Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Making the right move

There are numerous critical decisions for which a football head coach is responsible. Maximizing a player's worth is one of them. 

That includes making certain the good and welfare of players on and off the field are essential to the good and welfare of the team as a whole.

That is where Browns head coach Hue Jackson came up short with one of the rookies in this year’s draft class.

Browns rookie wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who brought a baggage full of off-the-field trouble to the National Football League, is already at stage one with the league in his fledgling professional career.

Callaway is a bundle full of talent who, under ordinary circumstances, would have been a first-round selection in the last college football draft. That tarnished baggage dropped him into the fourth round.

The second episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks the other night highlighted Callaway’s recent problem with suburban Cleveland police, including footage of his detention at 3 a.m. with marijuana in his vehicle, not to mention driving with a suspended license. The kid did not report it to the club.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley noticed a glazed, almost dispassionate look on his face at practice the next day (guilt feelings perhaps?), but had no idea why.

When it was finally reported on local television, the news hit hard enough, causing a meeting with Jackson and General Manager John Dorsey, who gambled by taking Callaway in the  draft.

Jackson and Dorsey believed his story that his car had just arrived from Florida and he had no idea marijuana was in it. That was it.

Behave yourself, he was warned. You already have one strike against you. Stay on the straight and narrow and you’ll be fine. Cross it and more trouble awaits. His only punishment was playing the entire exhibition game against the New York Giants.

Here was a kid who had very little discipline or guidance in his football life. He needed direction and his coach – and to some extent his GM – made no move to provide it for him.

That’s where Haley, who has been a head coach in the NFL and is smart enough to spot and then fix a problem, comes in. And the Hard Knocks cameras captured it.

It was immediately after Callaway scored on a beautiful 54-yard pass play with fellow rookie Baker Mayfield to put the Giants exhibition away that the coordinator did something his head coach should have done.

After congratulating Callaway, Haley sought out wide receiver Jarvis Landry, one of the few players on this club who gets it, who understands what it takes to be a successful pro.

“Hey, you need to take that kid on,” he told the veteran wideout, who provides the kind of leadership this team desperately needs. “I don’t care if he is effing living in your house. We can’t have him eff up. Can you do that?”

“Yes sir,” Landry replied quickly.

“You’ve got all this passion,” Haley continued. “Just take the kid under your wing. Larry Fitzgerald would.”

Haley knows all about the great Arizona wide receiver, who will be enshrined in Canton five years after he retirees. He was Fitzgerald’s offensive coordinator with the Cardinals for two seasons.

“I love Jarvis and what he brings to this team,” said Haley, who was surprised when asked about the incident Wednesday. “He is going to be at the forefront of changing this culture. . . . (He) is a guy who wants to win.

“. . . Jarvis is the type of guy who will do anything necessary to give us the best chance to get that done.” And that is what Callaway can expect from now on.

It is a move that, clearly in retrospect, needed to be made. Jackson is fortunate to have someone on his coaching staff who had the foresight to take the necessary step to make this a better team.

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