December 11, 2004

Is He Ozzie?

In his email newsletter this week, Terry Pluto has some thoughts on the Browns search for a General Manager, and whether or not Ozzie Newsome should be a candidate. And I have a few thoughts of my own on that subject.

First, Pluto:

Since I'm giving out FREE advice -- which my father used to say was usually worth exactly what you paid for it (NOTHIN') -- here's what Browns owner Randy Lerner should do:

- Find out if Ozzie Newsome is interested in coming home. So far, Newsome has been saying, "I have a great job." He doesn't want to alienate either the Baltimore Ravens or his old fans. I don't know what he thinks.

- I've heard some NFL people say Phil Savage picks most of the Ravens players, not Ozzie. Could be true. But Ozzie is smart enough to have hired Savage, promoted him and then used his advice. In the end, the drafts and free agent deals come down on Ozzie, and you can fairly judge his track record.

- One theory in Baltimore is if the Ravens can receive some top draft picks for Newsome, they'd let him go to Cleveland and promote Savage -- assuming Ozzie really wants to come.

- If the Ravens really value Savage and fear the Browns or someone else might hire him, this would be the time to put Savage in charge and then get something for Ozzie.

- Another theory is that Ravens don't want to do anything to help the Browns, so forget Ozzie.

- I would be willing to part with a first-round draft choice for Newsome, just as New England gave up a first-rounder to hire Bill Belichick. Here's why: I'm tired of watching first-round picks being wasted. Eight of Newsome's 12 first-rounders have made the Pro Bowl. THE MOST IMPORTANT GUY IN THE ORGANIZATION IS THE ONE WHO PICKS THE PLAYERS.

- People keep saying Ozzie would be a great PR move for the Browns. That's true. He'd be like a trusted father figure coming to town, saying, "OK, sons and daughters. I know you. We are all family. It's going to be OK.'' But even more important, OZZIE HAS A SOLID TRACK RECORD. HE KNOWS WHAT HE'S DOING.

- I still think Ozzie coming to the Browns is a long shot. But it's worth exploring before moving to the next step.

Pluto makes all the arguments for bringing Ozzie back to Cleveland, and I agree that it's worth exploring the idea. To me, that call hinges on the Browns ability to make the determination if it was Ozzie himself who has the demonstrated capacity to evaluate potential NFL talent, or if that ability has resided in people below him, like Phil Savage and others. Because "great P.R." doesn't win games on the football field. To a degree, Carmen Policy gave us great P.R., and we can see what good that did us for 2004 and beyond. And speaking of wasting first-round picks, that's what we'd be doing if we brought in Newsome (giving the Ravens a 1st rounder) without bringing in the Ravens' drafting expertise.

There are also a few reasons why Ozzie might just prefer to stay in Baltimore. Foremost is the one that says "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Right now Ozzie is a hero in both Cleveland and Baltimore, having played his Hall of Fame career in one city, and brought a Super Bowl title to the other. That could change in both cities if he bolts for Cleveland and then fails to deliver a winner here. Ozzie might feel that his reputation could only suffer if he changed teams.

He must have known when he left town as an employee of the villain Art Modell that one day he might have a chance to return, but I doubt if he imagined this scenario. He was treated viciously by some fans here for supposed disloyalty by packing his bags when his employer moved away. (Better he should have resigned his promising career and his hard-earned executive position with Modell on some ethereal principle of fan solidarity, I suppose. Right.) He may feel that a certain segment of the fan base wouldn't ever get over that.

I assume that the job is his if he wants it. But I suspect he'll act flattered and then pass on it, trying his best to get his protegé Savage the job instead. Whatever he decides, I'm sure he'll conduct himself with his usual humility and classiness.

Posted by dan at December 11, 2004 7:22 PM