Cleveland agrees to contract with Hurricanes' Davis
Updated: Tuesday January 30, 2001 12:09 PM
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
The Cleveland Browns officially named Butch Davis as head coach Tuesday, just weeks after the two sides had broken off talks.
"The Browns' organization is extremely pleased to have Butch Davis as our next head coach," Browns president and CEO Carmen Policy said in a statement. "We will be withholding any further comments until Coach Davis is introduced at his 10:00 a.m. press conference on Tuesday at our facility in Berea. Al Lerner, Dwight Clark, Coach Davis and myself look forward to meeting with everyone in the media at that time."
"I'm excited," Davis said Monday night. "It's a great opportunity, one that I felt for me and my family I couldn't pass up."
Members of the Browns organization were told of Davis' impending hiring early Monday afternoon.
"I think he's going to bring a combination of excitement, energy and a new view," said Policy.
Davis is believed to have agreed on terms for a five-year, $15 million contract.
"He's a solid coach and a great pick," said Browns guard Jim Pyne. "He's a high-energy guy who has a lot of enthusiasm and fire. He's a tough disciplinarian and that can only help a young team. I'm really happy he's coming."
The Browns cancelled a Tuesday interview with Baltimore defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, who was considered the front-runner in Cleveland.
Lewis' agent, Ray Anderson, said his client will meet with new Buffalo general manager Tom Donahoe as planned at 5 p.m. Monday. "We have not heard anything officially from Cleveland," Anderson said, "but you can assume we will not be going to Cleveland [to interview]."
"Tom's going to go through the process," Anderson said. "He's committed to talking to both Marvin and [New York Giants defensive coordinator] John Fox as he has indicated all along. We still believe very firmly that Marvin is the top candidate available. Obviously, we lost some leverage with Cleveland dropping out. Cleveland really pushed the dollars up, but in Marvin's case, it was never just about the dollars."
Donahoe will meet with Fox on Tuesday. Cleveland had been scheduled to meet with Fox on Wednesday.
"I guess nothing should surprise me anymore," Anderson said. "Marvin wins the Super Bowl [on Sunday night] only to find out that one of the two teams that had expressed strong interest in him is no longer in the picture."
Earlier Monday, Lewis appeared to be in position to spark a bidding war for his services. However, Lewis has considered the Bills' opening his top priority all along, and had some serious reservations about the Browns' organization.
The Browns interviewed Davis in Miami shortly after second-year head coach Chris Palmer was fired Jan. 11. Davis repeatedly denied his interest in the Browns' opening, and agreed to terms last week on a contract extension with the Hurricanes. Davis never signed the deal and it became apparent that he and Miami officials had some issue that remained.
The deal with Davis came together during the weekend, but Browns officials kept it under wraps until after Super Bowl Sunday. The league asks teams to not make any major announcements that would steal some of the spotlight from the NFL's title game.
Just last week, Davis, 50-20 in six seasons with the Hurricanes, was reportedly closing the deal on a five-year extension with Miami believed to be worth about $1.3 million a season. Davis was in the fourth year of a seven-year deal worth approximately $900,000 a season.
As recently as Jan. 21, Davis said, "I have not spent much time worrying about it [the new contract with Miami] because I know it's going to get done. I don't have any hesitation or reservations. I will have a new contract and I will be the coach at Miami next year."
However, according to a league source, Davis and university officials are believed to have been negotiating the terms of a buyout clause for about the last 10 days. The sticking point became when the sides could not agree on the terms of Davis' buyout clause that would allow him to pursue an NFL head-coaching opportunity.
In effect, the university was asking Davis to repay a significant portion of his salary for the past two seasons in order to coach the Browns. The talks among Davis and the Browns and the university and Davis have ebbed and flowed for the past 10 days. As recently as Sunday night, the terms of Davis' buyout clause was still an issue, with the possibility of being a deal breaker.
Davis, an assistant coach and defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys from 1989-1994, became head coach in 1995 at Miami, where he had been an assistant under Jimmy Johnson in the mid-1980s.
He took over a program embroiled in an investigation that found 57 players had received fraudulent Pell Grants. The program was subsequently stripped of 31 scholarships over three years, and Miami slipped from 9-3 in Davis' second season to 5-6 in 1997.
But a three-year turnaround for Davis culminated last season when the Hurricanes went 11-1, winning the Big East title and Sugar Bowl to finish ranked No. 2 in the country. Davis' name became frequently mentioned for other jobs, including Alabama and several NFL clubs.
Palmer was fired as head coach of the Browns after winning only five games in two seasons and losing the trust of his players and the confidence of the club's front office.
The Browns were 2-14 and 3-13 since returning to the NFL under Palmer, who didn't have any NFL head coaching experience when the Browns hired him to lead the expansion team.
The Browns started last season 2-1, but several key players, including starting quarterback Tim Couch, had season-ending injuries and the team lost nine consecutive games. Cleveland finished with only one more win than during its expansion year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.