On Monday night, the Cleveland Browns officially announced that Jim O’Neil will be the team’s defensive coordinator, and that Chris Tabor will return as the special teams coordinator.
Additionally, six assistant coaches were confirmed to be on Mike Pettine’s staff. Two of those—assistant special teams coach Shawn Mennenga and assistant defensive backs coach Bobby Babich—were holdovers from last year’s Browns staff.
Linebackers coach Chuck Driesbach and assistant linebackers coach Brian Fleury both followed Pettine and O’Brien from Buffalo. Interestingly enough, the Browns also added a pair of coaches from Tampa Bay’s staff that were not retained by new coach Bill O’Brien. They are Secondary coach Jeff Hafley and Tight ends coach Brian Angelichio. Technically, Hafley followed the O’Neil from Buffalo having joined the staff after the season was over.
What’s missing of course is an offensive coordinator and the majority of an offensive coaching staff. On Monday the Ravens and Gary Kubiak came to an agreement for the former Houston head coach to be the offensive coordinator. The Browns won’t comment on coaching searches of course, but reports had Kubiak wanting more control than the Browns or perhaps Pettine was willing to give to an offensive coordinator.
So they lost Kubiak to Baltimore.
Kubiak would have filled a few needs within the organization—the first, and obvious one, would be for an offensive-minded coach with a track record of success. Kubiak had a dismal time in Houston last season, no question about that. He has had success before as an offensive coordinator though, and would have—like Norv Turner last season—been allowed to return to a position at which he excels after having been a head coach.
The second need that Kubiak would have filled would be for someone on staff with head coaching experience at the NFL level. It is a voice in the organization that Pettine acknowledged he would like have on his staff.
It is here where Browns fans should have real reason for concern.
Mike Pettine is a first time head coach. Ideally, you would like to set up a first time head coach with very experienced coordinators. On the defensive side of the ball, O’Neil has worked closely with Pettine before, and even though he has never been a defensive coordinator before, that relationship should be strong enough for O’Neil to make the transition to coordinator without major alarm. At the very least, Pettine’s signature will be all over the defense, so if it fails it won’t be against the system that Pettine wants in place.
The offense is another story.
If the Browns aren’t able to get an offensive coordinator with experience, especially in developing a young quarterback, they could be in for another long season.
Let’s not forget that the Browns fired Rob Chudzinski for failing to improve the team. After one season. That’s the standard that they have set for themselves. If Pettine fails to take a significant step forward what will the front office do?
The answer to that question likely isn’t to fire another head coach. It would be hard for anyone, even Haslam to stand on a podium and try to explain why Banner and Lombardi get another shot at hiring a head coach. This puts the pressure squarely back on Pettine and whomever he brings in to teach whichever quarterback the Browns end up with how to succeed at the NFL level.
Is Dowell Loggains that guy? Loggains has six years of coaching experience in the NFL, all with the Titans. He went from offensive quality control coach to quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator last season. He was not retained when the Titans hired Ken Whisenhunt.
Cam Cameron may have fit the bill, but reports say that Cameron will not be leaving LSU. Could the Browns turn to former Redskins coordinator Kyle Shanahan? With more than six seasons as an offensive coordinator for the Texans and Redskins Shanahan may be the most qualified coach the Browns could find for the position.