Friday, January 30, 2015

A mystery inside an enigma

Josh Gordon has seen and heard enough. He struck back Thursday in the form of an open letter to Stephen A. Smith, Charles Barkley and Cris Carter, three of his harshest critics.

His wide-ranging, almost-rambling 36-paragraph missive, posted on the Internet by The Cauldron, was carefully worded and composed respectfully for the most part.

The troubled Browns wide receiver, facing a season-long suspension by the National Football League following a failed substance abuse test, does not come off as an officious jerk. If he comported himself as gracefully and artfully as he wrote this letter, he might not be in the trouble he finds himself in.

He writes a lot of it in defensive mode. You say this and this about me, he wrote, but you don’t really know me. Then he goes on offense. “You have very little idea what you are talking about. None of you do, even those who seem curiously obsessed with the goings-on in my life.”

At times, it appeared as though he did not write this letter totally by himself. He had help. For example, in describing his rough upbringing as a youth in Houston, he wrote, ”I succeeded by narrowly avoiding a life of crime that managed to sink its clutches into almost all of my childhood friends.”

If this is an example of how well Gordon writes, he has a future in the literary world if he is unable to resume his NFL career.

Throughout the letter, there is no question he is in a state of denial. He acknowledges he is only a social drinker and claims he hasn’t touched marijuana since college.

“I am not a drug addict; I am not an alcoholic,” he wrote. “I am not someone who deserves to be dissected and analyzed like some tragic example of everything that can possibly go wrong for a professional athlete. . . . I am a human being with feelings and emotions and scars and flaws just like anyone else. I make mistakes – I have made a lot of mistakes – but I am a good person and I will persevere.”

And yet, he keeps getting suspended by the NFL for alcohol and drug abuse. It’s almost as though the league is incorrect in its punishment and he believes he has done nothing wrong.

Barkley, the ex-National Basketball Association great, has gone on record as being fearful that “Josh Gordon will die if he doesn’t change his ways,” an obvious reference to Gordon’s constant problems with the NFL.

Gordon’s dramatic reply: “Respectfully, your worry over my ‘problems’ with substance abuse and my twisting descent into darkness (another literary beauty) and, apparently, my impending death, is misplaced mostly because you have very little idea what you are talking about.”

He deals with Carter more harshly. The Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver, who overcame substance abuse after being cut by the Philadelphia Eagles many years ago, publicly suggested last summer that the Browns should release Gordon following yet another league suspension.

Gordon’s defiant response: “You state as fact that ‘we are dealing with addiction here.’ Know this: We are not dealing with anything, Cris. We’re not the same. Not at all.”

Writing this letter is an open admission by Gordon that he is paying attention to his critics and, at the same time, assuring those who share those fears for him have nothing about which to be fearful. It’s almost as though he believes he is in total control of his life.

Midway through the letter comes a frank admission. “I messed up,” he wrote. Then he copped out. “But to even begin to understand why I messed up, you need to know the Josh Gordon that existed before the NFL.”

He blames his age to a certain degree. “If I have a ‘problem,’ it is I am only 23 years old – with a lot left to learn. . . I truly believe that what I’m going through right now will only make me stronger. I believe my future is bright.”

He also included what amounts to a mea culpa to Browns fans, the city of Cleveland and his family and friends. “I have let down many in Cleveland . . . and the loyal fan base that wants nothing more than to win. Playing there is different than in many other cities. We feel the fans’ pain. . . .

“I have also disappointed the family and friends who have always stood by me. . . . Most importantly, I have failed myself. Again.” The boldface and italics added for dramatic effect by Gordon.

The bottom line (with apologies to Winston Churchill): Josh Gordon is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. On the one hand, he is a supremely talented athlete who seems bent on self-destruction despite his denials. On the other, he comes across as an extremely articulate young man who is completely misunderstood.

I don’t know Gordon, real or otherwise, or why he allows himself to constantly find trouble and do nothing about it. All I know is he has the chance to become a great pro football player and is pissing it away despite his protestations.

Letters like the one he submitted to The Cauldron do not help the matter. If anything, it exacerbates the situation because many fans are totally confused now as to just what makes Josh Gordon tick.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Here's one vote to keep, rehabilitate Gordon

As a general rule, I’m a hardliner when it comes to athletes who cannot comport themselves within the rules of normal human behavior off the field.

