April 23, 2014

Browns coach search and why the excitement over Chip Kelly was justified

Joe Banner will have some decisions to make in Cleveland

On to the next one…

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.

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Footnotes:

  1. Think David Patten playing safety for the Patriots, for example. []

  • Harv 21

    They’re interviewing Rob Chudzinski today. I think that’s a great choice and closely fits what they’re looking for: offensive whiz, assistant HC experience, not currently burned out and bitter from previous gig.

  • Harv 21

    Agree with much of this except that Chipper was big bust potential. This is not the ’89 Browns thinking they’re a tweak away. You can’t big bust from average 4.5 wins over 5 years. This org is in a perfect place to dare for greatness. And not hire Lovie Smith.

  • MrCleaveland

    After some initial excitement for Kelly, I’m not sorry we lost out on him. As others have pointed out before, we’d have to revamp the entire roster in order to play his brand of unproven gimmick football. Also, he seems a little flaky. Who’s to say that he wouldn’t quit in three years after getting his brains beat in. Or get fired. And then we’d do this all over again, hoping that the the seventh time is the charm.

    I want a steady, smart, normal football coach who can lead men and who can get the most out of the talent he has.

    I have no idea who that might be.

  • mgbode

    as the organization that brought the full fledged passing game to the NFL (along with so many other innovations in the game from Paul Brown), I was sort of hoping we’d figure out how to make the next big progression as well.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Not sure why you think he would have tried to install his college offense in the pros, MrC. All indications from him were that he would adjust his offense to his personnel, not the other way around.

  • Kildawg

    Think Chudzinski was the Browns OC in the mid-2000s but was fired by Crennel only to be replaced by Daboll. Chud would most likely keep Jauron as the DC and our ST coach. Can’t talk to Brad Seely yet, seeing that the 49ers are still in playoffs.

  • Harv 21

    same. As the resident codger, have to remind myself that most here don’t know the trauma of losing a popular coach, in any sport. When Marty abruptly quit after Modell ticked him off, it was crazy time – “will he come back with an apology?” etc. Can barely remember a coach whose departure wasn’t welcomed.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Chudzinski is synonymous with the Derek Anderson era. First year under him, the offense exploded and the team jumped up to the 8th best offense in the league. Second year under him (with the same offensive players) the team plummeted to 31st in the league. His track record as an offensive coordinator is extremely limited, but it involves 2 years with DA and 2 years with Cam Newton. This hire would be the height of mediocrity in my mind… more of the same for the Browns.

  • Harv 21

    I talked myself into him and I’m still sorry, because it could have been the defibrillator paddles to shock us out of this stinky swamp of awfulness. Having said that, it’s clear that Chip brings ego and drama. The sideshow of 3 new alphas thrown into the same kennel may have been too much.

    [Can you mix some more metaphors, Harv? EDIT! Sheesh]

  • MrCleaveland

    I was referring to all the talk about innovation. He wouldn’t have run the exact same system, obviously, but who really knows? I would have liked him if he really was committed to adapting to the available talent, but again, we don’t really know and perhaps never will.

    Chudzinski might be an intriguing choice. He’s got youth and a decent resume. If he’s organized and dynamic, he could be the guy.

  • MrCleaveland

    You hit the nail right between the eyes.

  • Garry_Owen

    All of your preemptive retaliation aside, Craig (still maybe a little raw from the “media handling” debacle?), it’s more than just a comparison to Butch Davis that gave, and gives, some of us pause. It might be “lazy” (I don’t think it is – and I’m as lazy a sports viewer and commenter as you can find), but there is legitimate concern that there is a broad enough difference between the pro and college games that makes a successful transition more difficult than it might otherwise appear. I see your Butch Davis (the defensive mind that doesn’t compare to Kelly’s offensive “genius”), but I raise you Steve Spurrier. Sure, different human beings – but similar in offensive geniusness and both operating under undeniably similar (and inescapably relevent) circumstances.

    If you could see my face, you would know that it’s straight. Well, the nose is a little crooked from too much conflict, and I kind of screwed up trimming my beard the other day – giving me a somewhat lopsided bent – but otherwise perfectly straight. I mean this.

  • Garry_Owen

    Right out of the park.

  • MrCleaveland

    Ah yes, Debacle-gate.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I was referring to this statement, “we’d have to revamp the entire roster in order to play his brand of unproven gimmick football.” I just wanted to point out that this would be speculation, he might not have needed to do a thing with the roster.

  • MrCleaveland

    Fair enough, Pat. Speculation it was.

  • Garry_Owen

    I was trying to find a place to use “gate,” but it didn’t come to me. Well done. Much easier than I was making it, too.

  • Garry_Owen

    Man, that second sentence is a bear to read and/or understand. My clauses have clauses.

  • saggy

    it’s a feather in your cap that you’re able to walk the walk and talk the talk like that

  • humboldt

    You can mix metaphors, but can you remix metaphors? (autotune is allowed)

  • Garry_Owen

    For the record, it should now, henceforth, and forever be referred to as “Debacle-gate” or “Debaclegate.”

  • Garry_Owen

    With autotune, all things are possible.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Much obliged, sir.

  • Garry_Owen

    Hey, we’re all trying to keep our ducks in a row. I’m just toeing the line. Holding up the fort.

  • Garry_Owen

    See, guys. This is how it’s done. No debacles. No gates. Just good old fashioned owning up.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    If we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate.

  • Harv 21

    To those willing to stick their neck out on a limb go the spoils. Literarily speaking.

  • MrCleaveland

    Going forward.

  • Tim

    How many stories can we write about nothing?

    Tim

  • Garry_Owen

    Jerry Seinfeld had a very successful television career doing just that!

  • Harv 21

    At the end of the day it is what it is, and I ams what I ams.

  • Tim

    Hmm, I guess you’re right. I happen to find his much more entertaining!

  • ToxicToast

    I feel like it’s entirely possible this process goes well into or beyond the playoffs, since guys like McCoy and Seely could possibly even meet up in the Super Bowl.

  • WFNY_DP

    You can lead a horse to cry over spilled milk, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

  • JeBron_Lames

    Why isn’t Arians being talked about more? After Kelly, he seemed to be the best candidate.

  • mgbode

    art ran off paul brown, jim brown, marty, belichick and ran away from a city that loved his team anyway. complete tangent but just bringing it up as art is a moron and I’m not going to let that fact die just because he did.

  • BenRM

    Blessing in disguise IMO. It’s easy to bash b/c we are all so pessimistic. “OMG, the Browns didn’t get ‘their guy.’ They are LOLhorrible. BURN IT WITH FIRE.”

    But let’s be real; Kelly has mislead teams 3 times in 2 years. It’s his fault, not the Browns. And again, it’s a blessing b/c now we can hire a real NFL coaching candidate, and not an “excitement guru.”

    …I apologize for my abuse of the quotation mark in this post.

  • Harv 21

    oh boy, did he run off PB. But don’t think it was so cut and dried with JB or Marty, or even Belichik. (No time to ‘splain self today)

  • mgbode

    no, not as cut-n-dry, but it played a part in each (though Billy Boy in particular was no surprise to anyone)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    “The Rock Says,” my debuuuuuuut albuuuuuuuum!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Kelly simply runs a variation of the run and shoot with less terminology in order to expedite the pace of the offense. Give his counterparts on defense about 4-5 games and I’m sure they’d find a way to counteract his geniusness. In the NFL you can’t pick your schedule and don’t go against teams who lack players like in college.