With every relationship, there eventually comes a time to say goodbye.
For the Browns and General Manager Phil Savage, that time came yesterday.
Call this move whatever you want, but don't call it unexpected. Randy Learner is a man greatly concerned with public image, and Phil Savage happened to give him every reason to pull the trigger. The Staphgate '08 controversy and the Buffalo e-mail incident compounded with the team's collapse this season all but secured his departure.
Despite this you wonder: was this the right move for the Browns?
Of course not.
In a season marred with futility and incompetency, Randy Learner began this offseason with just that. Firing Phil Savage was a move with Learner's fingerprints all over it. Like his former employee, Learner seems to only concern himself with how people perceive him as an owner. Retaining a general manager and head coaching tandem after such a season would have taken resolve and commitment to building a winning football program. In a Browns' Town that lives week to week with this organization, it would be nearly impossible to do so without being viewed in a negative light.
In this business, perception is reality. On the surface the Browns are the 5th worst team in the NFL. On the surface they are a team headed in the wrong direction after barely missing the playoffs in 2007. On the surface, Phil Savage is an arrogant man who put together a disappointing football program.
All of these things are simply not true.
Savage made the correct moves in assembling the 2008 Browns. The offensive unit remained in tact while the defense improved with the additions of Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams. The young defensive back tandem of Eric Wright and Brandon McDonald started off shaky, but they finished strong and Cleveland now may have found its franchise cornerbacks because of it. People questioned Savage as to whether keeping two capable quarterbacks was a good decision. The Browns not only lost them both, but a third as well.
Look, I'm not saying Phil Savage was the perfect manger. Public relations management is part of his job, and he proved himself irresponsible to that regard. What I am saying is Savage was a great General Manager - balancing short and long term gains in bringing a winner to Cleveland. His creative ability to balance free agency and the draft proved highly innovative, and had the Browns moving in the right direction. His scouting ability to assess and evaluate professional talent ranks in the upper echelon of GMs. His vision and decision making ability gave Browns fans hope for a better future.
It's a shame this move was made.
"Go turn around Detroit - we'll miss you."