As long as they do not violate those rules, they get a pass no matter how they perform on the field of play. As long as they do not bring shame to themselves and their teams, ditto.

I used to be a one-and-gone hardliner. Mess up once with drugs and/or alcohol, see ya. I still draw the line at domestic abuse and breaking the law feloniously. But the years have mellowed and softened me. Second chance became a part of my lexicon.

In the case of Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, whose most recent dalliance with substance abuse has cost him at least a one-year banishment from the National Football League, I have conflicted feelings.

On the one hand, Gordon’s apparent refusal to take life seriously has propelled him onto a dangerous road and the Browns have enough problems to solve without worrying about him. Cut him and be done with it.

On the other hand, Gordon’s talent begs for patience. We all saw what he did in 2013 and marveled. How can you cut talent like that without trying to somehow rehabilitate him? Keep him around and roll the dice.

It’s entirely possible Gordon’s self destructive ways could prematurely end what could be a great career. He might never again play a game of professional football.

He is his own worst enemy. With so much to gain and yet so much to lose, he seems to favor wandering down the path that always, without fail, leads to trouble.

He never learns lessons. He is a classic example of someone who by failing to learn those lessons is doomed to repeat them. He has become as good at that as he is at catching footballs.

The Browns are weighing their options now. Chances are pretty good they will cut him and move on. That would be a mistake.

Gordon needs help in the worst way. This has become more a story of someone ruining his life than just another football player wasting his talent. His silent cry for help is going unanswered. Abandoning him now would be wrong.

He needs an intervention by persons who know how to deal with such situations. He needs help with putting his life in order, getting his priorities straightened out and off the self-destruction path.

Where is Drew Rosenhaus, his agent? How much of an influence has he been on his client? Given the trouble Gordon has darted in and out of the past several years, none appears to be the correct answer.

Sure the veteran agent has a vast stable of clients and can’t look after each one closely, but he has to be deaf, dumb and blind not to see this particular client throwing away his life.

Now it’s possible Gordon can’t help himself. Drug and alcohol addiction is a sickness that, if unchecked, becomes pernicious in nature. That’s where intervention plays a vital role.

It’s easy for fans and some media members to say it’s time to cut the cord with Gordon. Let him go. He embarrasses the Cleveland Browns just by being on their roster. He stains the very name of the team.

Then you remember the fabulous 2013 season when he led the NFL in receiving yards despite missing the first two games of the season when serving another suspension. That’s hard to block out because you know he can do it.

So why not keep him? He won’t be able to play until the 2016 season at the earliest, anyway. Why not keep him on the roster as a suspended player? What do the Browns have to lose? They do not have to pay him.

In the interim, find a way to rehabilitate him. He’s young enough where it’s not too late to save him and, at the same time, enable him to realize how rewarding his career can be.

The NFL landscape is littered with talented players whose careers have been short-circuited by the alcohol/drug culture. Perhaps the most well known NFL reclamation project is Cris Carter, who overcame alcohol and drug abuse to become a Hall of Fame wide receiver with the Minnesota Vikings.

The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Carter out of Ohio State in the fourth round of the 1987 supplemental draft (notice the similarity to Gordon, selected by the Browns in the second round of the supplemental draft in 2012).

In 1989, Eagles coach Buddy Ryan shocked everyone by releasing Carter, who had caught 19 touchdown passes in three seasons. The reason? Drugs and booze. Back then, the NFL did not have a substance abuse program and he was not suspended. To this day, Carter credits Ryan with motivating him to turn his life around.

Then there’s the uplifting story of Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu. Early stardom as a freshman at Louisiana State (in 2010) earned him the nickname Honey Badger. From that point on, however, repeated drug test failures resulted in multiple suspensions from the team.

Mathieu withdrew from school in 2012 and entered drug rehab. He lasted three weeks before reenrolling for the fall semester. Less than two months later, he was busted for possession of marijuana. His career at LSU was finished. But he wasn’t.

The Cardinals waited until the third round of the 2013 draft to select him. Awaiting him in Phoenix was fellow LSU teammate Patrick Peterson, who took him under his wing and he has been straight ever since.

Two examples of talented athletes who experienced substance abuse problems early in their careers and overcame them. Why can’t it happen again? What harm would it do to put Gordon and Carter together?

