By Doug Miller
Phil Savage traveled around the training camps of the NFL in August. He paced around the sidelines at preseason games. He talked to coaches and executives and players and whoever else wanted to give him valuable information. He searched for talent nationwide. He was back in the scouting game in professional football, and it had to feel good.
Savage played and coached in college, coached in the NFL, ran his own NFL team as a senior vice president and general manager (the Cleveland Browns from 2005-08), worked in the front offices of the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles, spent nine years broadcasting for the University of Alabama, and had a six-year stint as executive director of the Senior Bowl. He also wrote a book called “Fourth and Goal Every Day.” That’s a lot of years being around the game he loves.
Now he’s on board at the start of something new, bold and innovative. He’s the GM of the Arizona Hotshots in The Alliance of American Football, and he’s delighted about it, particularly after spending the summer watching the NFL gear up for its season.
“I think that obviously, we’ve got to get ourselves off the ground and get going,” Savage said in a recent interview on CBS Sports Radio.
Savage, 53, is no stranger to helping build championship teams. He’s been among some of the sharpest minds in the sport.
In 1991, he was hired by then-Cleveland coach Bill Belichick to join the Browns staff. He worked alongside Belichick and assistant coach Nick Saban, among others, and saw how attention to detail and relentless preparation pays off down.
After Savage followed late Cleveland owner Art Modell to Baltimore in 1995 to begin a new chapter with the Ravens, he played a role in drafting numerous star players, including linebacker Ray Lewis, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, safety Ed Reed, linebacker Terrell Suggs and running back Jamal Lewis.
Those results speak quite loudly for themselves. The Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000 and again in 2012 with Hall of Famer Lewis anchoring both defenses and Ogden winning a ring in 2000 and serving as honorary captain of the ’12 team.
“Phil’s experience as an NFL coach, scout, player personnel executive and general manager is exactly what is needed to build a championship-caliber team from scratch,” said J.K. McKay, Head of Football Operations for The Alliance. “Over the course of his career he has shown a knack for identifying top talent, and we look forward to him doing the same” in Arizona.
“There are really good people involved in it,” Savage said in the CBS appearance. “The timeline works. Our season runs February through April. … “This is going to be an option for players to get better.”
Savage says he’s been enjoying the ramp-up to the unique spring season and the opportunity The Alliance represents for fans and players alike.