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Hey Coach, More Power To You
Peter King
September 02, 2002
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September 02, 2002

Hey Coach, More Power To You


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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.

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 Lai 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.

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