In the late 1970s, former Browns coach Sam Rutigliano helped found a support group called the Inner Circle, which anonymously helped members of his team with substance abuse problems. That might be something the current ownership also should consider when dealing with players like Gordon.

The Browns back then hooked up with the Cleveland Clinic in an effort to help rehabilitate those players who wanted to turn around their lives. If the Browns truly want to help Gordon, they, too, have to make a similar effort.

Right now, Josh Gordon the football player is leading a wayward life. He needs help. He needs guidance. He needs someone to show him the difference between right and wrong. Obviously those around him now are incapable of doing that. His marvelous talent is going to waste. It doesn’t have to.

Gordon, who has missed 13 (of 48) games in three seasons while under suspension, is in Stage 3, the final stage, of the NFL’s substance abuse program, which was instituted in 1987. He will remain there for the rest of his career, however long that lasts.

Where that leads depends on his mind-set now. First, and most important, he has to want to get better. Without that, he is a lost cause. It is incumbent on the Browns to try and find out. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

DeFilippo bucks the odds

And the winner is . . . John DeFilippo. Congratulations, John, you are now the sixth offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in the last six years.

Sixth in six years? Yikes!

So much for stability. So much for job security. Keep your resume handy.

The best thing the new coordinator has going for him is his age. At 36, this is as close to being the perfect age to rise to prominence if that’s ever going to happen. This is his first shot at running an offense.

DeFilippo had nothing to lose by taking this job. He takes over a position with a team that had trouble scoring points in the last half of the 2014 season. How much worse can it get under his guidance?

He inherits a (club description) muddy quarterback situation that is not exactly the envy of other offensive coordinators around the National Football League. As it stands right now, Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw are the only quarterbacks on the roster.

Brian Hoyer is a free agent and unless the Browns can somehow come up with a compelling reason for him to stay, he is gone. Makes no difference where. His absence creates a void.

That leaves two second-year professionals, neither of whom distinguished himself in their rookie seasons. Unless General Manager Ray Farmer somehow manages to pluck a young veteran quarterback out of the air, this is what the Youngstown native faces.

In announcing DeFilippo’s appointment, Browns coach Mike Pettine put the whammy on him. From the Department of I Wish I Had Never Said That comes this dandy from the head coach in a team release: “He’s the total package.”

That one’s got a real good shot at winding up in that department’s Hall of Fame with “best pure pass rusher in the draft” (defensive end Keith Baldwin in the 1982 draft) and “mad dog in a meat market” (linebacker Mike Junkin in the 1987 draft).

DeFilippo hasn’t drawn up a play, crafted a playbook or even met with the guys he’ll be coaching and yet, he’s the total package. That’s an awful lot to live up to. He had better be good. Like yesterday.

Pettine, who rarely gushes about anything, prefaced that by suggesting that “the things John brings to the table are exactly what we are looking for. . . He’s very bright. . . has great energy about him, great passion. Loves the game. Works extremely well with other people.”

Sounds like the attributes of any good football coach. If you aren’t smart, lack energy and passion and do not love the game, don’t bother going into coaching because your chances of succeeding, let alone eventually reaching the NFL, diminish greatly.

Pettine called DeFilippo, who interviewed for the same position a year ago and lost out to Kyle Shanahan, “a good person. That, to me, is one of the biggest reasons he is here.” Yes, he really said that.

There are times where it is wise to dial it back. This is one of those times. DeFilippo will have enough pressure on the new job as it is without his new boss delivering heaping servings of praise.

His credentials include helping develop rookie Oakland quarterback Derek Carr last season. Carr won only three games for the Raiders, but threw a modest 21 touchdown passes. The Raiders also lost to the Browns in game 8 last season, a victory that launched Cleveland’s three-game winning streak.

In the same club release, DeFilippo said he was “thrilled to be working with all the quarterbacks that are here and going to be here.” He might have to change his mind a little after working with Manziel, Shaw and whomever the club brings in. It will be the ultimate challenge.

If given free rein, DeFilippo stands a good chance of becoming the first Cleveland offensive coordinator to still be standing after one season on the job since Brian Daboll put in back-to-back seasons in 2009-10. The odds are definitely in his favor.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Verna the revolutionary

Tony Verna died the other day at the age of 81. His passing barely caused a stir in the sports community.

