October 24, 2014

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Browns GM Savage savoring positives, .500 record

BEREA — General manager Phil Savage held a state-of-the-team news conference Thursday and spent the 45 minutes discussing offense, defense and special teams. That the topics didn’t include staph infections, motorcycle accidents and Cleveland’s woe-is-me attitude qualifies as progress.
So does the team’s 3-3 record.
“The good part about the first six games is we survived it more or less,” Savage said. “A lot of people thought we would be 0-6 or 1-5 or 2-4 or an ugly 1-5. We’re essentially 0-0 with 10 games left. I don’t think there’s a game (remaining) that people are saying, ‘That’s an automatic loss.’
“At least we made this season interesting. It’s great our players feel every time they walk on the field they can win. It’s a good place to be compared to where we’ve been.”
During Savage’s nearly three years on the job, the Browns have been in a serious rebuilding mode. He used his news conferences to encourage the fans to stay patient, to promote continuity and to remind everyone that he inherited a dysfunctional situation that would take time to rectify.
At last the focus is on the field, where the results have been respectable after 6-10 and 4-12 finishes his first two years.
“It feels real good,” Savage said. “We certainly had our share of things, and there is no handbook with some of the situations we’ve dealt with. All in all, we’ve done a pretty good job as an organization handling some of the things that have come up.
“The greatest thing is being down at the stadium and seeing fans actually be able to enjoy coming to games.”
That wasn’t the case after the 34-7 home-opening loss to Pittsburgh. But the Browns quickly righted the ship.
“The thing I’m most pleased with is the team responded quite well after the first game,” Savage said. “It was such a bad performance, by all accounts. But it didn’t seem to keep us down.”
For that, Savage gave the credit to coach Romeo Crennel.
“He’s the same man now he was two years ago,” Savage said. “He’ll be the same man two years from now.
“The consistency of Romeo’s demeanor, his attitude, he’s basically the same every single day. Some people may term that as boring. In a very volatile business, it’s actually a strength.”
The turnaround after Week 1 coincided with Derek Anderson’s promotion to starting quarterback. He’s thrown 14 touchdowns.
“Derek has surpassed what most people would’ve expected,” Savage said. “There’s a lot of potential he brings to the table.”
Enough to indefinitely block the path of first-round draft pick Brady Quinn.
“In due time all this will shake itself out,” Savage said. “Some people want to term it a problem. I see it as a real blessing right now. A number of teams don’t have one quarterback. We feel we have two.”
Anderson can be a restricted free agent in March, and the Browns could give him a one-year tender, which includes the right to match any offer from another team. If the Browns declined to match, they would receive a draft pick or picks corresponding with the tender.
They could also try to sign him to a long-term deal.
“If we did nothing, we could protect ourselves to a large extent, with (keeping him) at least one more year,” Savage said.
In the meantime, Quinn is glued to the sideline.
“Brady’s anxious to play and would like to get out there,” Savage said. “Maybe there’ll be opportunities that present themselves. I’m not sure we want to mess with the apple cart right now.
“It’s actually turned out to be pretty ideal for us. Brady’s gotten a chance to get his feet on the ground and understand what life in the NFL is all about. It’s a good time of growth for him without having the burden of having to play. It’s gone better than I anticipated.”
Savage touched on a number of other topics.
The possible return of offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley, who is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list:
“At this point, it remains to be seen whether he’ll be cleared to practice or not. We have another week and a half. We want to maximize the chances for LeCharles to have a successful return.”
The possibility of making a trade to acquire a first-round pick in the 2008 draft:
“It’s a little early to speculate. Sure, we’d love to get back into it and get a first-rounder. I think it depends on what our real needs are, what players are going to be out there. We might end up being comfortable sitting in the second round and picking a player.”
Interest in veteran nose tackle Grady Jackson, 35, who was recently cut by the Falcons:
“He’s a bona fide nose tackle in the NFL. We also have to factor in what it’s going to bring to team chemistry. That’s probably a part we have to investigate more if we were interested in Grady. We haven’t really done anything with it.”
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.