But now, you say,
Josiah has to be comfortable with the idea that if he can't play
for a week or two because he has to heal, it's O.K. "You've got
to trust us," you say, finally turning to face Josiah. "O.K.,
"Yes, sir," Josiah says.
Josiah leaves. "He thinks we're going to throw him on the
woodpile," you say to Colello. "Let's get him well."
It's 11:10. Back in the office, you summon special teams
coordinator Jerry Rosburg to examine video from this morning's
practice. You watch the punt team and notice that the splits
between linemen are too small. "They're packed pretty tight in
there," you say. "What do you think about widening them out?"
Rosburg agrees. "Jerry," you say, wrapping up the 35-minute
session, "we got a little better this morning."
It's 11:50. You're starving. The stir-fry and brown rice and
salad beckon from the cafeteria downstairs. The visitor asks you
about the minutiae of the morning, such as adjusting the splits
between the linemen. "First of all," you say, "coaching is
teaching. The best coaches I've ever seen were the best teachers.
I guarantee you lose more games in this league because of the
little things than the big things."
It's 12:15. You quickly try to return the six phone calls deemed
important enough for you to handle. (Other calls are farmed out
to your right-hand man, Pete Garcia, who deals with everything of
importance that you don't have the time to.) You call Bob Ackles,
a front-office executive when you both worked for the Dallas
Cowboys a decade ago, who's now the president of the British
Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League. He wants to know
who among the players you might cut could be of use to him. You
give him a few names to watch for. Then it's time for the mail. A
U.S. soldier stationed in Afghanistan has written to ask for
Browns videos. "Send him a highlight tape," you tell your
You convene the 12:30 coaches' meeting in the conference room
down the hall. "Buddy," you ask strength and conditioning coach
Buddy Morris, "are the guys getting enough recovery time?" They
are. "Larry," you ask offensive line coach Larry Zierlein, "any
merit in juggling the second- and third-team guys?" There is.
Rookie Melvin Fowler, a third-round draft pick out of Maryland,
will get a second-team look.
It's 12:52. Time for the cap meeting, at Heneghan's conference
table. "What are our options with Michael Josiah, if we have to
do something?" you ask.
"Well," Heneghan says, "his shoulder's come out? A few times? And
he hasn't told us? Contractually we have the right to release him
[and not pay him] for withholding injury information. Or we could
put him on IR. Or do an injury settlement."
"Let's think about it," you say. "What's fairest for him? What's
the best thing for the club? Surgery? Settle with him? We've got
to figure everything out. How much money have we set aside for IR
"That budget's in pencil," Heneghan says, and you both laugh.
It's 1:05. There's a meeting for the Rochester trip in the office
of Bill Hampton, the club's vice president of operations. "How're
we waking those guys up in the morning?" you ask. "Bam-bam-bam on
the door?" Interns will do just that.
It's 1:20. You have 70 minutes with director of college personnel
Phil Neri and his six scouts. You have told them you want their
true evaluations of the players in camp, not what they think you
want to hear. Each scout has been watching his assigned position
group for 10 practices, and now each will report in painstaking
detail the players' strengths and weaknesses. One scout says the
offense will be O.K. with the starters at guard and tackle, but
after that, "I don't like any of the other guys we have. Sorry,
"O.K.," you say, looking grim. "Then can we petition the league
to play eight-man football?"
Others jump in. "I don't think we have an H-back," another scout
"[Tight end] Rickey Dudley's a gifted athlete, but he plays
disinterested," another says. "I don't think he enjoys the game."
"[Leading receiver] Kevin Johnson will be passed by [rookie]
Andre' Davis this year," another says.
"I don't know why you're not starting Anthony Henry at
corner--prototype corner, great instincts," another says.
You take it all in, and you thank the scouts for their honesty.