It should have been more than a stir. A lot more.

Whenever you watch sports on television these days, think of Tony Verna.

Whenever you see what appears to be an officiating mistake and it gets reversed, think of Tony Verna.

And whenever you see all the wrongs of the sports world being righted, think of Tony Verna.

On Dec. 7, 1963, Verna gave birth to the most revolutionary tool in the sports galaxy – instant replay.

It was during an Army-Navy game on that date more than 50 years ago that Verna, then a young director for CBS Television who had experimented with showing the same play again and again and failed, pushed a button and changed forever the way we watch sports.

He did not know at the time how revolutionary his new baby was because it was slow to catch on. It was looked on in the beginning as novel, but not much else.

However, once those in the television industry realized how important this breakthrough was and improved on it, the rest is, well, history. Televising sports would never be the same.

Verna’s baby has grown into a monster to the point where it has become the focal point as an officiating tool for just about every sport on the professional and collegiate level.

For example, how many times have you seen a close play in a baseball game that was called incorrectly and reversed by replay? Not just instant replay, either. But slow-motion replay, super slow-motion replay, freeze-frame replay and zoom replay.

In football, we have come to expect, not rely, expect replay to govern borderline plays the human eye cannot judge in normal time. Sometimes, the eye deceives. Instant replay does not deceive. It defines.

Verna’s baby has grown so much exponentially, it has reached the point where it more and more has become an accepted part of the officiating community. Not only does it correct mistakes, it also shows in many cases how good officials are in their respective sports.

If anything, it makes them better because they know they are more closely scrutinized than ever. Replay exposes their deficiencies.

All fans want from officials is the correct call. Verna’s contribution to the sports community provides them that opportunity. It has become a game changer.

Little did Verna know at the time how much of an impact his invention would have on the sports community. In fact, it took many years before that community finally relented and accepted its worth.

And when it did, it was like an avalanche as the doors of progress swung open and replay was embraced almost wholly. There is still progress to be made as other forms of replay are being experimented with by various sports.

The beneficiary, of course, is the fan. In the never-ending effort to get it right, instant replay plays a vital and pivotal role. And for that we have to thank Tony Verna.

So the next time you see a close play at a base or whether a receiver had both feet in bounds when he made the catch or whether the shot clock expired before the shot was taken, think of Tony Verna, the father of replay.

Without his revolutionary invention, we still would be watching sports differently.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wise beyond his years

Cardale Jones is a remarkable young man.

Anyone who follows college football knows the Ohio State quarterback played remarkably well as he led the Buckeyes to the first-ever College Football Championship title.

But his decision Thursday to return to OSU rather than declare for the National Football League draft was as much a victory for education as it was a victory for the Buckeyes’ football program next season. In many ways, it was even bigger for education.

“I’m going to return next year for school,” he simply told a national television audience and those who gathered at Ginn Academy in Cleveland for the news conference. The reason? He wants to graduate before heading out into the world.

How refreshing.

Most – if not all – of the pro football world wondered exactly where Jones would be selected in April’s college draft, never for a moment factoring in the possibility he might just stay in school.

“My education will take me 10 times farther that my athletic ability,” said Jones, who called his decision easy and wondered why everyone was making such a big deal about it.

After knocking off Oregon in the national title game, he as much as said after the game that he wasn’t ready for the NFL. No one took him seriously. He made it clear education came first, then football.

“Football to me is a stepping stone for my education,” he said. “Being a first-round draft pick means nothing to me without my education.” The room at Ginn Academy applauded proudly. And then Jones added, “Anything else?”

Again, how refreshing.

In this day and age where college football is nothing more than a feeder farm for the NFL and a vast majority of the athletes do not graduate and cant wait to get out of school, what Jones did struck a blow for the reason most kids go to college.

It was a great statement and message for the young people who either watched the news conference on television or will read about it and heard about it for at least the next few days.

Tedy Bruschi, commenting on ESPN, went one step further. “That was great for American kids to see,” he said, hoping his children were watching.

Jones said that in the wake of his brilliant trio of games, he understood the hype surrounding the possibility he might turn pro. “I got (the hype) in the beginning,” he said. “I never fed into it. I never let it get to me. I’ve got to think about the long-term jeopardy.”

