Browns' shakeup claims Collins, not Savage

Updated: January 3, 2006, 5:03 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns president John Collins resigned Tuesday, ending a late-season power struggle in the team's front office that nearly led to the firing of general manager Phil Savage.

In a statement released by the Browns, owner Randy Lerner said Collins has resigned his position and that Savage and coach Romeo Crennel will remain in their current roles. Lerner said he will assume Collins' duties until a new president is hired.

Lerner added there are no candidates and he has not set a time frame to bring in another executive.

"My priority is to give the general manager and head coach all the resources necessary to make the Browns successful," Lerner said.

It was not immediately clear if Collins will remain with the team or take a position in Lerner's corporate holdings company.

Phone messages left for Collins at his office and on his cell phone were not immediately returned.

Savage released a statement through the Browns.

"I came to Cleveland because of my belief in Randy Lerner, his integrity and his commitment to making the Cleveland Browns a championship team," Savage said. "I am excited about continuing as GM and am more committed than ever to this franchise and to helping the organization bring the Browns fans a winner."

Collins joined the Browns on May 1, 2004, after working as a marketing vice president for the NFL in New York. He replaced Carmen Policy, late owner Al Lerner's hand-picked partner who was bought out by Randy Lerner.

Last week, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Savage would be fired because of "philosophical differences" with some members of the organization, and several sources confirmed that was the case.

But before Collins adamantly denied that Savage's job was ever in jeopardy, the report and rumors of Savage's possible firing led to a backlash from outraged Browns fans who swamped the club's headquarters with phone calls and e-mails two days before the season finale against Baltimore.

The outcry may have pressured Lerner into making a decision whether to keep Savage, considered one of the NFL's top talent evaluators who will celebrate his one-year anniversary with the club this week, or Collins.

As the rumors intensified Friday, Lerner met with Savage, Crennel and Collins, who later said the group had "renewed our vows."

However, it seemed that irreparable damage had been done to the group's chemistry. Savage politely declined to comment on his status before or after Sunday's game.

Following the Browns' 20-16 win, Collins said "thanks for everything" before driving off in his car.

Lerner hasn't yet spoken publicly about what transpired.

On Monday, Crennel said he and Savage had a "good working relationship" and added that he was confident the Browns' management team could find harmony.

"I think that in any organization working toward a common goal, everybody has to get along and work toward that goal," Crennel said. "There are different personalities in our organization. Everybody doesn't have to like everybody, but everybody has to work toward a goal. We've worked together and will continue to work together."

Savage addressed the team for 10 minutes, thanking them for their perseverance during another tough season.

"He wasn't saying goodbye," offensive tackle Ryan Tucker said. "He said we were going forward, and he was going to improve the team."

Collins' departure is the latest uproar with the Browns, whose seven seasons back in the league have been marked by bad draft picks, bad decisions, bad luck and mostly bad football.

Cleveland went 6-10 this season but the Browns are 36-77 with one winning season and playoff berth since 1999.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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