Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rough start

It’s been about a week now since Pat Shurmur slipped on his head-coaching hat and already, fans are barking at his doorstep about his coordinators. Or lack of coordinators.

That’s right. It’s been a whole week and we still don’t know who will draw up plays on offense for the Browns and design the club’s defenses. And the fans are freaking.

All the good coordinator candidates are being swept up by other teams and the poor Browns are left with the scraps, they moan. They have already seen two offensive candidates land elsewhere. That means whoever Shurmur taps will be no better than third choice to replace the very replaceable Brian Daboll.

By declaring he’ll call plays this season, the new coach has basically tied the hands of the man he selects as his offensive chief. It looks as though whoever takes the job will be someone desperate to land any position and willing to subjugate his role. That does not bode well unless Shurmur opts for some college hot shot.

And it’s looking as though the same scenario is unfolding on the defensive side of the ball. Three former NFL coordinators are in the mix. The good news is no one has officially turned the club down. The bad news is all three are retreads.

Dick Jauron and Dave Wannstedt are polar opposites of the departed Rob Ryan. They appear to be sedated by comparison. Both were schooled in the 4-3. And Bill Davis, the only one who schemed an NFL defense last season (a 3-4), can’t be proud of what his Arizona Cardinals accomplished.

Jauron is expected to remain in Philadelphia and coordinate the Eagles’ defense following the surprising firing of Sean McDermott. Wannstedt, who hasn’t been in the NFL since leaving to coach at the University of Pittsburgh in 2005, remains a viable choice.

Davis, a Youngstown native whose father was a front-office executive with the Browns about 30 years ago, was summarily dismissed by the Cardinals a couple of weeks ago after serving two seasons as defensive boss.

The Cardinals plunged from the top of the NFC West last season to the basement this past season and Davis, whose defense gave up the third-most points in the league (434), was coach Ken Whisenhunt’s scapegoat. Never mind that the Cards looked lost on offense without retired quarterback Kurt Warner.

They also looked lost on defense with the loss of four key starters (linebackers Karlos Dansby and Chike Okeafor, and defensive backs Antrel Rolle and Bryant McFadden) from the 2009 season. Replacements Joey Porter, Paris Lenon, Greg Toler and Kerry Rhodes fell far short of expectations.

It also didn’t help that the Arizona offense scored just 18 points a game, with Warner practicing his terpsichore on Dancing With the Stars, and turned the ball over at an alarming rate. The defense, much like the Browns’’ defense, was gassed midway through the season. Someone had to pay.

So it appears as though Shurmur will have to settle working with coordinators just looking for any kind of job. Not a good sign for the freshman head coach.

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