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. 


  1. Rich, what do you think of Charlie Weis? I wouldn't expect him to land the gig, but he has three Super Bowl rings for calling the plays that Tom Brady ran. Granted we don't have a qb anywhere near Brady's level, but that's a mighty fine set of credentials Weis has. And he was the true architect of that system. Just curious what your thoughts on him are.


  2. You pretty much answered your own question. Weis was successful because of Brady, not the other way around. He is not a developer of quarterbacks. He would have all kinds of problems with Cleveland's quarterbacks unless Ray Farmer goes out and obtains a young veteran who has been through the NFL wars.

  3. I think the years of dysfunction have beaten me down because I've never been this pessimistic. I have virtually no confidence that the Browns will end their losing ways any time soon. Not with the way Haslam operates as owner. You could make a good argument that the late season collapse falls squarely on his shoulders since it seems clear he pushed for Manziel to play. Maybe Hoyer wasn't the long term answer, but when his play started to dip, it's hard not to believe the added pressure of an owner wanting to see his new toy play just added a ton more pressure for Hoyer to improve when he began to struggle. Maybe without that pressure, Hoyer digs himself out of his hole enough to grab another win or 2, maybe even the playoffs.

    Shanahan may have had his issues, but he did a really good job considering what he had to work with. With his leaving after one year, it's clear he saw how the front office (read: Haslam) operates and said "no thanks." If Haslam is going to force Pettine and Farmer to play Johnny in September, as it seems likely, and no viable alternative is signed or drafted, this team is heading for a last place finish and a new coach and maybe GM in 12 months. I'll be surprised if Pettine and even Farmer survive after next season.

    In the end, the Browns traded an indifferent owner for a meddling and entitled and neither leads to building a winning franchise. I'll be genuinely surprised if the Browns become a true playoff contender going forward with Haslam as owner. It's just not going to happen.

    Paul from Seattle

  4. I do not share your pessimism, Paul, although I am a pessimist by nature. I see Haslam learning his lesson by letting his GM and coach do what is best for the team and stop sticking his nose into their business.

    The Manziel disaster should serve as a constant reminder to him that he owns the club, not runs the club's business on the field. Good businessmen hire people and then let them either succeed or fail on their own.

    What the Browns need is a solid quarterback who doesn't make mistakes and can scare opposing teams enough to get them to back off and open up the running game.

    That's what happened early last season. About midway through the season, teams figured out that they could stop the Cleveland attack by stacking the line scrimmage and forcing Hoyer to throw. He was never a good passer to begin with and it showed when the running game was shut down.

    With Alex Mack back, a solid draft where Ray Farmer makes wise decisions to strengthen the offensive line and wide receivers corps and fix the quarterback situation through free agency, this offense might not be as bad as you think.

    With any kind of help from their quarterback last season, they seriously challenge for the postseason. Hoyer failed miserably and unfortunately, this is as good as he is going to get.

    In the meantime, good luck to the Seahawks, They've got a great shot at making it two in a row.

    1. I hope you're right about Haslam, but it seems like OC candidates are saying no thanks. Breer reported that Callahan would have come here last year if Dallas would have agreed. And now Callahan takes an offensive line coaching job instead of the OC job in Cleveland. Hmm... Maybe it's too easy to say these guys think the Browns are toxic, but the Browns OC job looks like everyone's plan Z when all else fails. Thanks!

      Paul from Seattle

  5. #1 - I have not given up on Manziel. Yes the Browns should get a reliable vet and let Manziel prove it...or not. 1 more year.

    #2 - why call Trestman a "vagabond"? All of these guys are vagabonds!!! Why the cheap shot? What's wrong with an ex Head Coach as the OC? Maybe he'll be good. Maybe they can all be good. Maybe they'll all suck. But, again Rich, what do YOU KNOW? Quit trying to be Grossi and hand out cheap shots based on no direct knowledge at all.

    Don't be ashamed to say you just don't know.

  6. First of all, I'm never ashamed to say I don't know. I found out long ago that I don't know everything. Very humbling.

    #1 -- That's probably what will happen.

    #2 -- I call him a vagabond because he is. He's had so many stops in his career, he might as well be a conductor on a train (cheap shot!!). He has many more stops than the others.

    All I'm saying is the Browns can do better than Trestman. There's nothing wrong about a former head coach being a coordinator. Happens all the time. In Trestman's case, give someone else a chance. He has already failed just about everywhere he's gone in the NFL.