Wednesday, January 23, 2013

More news and views

News: Browns hire Norv Turner as offensive coordinator

Views: It’s about damn time the Browns hired a coordinator on that side of the ball who knows what the hell he’s doing.

There is no question Turner will be the best offensive coordinator the Browns have had since Rob Chudzinski helmed the 2007 Cleveland offense, which produced the best numbers since the rebirth or since, for that matter.

That’s the team, you’ll recall, that featured Derek Anderson throwing 29 touchdown passes, 16 of them to Braylon Edwards, Jamal Lewis running for more than 1,300 yards and a defense that had problems getting off the field.

It was also the team that failed to make the playoffs, despite a 10-6 record, due mainly to losing to the Bengals in the penultimate game of the season in a wind-swept game in Cincinnati. Chudzinski brazenly kept calling for Anderson to throw the ball in gusty conditions and a couple of interceptions proved costly.

The next season, Chudzinski’s offense fell apart and so did the Browns, who finished 4-12. That signaled the end of the Romeo Crennel era – and Chudzinski, who wound up in San Diego with . . . Turner, now in a classic case or role reversal.

No question it is a solid hire because he’ll bring something the Browns’ offense has missed since 2007: A stylish approach that combines all phases of the offense. Under Pat Shurmur, it was too heavily weighted toward the passing game.

Turner, a much better coordinator than head coach, is savvy enough to know that in order to win in the National Football League, you have to run the football successfully. Even though it has become a passing league the last several seasons, you cannot win in the NFL without a ground game.

And Turner, who has coached and schemed for some of the best runners and quarterbacks (Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers, to name a few) over the years, knows what it takes to mold a solid offense.

It’ll be interesting to see if he draws any comparisons between the Dallas Cowboys Triplets (Aikman, Smith and wide receiver Michael Irvin) and the second-year Cleveland trio of Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon.

Richardson, in particular, most likely will become a pet project. The similarities to Smith, physical and otherwise, are striking.  Turner would have to be blind not to see them and take advantage of them.

There is no question he will glom onto Chudzinski’s vertical passing game bent with Weeden’s strong arm and Gordon’s over-the-top speed as the basis. Weeden was badly misused last season. Turner is smart enough to take advantage of what Weeden will be able to offer.

And look for the tight end too become a more integral part of the offense. That’s a Turner trademark. Now all the Browns have to do is bring in at least two tight ends who best fit into the Turner offense. Those players do not exist on the current roster.

Not to worry. The Cleveland offense will be in very solid hands.

News: Browns hire Ray Horton as defensive coordinator

Views: It’s about damn time the Browns hired a coordinator on that side of the ball who knows what the hell he’s doing.

The Browns got lucky with this one. The Arizona Cardinals wanted to completely divorce themselves from the Ken Whisenhunt era and that meant saying so long to Horton, who badly wanted to be Whisenhunt’s successor.

He had built a solid reputation in two seasons as the Cardinals’ defensive boss and was considered a front-runner. But when the Cards chose to go with Bruce Arians, Horton couldn’t say yes quickly enough to the Browns.

Having watched the Cardinals up close and personal the last two seasons under Horton, I can assure you this, too, is a solid hire. Horton will bring a personality and an energy to a Cleveland defense that lacks both attributes.

Yes, that defense played hard and tough for Dick Jauron the last couple of seasons. But they didn’t play with attitude, with swagger, with a nasty approach to what they were doing. Sort of like a Pittsburgh Steelers style of defense.

That’s what Horton will provide. A disciple of long time Steelers defensive chief Dick LeBeau, he knows how to motivate. The Browns need that motivation in a most serious way.

When Horton left Arizona, player reaction was swift and angry. Even though the Cardinals suffered through a season similar to that of the Browns, it was the defense that, with the exception of one game (a 58-0 blowout in Seattle), kept the club competitive. It was the meager Arizona offense that contributed mightily to a 5-11 record. Only the Kansas City Chiefs scored fewer points.

It took nearly half the 2011 season for Horton’s troops to grasp what he was teaching. After a 1-6 start, the Cardinals finished that season winning seven of their final nine games with the defense leading the way.

With the new personnel and a new approach, it might take Horton some time to get his men in Cleveland to understand the new concepts.  He doesn’t have a Calais Campbell to work with at defensive end, or a Daryl Washington at inside linebacker, or a Patrick Peterson at cornerback.

His chief task will be to change the defense’s personality and develop the next Campbell, Washington and Peterson. Considering the passive coordinators who preceded him in Cleveland, that shouldn’t be asking too much.

News: Browns hire Joe Cullen as defensive line coach

Views: What the hell are they thinking?

The strength of the defense this past season was the line. Position coach Dwaine Board helped develop rookies John Hughes, Billy Winn and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, who performed well while regulars Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor recovered from injuries.

Why tinker with that? OK, so the Browns might go to some sort of hybrid defense while converting – again – back to a 3-4 scheme. Not sure I see how Cullen, who brings along his own personal demons from his days with the Detroit Lions, can improve on that.

In his three seasons in Jacksonville, the Jags were 15-33 with just 77 sacks. Was that entirely his fault? No, but the performance of his linemen had to be a factor. The Jags had a measly 20 sacks this past season, 16½ by the defensive line. That’s one a game.

The Browns, on the other hand, recorded 38 sacks, nearly doubling the Jaguars’ total. So why get rid of Board?

What the hell were the Browns thinking?

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