The Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner had a press conference last Monday announcing the firing of coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert. In the question and answer period, both gave the public what they were looking for in a new coach.
In reality, they were looking for one man, University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly. They interviewed other candidates, talking to former Cardinals boss Ken Whisenhunt and Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton, and the reportedly interviewed Syracuse coach Doug Marrone.
But more and more it looks like Kelly was the apple of their eye, and that was the wrong way to handle the process, particularly with the Browns being on the cusp of being a contender.
When you have your mind made up, it alters the way you think. You start believing everything said by your guy is golden, and you go into the other interviews not fully engaged.
The whole thing blew up in Haslam and Banner’s face when Kelly didn’t return their affection and will likely stay in college.
The problem that critics of the situation had with Kelly was that he never coached at the NFL level, and betting on him to get the Browns turn the corner seemed like a huge risk. It was the ultimate high risk, high reward hire.
We preferred someone who would put a better offensive scheme in place than the one Pat Shurmur employed, one the stretched the field both horizontally and vertically which would benefit the two players selected in the first round a year ago, QB Brandon Weeden and RB Trent Richardson.
So now the Browns have to start over again. They are looking for an offensive minded head coach and that would mean the leading candidates are probably Whisenhunt, Patriots offensive coordinator and former Broncos’ head coach Josh McDaniels, current Denver O/C Mike McCoy, Washington OC Kyle Shanahan, and 49er offensive head man Greg Roman.
All of their offenses ranked in the league’s top ten, and to be sure there will be mention of Bengals coordinator Jay Gruden as well, and his offense was 11th in the NFL.
Former Bears coach Lovie Smith should be talked to as well, because of his 81-63 record in nine years in Chicago, including four 10 win seasons, a Super Bowl berth, and nothing less than seven victories since his first year at the helm. Smith has a defensive background so he would need an offensive coordinator, but he has a good track record of winning.
Whisenhunt has had offenses ranked in the top half of the league, but in two of the last three seasons, his offense has ranked in the bottom two in terms of yardage. His offense has struggled since Kurt Warner retired.
Shanahan is young, but appealing because of the way he (and his father, Mike) changed their offense to fit what Robert Griffin III could do, and also altered his attack again when Kurt Cousins started against the Browns.
That’s what Cleveland needs. Someone who will get the most out of the talent at hand, particularly when it comes to Weeden and Richardson.
These two were first round picks and they should at least get the opportunity to be in a system that fits their strengths.
Weeden played in a shotgun attack in college, and people who think you can’t run out of that formation simply wasn’t watching the playoff games this weekend.
Maybe Weeden can’t play in the NFL, but there are a lot of experienced people in the league who think he can, but the offense didn’t emphasize what he did well.
His critics say he looked uncomfortable last season, and if that’s the case, maybe it was because he was doing something he wasn’t used to doing.
This is not to say that handling Weeden is the chief chore for the Browns new head coach. He hasn’t reached that level for sure.
However, the new coach should be a guy who looks at the other offenses of winning teams in the NFL, and gives Cleveland an offense that looks similar to those teams.
The talent on the Browns’ roster should be ready to win in 2013. Haslam and Banner need to hire the guy who can get that done.