Starting at 2:45, you run a two-hour practice. You move from
position group to position group, teaching a little and observing
a lot. It is such a good practice that, at the end, you tell the
85 players, "You know, it's easy to play on game day. Everybody
gets up for game day. But you know what's tough? Coming out here,
day after day, practicing twice a day in this heat, and
practicing full speed. You know who does that? Winners. Winners
do that! You're practicing like you want to go someplace big.
Because you're doing that for me, I'm going to do something for
you. We're going to have a quick meeting right after this, and
then you're off tonight. Curfew's 11. You're free till then."
You walk briskly toward the bleachers by the practice field and
greet the luxury-seat holders, who are waiting for you. "Every
day when these players come out of the locker room, they see
2,500 Browns fans cheering for them. It is legendary that the
Browns have the best fans in the NFL, and we're so lucky to see
it every day."
It's 6:45, time for the meeting with pro personnel coordinators
Steve Sabo and Jeremy Green. A contract extension for Johnson is
under consideration, so you had asked them to compare Johnson
with other top receivers over their first three years. The scouts
produce eight pages of stats and notes that you will look over
later. (On Aug. 17, Johnson signed a four-year extension.)
Next you pore over the NFL's daily report on player transactions
and free-agent workouts, a two-page list sent to all clubs at 5
p.m. "Anybody see anyone who might help us?" you ask.
"Kenny Wright, possibly," Green says of the marginal cornerback
released by the Minnesota Vikings. "I know him pretty well. I'm
not in love with him, but he might be worth working out. A couple
of years ago I'd have said, 'Get him,' because he'd have been
better than anyone we had. Not now. I like our chemistry."
"Let's think about him," you say. "Now what about Andre
Wadsworth? I'd like to see him. What about working him out?"
"Not ready, Coach," says Sabo of the former first-round draft
pick who has been plagued by knee injuries since coming into the
league in 1998. "He'll let us know when he's healthy enough."
It's 7:45, and dusk is setting in. You have dismissed the
players, and most of the coaches, also recipients of a night
off, are gone. The building is quiet as you walk back into your
office. After a 14-hour day, you do not look tired. You are a
football CEO. You have surrounded yourself with competent people
who do the preliminary work. You use their information to make
the important decisions.
"It is not ego that makes me want to do this," you say. "It's
confidence in the system that I was brought up in. With the
people I work with, I can spend 75 to 80 percent of my time on
football, on coaching. I never have to be a micromanager. I just
have to be the one who ultimately pulls the trigger."
Check out Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback every week this
season at cnnsi.com/football.
The Powers That Be
SI's ranking of the 32 NFL coaches based on the power they wield
within their respective organizations
1. Mike Shanahan, Broncos
Back-to-back Super Bowl wins cemented his authority as supreme
2. Mike Sherman, Packers
Surprised? After G.M. Ron Wolf retired, power shifted to Sherman,
who wears it well
3. Mike Holmgren,
Seahawks Mediocre record (24-24) threatens his status; probably
needs a playoff berth to keep control
4. Butch Davis, Browns
Already has control over all personnel matters, just doesn't
have front-office title
5. Bill Belichick, Patriots
Solidified power last year when he won Super Bowl after deftly
handling Bledsoe-Brady controversy
6. Andy Reid, Eagles
Best relationship with front office in the league means he can
have whatever he wants
7. Tom Coughlin, Jaguars
Lost some of his clout because of the way he has mismanaged
8. Dan Reeves, Falcons
Sign of the times: New owner Arthur Blank forced out defensive coordinator Don Blackmon
9. Jon Gruden, Bucs
Ownership didn't pay Oakland $8 million and four high draft
picks for this guy to just coach
10. Dave McGinnis, Cardinals
His rank says more about the front office, which ownership
11. Dave Wannstedt, Dolphins
