Monday, December 31, 2012

New Browns coach will run everything

Now that we know exactly which direction Jimmy Haslam III and Joe Banner will take as they restructure the Browns’ front office, two thoughts come quickly to mind.

At their broad-based news conference with the Cleveland media Monday, Haslam and Banner made it quite clear a new coach would be picked before anyone else in the football hierarchy.

That said, it is now obvious the new coach will not come from the college ranks unless he has a strong National Football League background. Banner declared the new coach will “play a bigger role moving forward and help decide on the right player personnel director or general manager.”

That immediately eliminates University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly and probably Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, both of whom are rumored to be on the Browns’ short list of candidates, or any other college coach, for that matter.

I can’t see Banner leaning on the advice of Kelly, whose familiarity with the NFL is rather limited, having never coached on that level. Besides, Kelly’s wonderfully successful gimmick offense at Oregon will not translate well in the NFL.

O’Brien, on the other hand, spent four seasons with the New England Patriots before moving on to Penn State, where he surprised just about everyone in the college football world and produced an inspired winning season. Four years with the Patriots does not constitute a strong league background.

No, the new guy almost assuredly will come from within the NFL coaching ranks. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens struck it rich with Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh, a couple of coordinators. Both men possess dynamic personalities. That’s what Haslam and Banner will be looking for.

Said Haslam, “Our goal is to be good for a long time. The type of coach we’re looking for has to pay attention to details and be aggressive.”

In other words, someone who is the anti Pat Shurmur. Someone who attacks the game from all angles and is unafraid to take chances. Someone who is at least two series ahead of his coaching rival.

As for the No. 2 man, there’s a very good chance he will be much more of a personnel guy than a general manager. It was pretty much like under Banner in Philadelphia, where head coach Andy Reid called most of the shots with the personnel input of general managers Tom Heckert Jr. and Howie Roseman.

The new personnel guy might be given the GM title like Heckert and Roseman in Philly, but he will clearly be the No. 2 guy on Banner’s power grid and hang in the background with the coach at the forefront.

Midway through the news conference, Banner, whose sour countenance undoubtedly belies his excitement at retooling the Browns, made an interesting statement regarding the direction of the club. “I’ll be massively disappointed if we don’t make the playoffs next year,” said the CEO.

Pretty bold statement considering the Browns have made the playoffs just once in 14 seasons since the rebirth and come close on one other occasion. Other than that, it has been one double-digit losing season after another.

Banner obviously knows what it takes to build a winner, having done that for so long in Philadelphia. What Browns fans are counting on from him is the ability to be lucky enough to make the absolute correct choice.

Choosing a new head coach in the NFL is as much a crapshoot as the college draft. For every John and Jim Harbaugh, for every Bill Belichick and Andy Reid, you have the Pat Shurmurs, Romeo Crennels and Eric Manginis of the coaching universe.

Most assistant coaches and coordinators are much better at their specific jobs. Only a select few have the chops to break out and become a solid and successful head coach. The dynamics of running the entire show are quite different than being responsible for a certain area. Finding those special men is the ultimate goal.
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The NFL’s Black Monday coaching carousel claimed seven victims. Whacked and heading out the exit with no invitation to return were Pat Shurmur (shocking!), Andy Reid in Philadelphia, Buffalo’s Chan Gailey, Norv Turner in San Diego, Romeo Crennel in Kansas City, Lovie Smith in Chicago and Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt. On the bubble are Carolina’s Ron Rivera and Mike Mularkey in Jacksonville.

You probably can add Whisenhunt, Reid and Smith to the possibilities of gaining the attention of Haslam and Banner, Each has been a head coach for a Super Bowl team and each has a strong personality. Whisenhunt was the Browns’ tight ends coach on the 1999 expansion team.
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Notebook: As well, comparatively speaking, as he played in Sunday’s loss in Pittsburgh, rookie quarterback Thad Lewis’ performance should not be taken too seriously. He might have thrown for more than 200 yards and a touchdown pass, but let's be honest. He does not possess a strong arm and is too small (6-0). He makes a nice third quarterback. . . . Nice call by Shurmur on that fake punt against the Steelers. It set up the team’s only touchdown of the afternoon, Where was that creativity during the season? Why wait until game 16? . . . Defensive end Jabaal Sheard is a strong closer. As a rookie, he had three of his 8½ sacks in the final three games. This season, he had four of his seven sacks in the last four games. Maybe he should start earlier. . . . The Browns pick sixth in next April’s college draft. . . . For the season, Cleveland was 5-7 against the AFC, 0-4 against the NFC and 2-4 within the AFC North. . . . They were 3-5 in games decided by seven points or less. The 11-5 Indianapolis Colts, by way of comparison, were 9-1 in games decided by that margin. The difference, of course, between going to the playoffs and going home.

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