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What if? Wednesday: What if Butch Davis Didn’t Leave Miami To Coach The Cleveland Browns In 2001?

The Canes are better off, but he doesn’t stay much longer.

Butch Davis
Butch Davis was underrated during his time as the head coach of The U.

Butch Davis was named the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes football program in January of 1995. He coached for six seasons, compiling a 51-20 record before leaving to become the head coach of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns in early 2001. Coach Davis’ last season at Miami was special: finishing 11-1, #2 final ranking in the AP poll, and beating both in-state rivals Florida State Seminoles and Florida Gators. With the talent recruited by Coach Davis and his staff, the Hurricanes were set up nicely for the future.

What if Butch Davis didn’t leave Miami to coach the Cleveland Browns in 2001? Well, I am going to tell you.

2001 college football season

I will keep this one short. The Canes didn’t need any additional motivation for the 2001 season, following their BCS Championship game snub the year prior. I would argue this team would’ve been even more dominant under the firm hand of Butch Davis. The only difference in the 2002 Rose Bowl victory over the Nebraska Cornhuskers is Coach Davis doesn’t hold back in the second half; Miami wins 49-7 instead of 37-14. Yay.

Miami Hurricanes Beat Nebraska Cornhuskers for National Championship
With Butch Davis, the 2001 Canes are still the GOAT college football team.
Photo by Jon Soohoo/WireImage

Cleveland Browns

Honestly, who cares? Butch Davis was the only coach to lead the expansion Browns to the playoffs, 2002, before Kevin Stefanski in 2020. The Browns have been a mess for two-plus decades. And the mess doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon, with the Deshaun Watson situation on their hands.

Cleveland Browns v New York Giants
The 2002 season under Coach Davis was Cleveland’s most successful in the last two decades.
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

2002 college football season

The regular season plays out the same. The main difference comes in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl vs Ohio State. After Willis McGahee’s gruesome knee injury, Coach Davis doesn’t think twice about losing a redshirt season for Frank Gore and subs him in instead of Jarrett Payton. Gore imposes his will and scores the winning touchdown against a tired OSU defense. Miami wins 31-24 in regulation, going back-to-back for the first time in school history. Double yay.

2003 college football season

After losing out to Bill Parcells for the head coaching job of the Dallas Cowboys, Coach Davis returns to a loaded Canes defense and a competent quarterback in Brock Berlin. Sadly, Frank Gore still tears his ACL in this universe. Looking back on the top recruits for 2001 and 2002, there wasn’t much in terms of running backs for Coach Davis to flip to Miami. That said, I think he leans on freshman Tyrone Moss over Payton for most of the season.

The awful home loss to the Tennessee Volunteers doesn’t happen. Despite the Canes being back-to-back champs, I honestly feel like the BCS would screw them again in at least one alternate timeline. The rest of the season plays out similarly as it did in our world, with the LSU Tigers beating the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2004 Sugar Bowl, winning the BCS National Championship.

Miami and USC split AP poll votes, preventing either from earning a split National Championship with LSU. The final difference is a deservedly pissed off Miami team stomping Florida State in the 2004 Orange Bowl 37-14 as opposed to the 16-14 win we got with Coach Larry Coker.

2004 offseason

There were seven head coach openings in the NFL after the 2003 season. Coach Davis’ consistent success makes him a prime candidate for multiple teams. Between his ultimate desire to be an NFL head coach and his disgust at the BCS for depriving him of two National Championship game appearances, Butch Davis accepts the head coaching position for the Atlanta Falcons.

He expresses his excitement at the opportunity to coach uber-talented quarterback Michael Vick. Butch Davis finishes his Miami coaching career with an 88-21 record, going 48-2 in his final four seasons.

Mid and late 2000s Canes teams

Larry Coker and Randy Shannon stayed on with Coach Davis at Miami in this universe, with Shannon being the new favorite to take over for his departing defensive mentor. The Canes struggle through the mid and late 2000s just as they did in today’s world. Do they hire Al Golden in 2011? Who knows? I don’t think much changes before Mark Richt comes to town in 2014 anyway.

Miami v Virginia
Randy Shannon takes over for Coach Davis in this timeline, but it doesn’t go any better.
Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Butch Davis’ NFL coaching career

This is where things could get very interesting. I think Coach Davis gets the most out of Michael Vick in his three years there, 2004-2006. The Falcons make the playoffs each season, reaching the NFC Championship game in 2004 and 2005. Unfortunately, Vick still goes to jail for dogfighting, derailing the entire Atlanta Falcons franchise.

With Bill Parcells finally retiring after the 2006 season, Butch Davis jumps at the chance to follow his mentor Jimmy Johnson and become the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. This move might be frowned upon by some, as he is leaving a team in desperate need of some stability.

However, the Cowboys opportunity is too good to pass up. With the sustained mediocrity of the Dallas Cowboys over the last 15 years, I don’t see how Coach Davis doesn’t do better than Wade Phillips or Jason Garrett. Butch Davis makes multiple playoff appearances and gives Tony Romo a better resume to retire with. Miami never has to see Coach Davis on the sidelines of UNC and FIU. That’s a win for everyone involved.

Dallas Cowboys Coach Jimmy Johnson
Butch Davis followed in his mentor’s footsteps to become the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in alternate timeline 2006.
SetNumber: X38949

Another interesting alternate timeline. See you next Wednesday!