He understands that when plans for the 2015 season are laid by the Ohio State coaching staff, he will have to compete all over again for the starting spot. “Next year, in my opinion, can be a lot better,” he said.

If that is case, the competition at quarterback in spring football at OSU will be arguably the most interesting story in college football with Jones battling Braxton Miller (if he returns) and J. T Barrett, who should be fully recovered from the broken ankle suffered in the season-ending victory against Michigan.

The incredible three games Jones crafted to gain the attention of the entire collegiate football world should be a non-factor in that competition if coach Urban Meyer keeps his promise of keeping it open.

But you have to figure Meyer will never forget what Jones did to help him win his third national championship and the circumstances under which he accomplished the feat.

Maybe that’s what Jones factored in when he made his decision, not to mention that by coming out now, he had to know his education as a pro would be long term by whoever drafted him because of his brief college resume.

By staying in school, he gives himself an opportunity to continue building on what he did at the end of this season and at the same time complete his education.

“My football and career window is so short,” said Jones, who has designs on becoming a financial planner. “I have my whole life to live and that is where I think my education will come in handy.”

This from a kid who in October 2012 tweeted “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS.”

Quite a comeback.

What the nation saw Thursday was a young man whose head is screwed on right. He is fortunate to have a support group pointing him in the proper direction.

The best ending to this story would be if Jones wins that competition in Columbus in spring, leads the Buckeyes to at least to another shot at the national title and is a first-round selection in the 2016 NFL draft.

In the end, though, education is the big winner. And there ain’t nothing pointless about that.

How refreshing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Just throw a dart and cross fingers

The list keeps growing and growing and growing. Somewhere on that list, maybe, is the name of Kyle Shanahan’s successor as offensive coordinator for the Browns for at least the next season.

Written that way because of the job security associated with the position the last five seasons. It is easy to see that the Browns are throwing as many names against the board in hopes one of them will be "The One."

Latest to join the list is New York Jets running backs coach Anthony Lynn, who held the same position with the Browns in 2007 and 2008. He joins, in no particular order, Marc Trestman, John DeFilippo, Bill Callahan, Scott Linehan, Matt Cavanaugh, Charlie Weis and Al Saunders as those whose talents interest the Browns. Another latecomer is Browns tight ends coach Brian Angelichio.

Most of those whose names have been hurled into the rumor mill have some connection with Cleveland coach Mike Pettine, who was pretty much forced to take on Shanahan this past season.

Trestman, Callahan, Linehan and Saunders have also been unsuccessful head coaches in the National Football League, while Lynn and DeFilippo, a native of Youngstown, have never crafted an offense in the NFL. Weis has failed twice as a college head coach and Cavanaugh is another Youngstown native. Both have OC experience in the NFL.

Now it's entirely possible the coach or coaches who wind up with either of both of the jobs is not currently on the list of candidates. What with uncertainty still attached to several vacant head coaching jobs in the NFL, assistant coaches on other teams waiting to learn their fate could have an impact on the Cleveland picture.

Trestman probably has the highest profile of all the candidates thus far. He is, or should be, no stranger to Browns fans, having served as Cleveland’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in 1988 and 1989. He was Bernie Kosar’s position coach at the University of Miami and joined the Browns in Marty Schottenheimer’s last season in Cleveland.

That season, many will recall, the defensive–minded Schottenheimer took over the offense when Lindy Infante bolted for the top job in Green Bay. When Schottenheimer left for Kansas City and Bud Carson took over, Trestman was elevated to offensive coordinator.

Known for his ability to work well with quarterbacks, he was recently fired as head coach of the Chicago Bears after two seasons in large part because of his inability to elevate the game of Jay Cutler.

Why the Browns would be interested in a journeyman coach like Trestman is puzzling. His greatest success was as head coach of the Canadian Football League Montreal Alouettes from 2008 to 2012. He took his club to the Grey Cup title game three straight seasons and won two.

Other than that, Trestman, who will be 59 on Thursday, has been a coaching vagabond, making NFL stops in Minnesota, Cleveland, San Francisco, Detroit, Arizona, Oakland, Miami and Chicago with a brief stop at North Carolina State.

Callahan, Saunders and Linehan also are relatively long in the tooth. How much a difference that makes in Pettine’s decision process depends solely on what he wants his new offense to look like.

Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme worked extremely well in the early going before opposing teams started stacking the box. What was missing was a quality quarterback with a passing game effective enough to loosen those defenses.

Whoever lands the job will have a huge task to awaken a Cleveland offense that looked so good in the first half dozen games of the 2014 season only to completely fade as the calendar turned to November and December.

The hardest part for Pettine will be to convince players on that side of the ball that whoever is anointed offensive coordinator du jour, it will be in the best interests of the Cleveland Browns. That could take some convincing seeing as he will be sixth new coordinator in six seasons.

He’ll start with one hand tied figuratively behind his back. The quarterback whose attributes include loosening up opposing defenses is not on the current roster. Unless General Manager Ray Farmer strengthens the passing game through either the draft or free agency, the new coordinator will feel Shanahan’s frustration. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Now tell us something we don't know

It took the Browns two days to announce the departure of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains.

Why? What took so long to acknowledge what actually, at least reportedly, took place on Thursday?

Why did Shanahan leave? Was he forced out? Did he want out?

And what caused the club to let Loggains go?

Inquiring minds want to know the answers to these and other questions in the wake of yet another misstep by those who reside in the Ivory Tower in Berea.

Why did the team's public relations arm, which can’t wait to spread good news, sit on these two coaching moves when just about everyone else outside its walls knew?

When news broke Thursday via social media that Shanahan and Loggains were no longer gainfully employed by the Browns, the silence emanating from 76 Lou Groza Blvd. was deafening.

Fans who followed the team knew. The media knew. Confirmation from just about everywhere but Berea ignited a relative firestorm among the fans, a few of whom waited until the official announcement Saturday to react.

And when the club finally released what had taken place, all the right words were delivered. Perhaps it took that long to carefully craft those words so as not to make the club look bad.

The media initially reported Shanahan and the Browns had mutually agreed to go their separate ways with the coordinator citing interference from other areas of the front office as one of the reasons. The Browns couched it differently, suggesting Shanahan, who had two years left on his contract, had resigned.

“After conversations with Kyle this week, we’ve determined it would be in the best interests of the Cleveland Browns that he pursue other opportunities and we have accepted his resignation,” coach Mike Pettine said in a prepared statement.

With regard to Loggains, Pettine said, again via the same statement, “In Dowell’s case, it was a difficult decision, but one we felt we had to make. We wish them both well.”

Could it have been the failure of Loggains to successfully turn Johnny Manziel from a freewheeling, cocky college quarterback into a read-to-play National Football League quarterback? We’ll never know, of course. But that would be a pretty good guess.

Shanahan also issued a statement, most likely put together by the team’s PR guys. “I appreciate the opportunity Mike Pettine, (General Manager) Ray Farmer and (owner) Jimmy Haslam gave me to lead the Browns’ offense in 2014,” it read.

“The Browns’ organization is committed to improvement and winning. I regret how the inner workings of the organization were represented publicly the last few days. . . . In light of the circumstances, I have decided to resign. I’m grateful for my time with the Browns and wish them great success going forward.”

All the right words.

Did he mean them (and we have to assume he approved them)? Probably not.

In the end, these moves were inevitable, although the stability factor suggested the club might give these guys one more season. But there is no question the failure of the offense down the stretch was mainly responsible for the Browns losing their final five games of the season.

It would have been seven straight if not for a timeout called by (now former) Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith in the final minute in game 11, a game ultimately won by the Browns on the final play.

Someone had to take the fall. The clumsy way in which it was handled, however, sort of goes along with the way these things are handled by the Browns.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

And the beat goes on and on and on

The Dysfunction Express continues to roll at 76 Lou Groza Blvd.

And why not? It has been moving along at a stunningly rapid (and unsuccessful) clip for the Browns for the vast majority of the last 16 seasons. Why stop now?

The latest round of dysfunction comes in the form of the Browns Thursday permitting offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to leave after just one season and the firing of quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains.

Just like that, the two brains responsible for making the Cleveland offense go (during the early stages of the season) and then stumble badly in reverse (the rest of the season) are gone.

That means the Browns once again will have a new philosophy on the attacking side of the football this season. That will (sarcasm warning) thrill (end sarcasm warning) those who operate on that side of the ball.

