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AFC CENTRAL Browns face list of changes



Published: Tue, January 4, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Cleveland's sixth season has offered few signs of hope.

BEREA (AP) -- Their disastrous season is finally over, but the work is just beginning for the Cleveland Browns.

Following a year in which they tied a franchise record with nine straight losses, the Browns have to hire a general manager and a coach and decide which players are worth keeping.

Six frustrating seasons after returning to the league as an expansion team in 1999, the Browns are rebuilding again.

Owner Randy Lerner and president John Collins wasted no time in interviewing general manager candidates, flying to Maryland on Monday to meet with Ravens director of player personnel Phil Savage.

Savage has been instrumental in picking quality players for the Ravens in recent years. He spent three years with the Browns in the 1990s, working in their scouting department.

Other likely candidates for the job include New England vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli, Tennessee general manager Floyd Reese, former New Orleans general manager Randy Mueller, former Seattle senior vice president Mike Reinfeldt, Pittsburgh director of football operations Kevin Colbert and Atlanta assistant general manager Tim Ruskell.

Coach makes plea

Browns interim coach Terry Robiskie acknowledged that after finishing with a 4-12 record changes are needed in the organization. He said his role shouldn't be changed.

"Making changes just to make changes doesn't necessarily breed success," he said Monday, making his case for the job.

Robiskie noted that the Redskins went after more experienced coaches following his stint as interim coach in 2000. He pointed out that since he left Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier and Joe Gibbs haven't produced a winning season in Washington.

"There's always that mind-set of 'let's go get that big-name guy,' " Robiskie said. "I don't know that's always the answer."

The Browns' 22-14 win over Houston on Sunday will certainly help his chances, showing he can inspire his players to grind out a victory in an otherwise meaningless game.

"I think I'm ready to be a head coach," he said. "You've got to be able to reach deep inside each [player's] heart."

The players backed Robiskie on Monday as their choice, just as they have since he took over after Butch Davis resigned with five games left.

"Everybody in this locker room would love to see Terry be the guy," defensive back Michael Lehan said.

Cloudy future

All the pending changes provided a mood of uncertainty as players cleaned out their lockers Monday. Even those with years remaining on their contracts talked as if they might not be in a Browns uniform next season.

Quarterback Jeff Garcia, who has three years left on his contract, said he knows his future rests with the new general manager and coach.

Garcia said he would probably be more attractive to the Browns if the new coach operated the West Coast offense, which he ran in San Francisco for five years.

"All I can do is prepare myself to get healthy again, and to play next year somewhere, and hopefully that will be here," said Garcia, whose season ended early with a torn knee ligament. "Right now, I'm a Cleveland Brown. And so that's the approach I'm going to take until I have to adjust otherwise."

The Browns also have to make a decision on wide receiver Dennis Northcutt, who is due a $2 million bonus March 15. If the Browns choose not to pay it, Northcutt would be a free agent.

Cornerback Anthony Henry, who led the team with four interceptions, also is a free agent.

"Obviously, some guys aren't going to be here, but you can't just dismantle a whole football team," safety Earl Little said. "We're close."




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