As the Ravens and Steelers prepare to play for the right to head to yet another AFC Championship game, the Browns organization is searching to replace yet another coaching staff. The Browns introduced their head man yesterday but the process of filling out the rest of the staff, including the all-important positions of offensive and defensive coordinator, remains.
It was reported yesterday that current Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was being pursued by the Dallas Cowboys for their defensive coordinator position. Ryan, who technically could remain with the Browns and has one year left on his contract, had entered into negotiations yesterday with Dallas and it is likely he will land there within the week. That would leave a void at DC that many are speculating the Browns will fill with current Eagles Defensive Backs coach Dick Jauron.
Jauron worked with Holmgren in Green Bay in the same role as a DB coach . In the interim, however, he has been a head coach in both Chicago and Buffalo, achieving moderate success at the former. Shurmur, despite his Uncle’s legacy, does not have much experience or background working on the defensive side. Yesterday at his press conference, Shurmur joked:
“There’s a defense? Typically I don’t tell jokes but no we have talked about that. We’ve talked about that to great length already but again as we move forward we’re going to do the things necessary to build a very, very fine defense. That’s obviously a very, very important piece of what we need to get done.”
Jauron would likely switch the Browns from the current 3-4 system they employ to the 4-3 defense that is his preference. While the Browns current personnel is largely suited for the 3-4, I think the priority has to be getting the best coach and then adapting to his abilities and preferences.
Defensive schemes would not be the only glaring contrast between Ryan and Jauron. While head coach of the Bears and Bills, he was considered perhaps the most boring coach in the league – a far cry from the soundbites Rob Ryan consistently offered up. While unemotional and soft spoken, the Yale grad has often been referred to as one of the smartest men in football and his experience, on a side of the ball where Shurmur has little, would be a welcome addition to the staff should Ryan depart.
In addition to Jauron, Terry Pluto threw out the names of Dave Wannstedt and Mike Singletary as potential options a defensive coordinator. I think Wannstedt could succeed in that role but I would be less enthusiastic about Singletary after the debacle in San Francisco this past season. It appears, however, with former ties to Holmgren once again playing a role, that Jauron has the inside track for the position.
Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy has emerged as a candidate on the offensive side of the ball. McCoy is represented by close Holmgren friend, Bob Lamonte. Shurmur made it clear yesterday that, at least initially, he plans to call the plays on the offensive side of the ball. McCoy would be an offensive coordinator and function largely as the quarterbacks coach. There is a good chance, however, that he remains in Denver alongside new Broncos coach John Fox. He has previously worked with Fox in Carolina and Fox expressed a strong desire to keep him on board in Denver.
While the offensive playcalling has been Browns fans greatest source of frustration over the past two years, the priority hire here is the defensive coordinator. There was significant progress made on that side of the ball this season under Eric Mangini and Ryan. The offense will continue to be a work in progress but they have to avoid a regression on defense during this staff turnover process. Shurmur’s offensive background makes the OC hire a less pressing issue but Holmgren, Heckert, and the new coach have to get it right on the defensive hire and transition.
***Update: Jason LaCanfora reports that the Rob Ryan deal in Dallas is almost certain to be done this weekend and he will be their next defensive coordinator. In addition, Josh McDaniels is likely to land in St. Louis and fill Pat Shurmur’s old role.
****Update #2: LaCanfora is now reporting that McCoy will stay with Denver next season as their offensive coordinator.