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Savage has come full circle



Published: Sat, January 8, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The new general manager took part in a coach's interview on his first day.

BEREA (AP) -- Phil Savage's ultimate goal is to bring the Cleveland Browns back into living color.

Savage, who began his NFL career with the Browns as a coach's assistant breaking down film and making copies, returned to the club more than 10 years later on Friday as the man in charge of restoring their glory.

As someone who lived through the Browns' painful move to Baltimore, the 39-year-old can identify with Cleveland fans who have endured recent failures and are hungry to see the team succeed.

"Unfortunately a lot of their memories are in black and white," Savage said. "It's the old days. Yes, there were some great years during the '80s. But there is a whole generation of fans wondering if this team is ever going to win."

Savage joins the Browns as general manager after nine seasons with the Ravens, the past two as the club's director of player personnel. In Baltimore, Savage's keen eye for quality talent helped the Ravens amass a roster glutted with Pro Bowl players like Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis.

Familiar grounds

Savage signed a five-year deal with Cleveland and will have the added title as senior vice president. On Friday, he walked into the same building where he began his pro career in 1991 as an underling on coach Bill Belichick's staff.

"It's surreal," Savage. "I've come full circle. It's the culmination of a long, long journey."

Savage hit the ground running on his first day as Cleveland's top football mind, flying to New England along with owner Randy Lerner and president John Collins to interview Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel for the team's vacant coaching position.

Crennel, who worked for the Browns in 2000, is the first candidate to speak with all three and second to meet with Lerner and Collins, who interviewed Philadelphia offensive coordinator Brad Childress on Tuesday.

Today, the trio will meet with Pittsburgh offensive line coach Russ Grimm. Offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, who coached the Browns' final five games after Butch Davis resigned, will have his formal interview on Monday.

After that, Savage said the team will assess where it's at before deciding how to continue in its search. The Browns won't rush their decision, and Savage said the club is willing to wait until after the Super Bowl for the right candidate.

Tale of two teams

Starting in 1996 with Ogden and Lewis, whom Savage described as "the draft pick of a lifetime," Baltimore has selected 10 Pro Bowlers. Since 1999, the Browns have selected none despite having two No. 1 overall picks.

Savage cautioned that there's some luck involved on draft day.

"Just because Phil Savage is with the Browns, it doesn't mean we're going to get every single player right, it's not possible," he said. "If we took a bad player, we generally followed up with a good one."

The abundance of talent gave Baltimore's scouts a blueprint, allowing them to go out and find players similar to the ones they already had.

Meanwhile, Cleveland has had nothing to build from.

"Our scouts could walk out onto the practice field, look at Ray Lewis and say, 'That's the best linebacker in the NFL', and measure every player against that," he said. "They could look at Jonathan Ogden and measure every offensive tackle they see against that, and that is huge.

"And you know what the Browns have to measure off of? Jim Brown running over people in 1964. We don't have anything to measure against. We need to get some guys present day that we can compare and go forward."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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