Despite all my criticisms of the Browns’ media handling in the hunt for Chip Kelly, I fully supported their chase of him as a coach for the Browns. The idea of Chip Kelly coaching the Browns was awesome. There’s no guarantee that Chip Kelly was going to be anything more than a complete bust. That’s pretty much the case for any coaching candidate. It drives me nuts that in order to talk about Chip Kelly in Cleveland that we constantly had to talk about Butch Davis because, you know, they both coached in college. That connecting of the dots is probably about as lazy as you can get from an intellectual standpoint.
You just can’t tell me with a straight face that a defensive specialist with experience as defensive coordinator of the Cowboys and head coaching experience at the U is the same thing as a guy who was almost solely an offensive coach on his way to becoming head coach at Oregon. That’s just the resume side of things. The fact remains that each candidate is a completely different human being. Even two doctors who went to the same medical school are completely different, and their training and professional background will be far less diverse than two guys like Butch Davis and Chip Kelly.
Back to Kelly. The reason that I was so excited for the prospect of him is not that he had the highest probability to not bust out. To the contrary, I think he was a big risk to fail and fail big. But out of all the candidates we’ve seen so far – including Nick Saban even though he was never really a candidate – Kelly represented the greatest chance for true innovation at least in the minds of fans. It’s one thing to have the best players and become a juggernaut from a personnel standpoint, but the idea that the Browns could compete consistently over time increases greatly with a truly great innovator as a head coach, because those guys tend to find a way to win even when they’re cobbling together a roster.1
Even though Nick Saban wasn’t a serious candidate for the Browns, he just isn’t the same prospect as Chip Kelly. Don’t get me wrong, Saban would have been a great prospect for the job because of all the experience and past success he brings to the game, but I don’t think he was pegged as the potential innovator that would change the face of the game. That’s not a bad thing either, by the way. For every Bill Belichick you have innovating, you’ve got a Tom Coughlin or a John Fox that runs with such consistency and professionalism as to be pretty successful. I thought Saban had the potential to be the latter kind of coach in his second go-round in the NFL. Alas, he’s removed his name.
So out of all the people the Browns have interviewed, which one sticks out like a sore thumb? Ray Horton. He’s the only coach the Browns have interviewed (so far) that happens to be a defensive coach. And yes, he also happens to be an African American. I’ve stated a number of times that I understand the purpose of the Rooney rule and interviewing minority candidates because there was a wall between the head coach’s seat and minorities for a very long time. But when a team is seemingly focusing all their efforts on offensive minds for their open head coaching spot and they happen to satisfy the Rooney rule with the sole defensive coach of the bunch (so far) it should at least be noted, I think.
And maybe it’s a moot point as the search goes along. The urgency surrounding the competition for Chip Kelly dictated a certain set of circumstances in terms of timing. Now that that ship has sailed, maybe the interviews will continue to diversify to include defensive coaches. The Browns are reported to want to interview the Bengals’ Mike Zimmer and if Lovie Smith gets an interview it could completely change the perception too, but there have been no indications as of yet that the Browns are interested in interviewing Smith.
So we’ll see. I have no idea what to make of Marc Trestman. I’m interested in Bruce Arians and have wanted the Browns to interview him all along. Other than that, I’m just waiting to see. The biggest thing for me, no matter who they hire, is that he better be focused on winning with this roster right away. I don’t want to hear about system installations or anything else, even if they will be happening. I want to hear about trying to compete in the AFC North in 2013. Anything less and I will be massively disappointed. This roster and this team aren’t a finished product, but a good coach should have plenty to work with to mold something resembling a 0.500 or better team right away.
- Think David Patten playing safety for the Patriots, for example. [↩]