BEREA, Ohio -- Butch Davis never wanted to abandon his dream
job and all its ego-soothing power. The last-second losses, freaky
injuries and intense scrutiny on his family changed his mind.
Tuesday, Nov. 30
Don't think Butch Davis stepped down as head coach of the Browns because he wanted to become a factor in the openings at the University of Florida, Washington or Notre Dame. Barring a major change of heart, Davis will not likely coach next season.
The pressures of bearing the responsibilities of running the Browns, and the criticism that went with that, caught up to Davis. Sure, he put those duties on his own plate. He wanted to run the show and it was his push to eliminate many of the front office decision-makers that put him in this position.
Following Sunday's 58-48 loss to the Bengals, Davis was emotionally drained. Though the Browns officially termed Davis' departure a resignation, it was a mutual parting. Owner Randy Lerner lived up to the terms of Davis' contract and let him walk away with more than $12 million of financial security. Davis moved aside and let Terry Robiskie take over as interim coach.
A week ago, Davis wanted to finish the season, but his desire changed drastically Sunday.
It was time for Davis to go. The Cleveland Browns will move on
After arriving three years ago with the promise of winning a
Super Bowl title, Davis resigned as Cleveland's coach on Tuesday,
leaving the last-place Browns with five games left in another
Davis' departure -- a source close to Davis told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that Davis was fired -- came two days after the Browns dropped their fifth straight game, a 58-48 loss that followed a script similar to
so many others in the Davis Era: close but not good enough.
Although he had been promised last week by team owner Randy
Lerner that his job was safe for the remainder of this season,
Davis decided he wanted out and surprised the team by stepping
"I'm not sure what changed," Lerner said. "My sense of it is
that the whole environment had become very difficult to manage
emotionally, and it was his sense that enough was enough. I know
his family's state of mind was a huge piece of the calculation. ...
I did encourage him to stay."
First-year offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie will coach the
Browns for the rest of the season. His first game won't be an easy
one: The Browns host the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots
"He picked a hell of a week to make this decision," joked
Robiskie, who served as Washington's interim coach for three games
in 2000 after the Redskins fired Norv Turner. "I'm not auditioning
for the job. I just want to see the Cleveland Browns win."
Davis inherited a 5-27 expansion team, devoid of any depth or
star players, from Chris Palmer in 2001. He went 24-36 during his
stay in Cleveland, leading the Browns to a 9-7 record and a playoff
appearance in 2002, his second season after leaving the University
But since then, the Browns regressed, going 8-19 amid a string
of close losses, costly injuries and chaos.
This season, Davis squabbled publicly with quarterback Jeff Garcia, whom he signed to a four-year contract as an upgrade over
Tim Couch. The Browns also had some embarrassing moments: running
back William Green's ejection for fighting before the Pittsburgh
game and defensive tackle Gerard Warren's taunts he was going to
rough up Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Those distractions didn't help Davis' case, and neither did the
Browns' mediocre play.
Davis had three years remaining on a contract worth about $12
million. Lerner refused to give details of a financial settlement,
but intimated he will pay Davis the rest of his deal.
"I did it because I felt that he always acted in good faith,"
Lerner said. "He did honor the contract in terms of what was in
his heart. I think he gave it everything he had, and that's all you
can ask a guy to do."
Davis had unquestioned authority over the team's football
operations department. But now that he's gone Lerner plans to
overhaul the front office. He will begin by hiring a general
Lerner has studied the infrastructure at New England and
Philadelphia and decided that's what he wants the Browns to look
"There is no magic," he said. "We need to concentrate on
organizations that have been successful and we need to understand
how and why they have been successful and we need to assume those
Pressure had been mounting on Davis for weeks as the Browns'
season crumbled with a score of injuries to key players and a
handful of agonizing losses. Things got so difficult for Davis and
his family last week that he sent his wife and 11-year-old son to
Florida to avoid all the attention.
The Browns, 3-8 this season and just 29-62 since returning as an
expansion franchise in 1999, have 13 players on injured reserve,
including six starters. The injuries may be a legitimate reason for
Cleveland's current state under Davis, but the Browns aren't the
only team to have players go down.
"Anytime you get four years, four years should be enough,"
said tight end Aaron Shea. "Injuries played a role but other teams
have injuries, too. I don't think you can use that as an excuse.
Maybe the change is for the best."
With the losses piling up, Davis' demeanor changed noticeably.
His confidence had been shaken at the realization his plan to
rebuild the Browns wasn't working.
In a statement, Davis cited "intense pressure and scrutiny" as
the driving forces behind his resignation.
"I accept responsibility for the mistakes that we have made,"
Davis said, "but it was my and my staff's intention to do
everything we could to lay the foundation and build a team that
could win a Super Bowl. I hope that some of my decisions we have
made will be a part of a brighter future for the Browns
"My future is clear for the moment. I have no immediate plans
to stay in coaching."
Davis, who brought the Hurricanes back to national prominence
before joining the Browns, will likely be a candidate for the
coaching opening at Florida.
Davis fought back tears during a meeting as he told Cleveland's
players he was leaving.
"I didn't expect him to be emotional like that," said fullback
Terrelle Smith. "He opened up his heart to us. He told us the
story about his family and that makes you feel bad. But life goes
on. I hate to see him go."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.