Perfect chemistry with right-hand personnel man Rick Spielman
means he gets his way
12. Mike Martz, Rams
Makes every personnel call in season and out, sometimes abrasively
13. Dick Vermeil, Chiefs
Club president Carl Peterson is strong, but old friend Vermeil
still gets what he wants
14. Bill Cowher, Steelers
Won power struggle in late '99; overruled only on re-signing LB
Earl Holmes this year
15. Jeff Fisher, Titans
In personnel matters, no G.M. trusts his coach more than Floyd
Reese trusts Fisher
16. Jim Haslett, Saints
Following ouster of friend and G.M. Randy Mueller, he got
increased authority and a new contract
17. Herman Edwards, Jets
Doesn't crave control, but still has a strong say in all
18. Mike Tice, Vikings
Still feeling his way, but ownership handed this rookie almost
as much control as Dennis Green had
19. Jim Fassel, Giants
Same old-line structure remains in place, but no big decision is
made without his input
20. Dick LeBeau, Bengals
Ownership loves the judgment of this surprisingly strong voice
in '50s-style front office
21. Brian Billick, Ravens
Don't let the power of Ozzie Newsome fool you; Billick has a
22. Marty Schottenheimer, Chargers
Strong front office takes his valuable advice, but his job is to
23. Dick Jauron, Bears
Quietly won early power struggles with rookie G.M. Jerry
Angelo--and earned a new contract
24. John Fox, Panthers
Hired to coach, but he had decisive say on taking DE Julius
Peppers with second pick in draft
25. Steve Spurrier, Redskins
Says he only wants to coach but has as much power as he chooses
26. Steve Mariucci, 49ers
Suffered loss of favor after flirtation with Bucs and rise of
G.M. Terry Donahue
27. Dom Capers, Texans
G.M. Charley Casserly respects his judgment, but Casserly picks
28. Gregg Williams, Bills
Trusted implicitly, but ownership will never change its separate
G.M. and coach structure
29. Bill Callahan, Raiders
What did you expect when you have a rookie coach working for Al
Davis? Just coach, baby
30. Marty Mornhinweg, Lions
Has team president Matt Millen's ear, but Millen still makes
31. Tony Dungy, Colts
No other front-office executive wields more power than
Indianapolis president Bill Polian
32. Dave Campo, Cowboys
In the post-Jimmy Johnson era, owner Jerry Jones runs the show and the coach coaches
Making the case for and against a coach having final say on all
BRONCOS COACH MIKE SHANAHAN
"After my first time as a coach, in Oakland, I decided that
unless I could control my own destiny, I'd rather be an
assistant or a coordinator. I know people think that it's a huge
job to have the control. They think when the coach has the final
say on everything, it's, 'I'm calling all the shots.' It's just
the opposite in Denver. I value the input of every coach, scout
and front-office guy, or they wouldn't be here. That's the
key--having people around who you really trust. When the season
starts, I'm not involved with the cap or contracts. We've got
qualified people to handle the cap and contracts as well as pro
and college personnel. When we prepare for the draft, every
coach and scout is looking at tape. It must work. Three years
after we got here, we won a Super Bowl, and then we won another
CHIEFS PRESIDENT CARL PETERSON
"A coach overburdens himself when he says, 'I've got to have all
the power.' When I look at my coach, I always want to know what
he's done to make us a better football team on the field today.
I don't know how he can do that if he has to oversee the salary
cap, all personnel matters, the draft and everything that has
anything to do with football off the field. A coach needs to
keep his finger on the pulse of offense, defense, special teams
and discipline. That should be his forte. Over the course of an
average day during the season, I get a total of probably 500
e-mails, faxes, memos, communications from the league, phone
messages. They all have something to do with the team. If a
coach had my job, how's he going to keep all of that straight
and still coach the team?"
YOU KNOW WHAT IT TAKES TO KEEP THAT POWER. WORK. LOTS OF IT.
YOU LOSE MORE GAMES BECAUSE OF THE LITTLE THINGS THAN THE BIG
SECOND-YEAR NFL HEAD COACH. "IT'S CONFIDENCE IN THE SYSTEM I WAS
BROUGHT UP IN."