Report: Davis may be fired this week

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 29, 2004

CLEVELAND (AP) - One more loss with the Browns and Butch Davis could be going back to college.

Citing unidentified league and team sources, ESPN reported that owner Randy Lerner considered firing Davis on Sunday night but decided not to make the change until he sees how the Browns respond from their latest setback.

The report also said Davis could lose his job before the season ends if the Browns lose to the Cincinnati Bengals this weekend.

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''Butch is our coach and the Browns will not discuss any reports such as this,'' team spokeswoman Lisa Levine said Monday night.

But despite rumors that he's in his last days, Davis said his only immediate concern is getting the Browns turned around.

''I am so focused on trying to win these games and look at what's right and what's wrong,'' he said. ''I'm worried about winning and helping this team get better. Right now, that's the only focus I've got.''

The Browns, who have been devastated by injuries this season and through a substantial portion of Davis' three-plus seasons in Cleveland, have lost five of six to slip into last place in the AFC North.

Since leaving the University of Miami and taking over the expansion Browns in 2001, Davis' record is 24-35, including a playoff loss. But after leading Cleveland to a 9-7 mark and the postseason in 2002, he's just 8-18.

Davis helped restore Miami's program to national prominence, and if he is dismissed by the Browns, Davis could pursue an opening at a big-time school like Florida, which fired Ron Zook earlier this season.

Davis said conjecture about him being fired has been ''unpleasant'' for his family.

In addition to the losses and injuries, Davis' tenure has been marked by poor draft picks, a quarterback controversy, a complete overhaul in the team's front office and the death of owner Al Lerner.

The losing has seemingly taken its toll on Davis. Normally upbeat and overly optimistic even after the toughest losses, he has been sullen the past few weeks. However, he insists he is totally committed to making the Browns into winners and is convinced that he has them on the right course.

''The only thing you can do is to continue to be positive and be teaching and to encourage the players and to help them improve,'' said Davis, who got a two-year contract extension through 2007 after last season. ''Whatever is going to happen is going to happen.''

With the season winding down and little left to play for, Davis said he isn't worried about losing his team. Although times are tough, the Browns won't quit.

''These guys are pros and they know that they have to prepare, practice and play. They take a great deal of pride in their preparation and their own performance,'' he said.