Yep, another change in philosophy. Just when players are starting to get comfortable with one style of play, along comes someone else with a completely different approach. No wonder they grumble when coaches leave almost as quickly as they arrive.

Whoever is anointed the new offensive boss will be the unlucky 13th man to hold the job since the resurrection in 1999. Think about that. That’s 13 new philosophies in 17 seasons. No wonder the Cleveland attack suffers year after year after year.

Since 1999, the Browns’ offense has been guided by Chris Palmer, Pete Carmichael, Bruce Arians, Terry Robiskie, Rob Chudzinski (who held the position twice in different seasons), Maurice Carthon, Jeff Davidson, Brian Daboll, Pat Shurmur, Brad Childress, Norv Turner and Shanahan.

Arians ran the offense for what can now be considered a record three seasons (2001-03), while Robiskie ran it before taking over the head reins for the final five games of the 2004 season after Butch Davis quit. Palmer and Shurmur were head coaches who ran their own offenses.

No matter whom the Browns bring in to replace the departed duo, unless he’s a combination of greats like Paul Brown, Sid Gillman, Blanton Collier and Don Coryell, you can count on only token improvement of the offense.

Adapting to new philosophies, new nomenclature, new system, new everything takes time for an offense. It doesn’t gel just like that. Offenses are predicated on rhythm and timing. It’s the opposite for defense, where belligerence and aggression are essential requirements.

An offense runs more as a total unit whereas the defense does not require the precision of all 11 men to be successful on a play. That’s why in training camp, exhibition games and the early part of the regular season, the defense is clearly ahead of the offense. Most good offenses start catching up a few games into the season.

The mutual parting of the ways by Shanahan and the Browns did not come as a surprise. Speculation he might be leaving arose when other National Football League clubs inquired about his availability for at least a lateral move, if not one that involved a head coaching vacancy.

When it was learned his father, Mike, wanted to return to the league, it was only natural that Shanahan’s name was linked to the possibility of his father hooking up with some team.

Shanahan leaves an offense that was predicated on the running game, which, to his credit, was the single greatest improvement on the team this season on either side of the ball. The Cleveland running game, which broke down in the last month of the season, was well respected around the NFL until then.

When a team goes from four rushing touchdowns in 2013 to 17 this past season, Shanahan must get a majority of the credit. His zone-blocking scheme was the main reason the Browns gained nearly 350 more yards in 2014.

It also allowed rookie running backs Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West to emerge as definite threats with the ball. The only drawback was Shanahan’s reluctance to involve his running backs in the passing game.

What hurt the offense ultimately was the inability of whoever was under center to be proficient enough and dangerous enough to get the opposition to back off crowding the line of scrimmage.

Once teams realized the best way to beat the Browns was to put as many as eight men in the box, take away the run game and force the quarterback to throw the ball more than he or his coordinator wanted, the offense sputtered badly. The result was a season-ending five-game losing streak.

Maybe that’s why coach Mike Pettine at the end of the season called his quarterback situation “messy” and General Manager Ray Farmer did not slam the door on selecting a quarterback in the next college football draft.

Pettine holds the key to where the Browns are headed offensively. He makes the calls on his coaching staff. In choosing Shanahan, he obviously was a fan of the running game. Shanahan’s successor most likely will have the same philosophy if Pettine has anything to say about it.

It’s a tricky situation because the offense has the potential of becoming something better than decent. (Full disclosure: I hate potential. It does not necessarily guarantee success. Only hope.)

The good news is Alex Mack will be back. That’s a huge difference right there. The offensive line struggled after the Pro Bowl center was lost for the season after breaking a leg in game five.

Farmer has two first-round draft picks to play with and wide receiver, a position that suffered all season despite his protestations to the contrary, is certain to be one of his targets. Depending on what happens with Josh Gordon and in free agency, as many as two might be taken.

There is no question, though, the Browns definitely need a quarterback better than whom they have now. In his brief time with the Browns, Shanahan could not solve the passing game problems. That should be the top priority for his successor.

However, Browns fans should not expect whomever that man is to arrive and right the ship immediately. That’s not going to happen.

The learning curve for the sixth different offensive coordinator in the last six seasons will be painfully slow. It will be even slower for the players, who face the tough task of learning a completely new system.

Don’t expect much from the new Cleveland offense right away. That’s because the club clearly took a step back Thursday.