Gus Malzahn, the Browns Last, Desperate Hope


Oh Browns.  Could you have done anything more Cleveland Brownesqe than fire your “hand picked’ head coach after less than twelve months on the job, and NOT have any idea who your replacement would be?  Could there be a better sign of dysfunction and failure than this?  We’re left here in January, coach-less, and the store where you go to buy Head Coaches is starting to look like a Best Buy at 6 pm on Black Friday.  The shelves are getting bare, and before much longer you’re going to have to just chalk it and pay full price for a less model.  I read somewhere that the Browns remaining list of candidates looks like a yard sale on its last day.  That’s pretty accurate at this point.

As the Browns continue their search for their next “THE GUY” who they will assure us is a visionary leader who will lead our beloved franchise back from decades of irrelevance and painful to endure seasons, the list of candidates is getting pretty thin, and frankly pretty weak.  With fans whipping themselves in a frenzy for the beloved name of Jim Tressel to be named as a coaching interviewee, the list of candidates the Browns are actually going to, or will probably interview is going to look mighty bleak to Browns fans by comparison.

I try and give you realistic perspectives on things.  So I’m going to tell you, point blank, I don’t think there is a chance in hell that Jim Tressel will be your next head coach.  I don’t think the Browns are even going to extend an interview offer to him.  We’ve got to get past the “If it works at Ohio State it MUST work in Cleveland” thing anyhow.  Kenny Guiton isn’t a viable QB option, nor Braxton Miller, nor Pryor or any other Buckeye that we loved.  Ohio State is a different animal than the Browns.  We’ve got to stop the madness, because really, we’re trying to mix oil with water.

Now, knowing Tressel is off the board, let’s take a look at other guys who’ve fallen by the wayside as we’ve moved along here: James Franklin (Going to Penn State), Bob Stoops, Josh McDaniels (thank Christ actually).  First, let’s be honest with ourselves.  Those aren’t names that get any of us even remotely excited.  They’re names that would likely have made us groan if we had read that they were being announced as the next Cleveland Browns head coach.  Those aren’t names that we want to hear, we want to hear unrealistic names like Cowher and Gruden (Jon).  We want to feel excited.  We want a savior.

More reality friends.  There’s only one savior type coach left on the board.  There’s only one guy left who makes any sense considering the direction the front office is rumored to be heading (read: Johnny Football).  That guy, the only actual THE GUY left out there, is Gus Malzahn.

Gus went from a High School head coach, to Auburn Head Coach, to a National Championship game in eight short years.  That’s impressive, regardless if the naysayer will mock him as a high school coach.  Those people are idiots.  If you know anything about the situation that Gus took over at Auburn, and how unbelievably impressive it is that he made them a relevant program, no less got them to a NC game, you know why people who know what they’re talking about respect the man.  He’s fixed, in under 24 months, a program that had become as broken, crooked and dysfunctional as any program outside of Miami in the past 20 years.  Easily.  And he did it with energy, with passion, with gusto.  As importantly, for those of us who adhere to the old ways of the Dawg Pound, he did it with hard work and integrity.  Gus is squeaky clean, unlike his predecessor at Auburn, and it’s real.  He’s the real deal.

But outside of the reasons why you should like Gus Malzahn the Man, you should love Gus Malzahn the coach.  It’s impossible to question his football acumen, and his results on the field speak for themselves.  That, and its a brand of football that Browns fans should LOVE.  It’s built on pounding down opposing defenses with a crushing running game, and blazing speed and big plays on the outside.  While I do usually shy away from drafting OSU players in Cleveland, if you gave Gus a backfield of Carlos Hyde, Dion Lewis and the emergent Edwin Baker, they would run holes into any defense.  Pair him with a QB like Brian Hoyer, and yes, maybe even Johnny Manziel, and they would sprint down the field.  Give him a weapon like Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron and one of the premier WR’s in this draft, and the Browns would start to look like a track team on Sundays.

Gus has the goods, but its still a long shot that he’ll leave Auburn.  The Browns would have to do some serious work to get him.  They’ll have to overpay, rightfully, because of all the past failures around coaches in the organization.  They’d have to swallow the arrogance that they’ve so often displayed under this regime, and give Gus the keys to all the doors in Berea.  They’d have to let him have final say on players and personnel, they’d have to not question his decisions, and they’d have to trust the man driving the Gus Bus.  But isn’t that what we’ve cried out for for YEARS?  A strong, decisive leader who will passionately change the way the world looks at Cleveland Browns football?

Get on the Gus Bus Browns fans.  Drop the Tressel nonsense, stop asking for Cowher.  Get on the Gus Bus, put some media pressure on the front office, and let’s turn this mother around, for good.

 

Advertisements

Shawn Rants: The Firing of Cavs Coach Byron Scott


So, most of you who know me, and if you don’t know me that well you can read through a few of my posts here or my replies on the PoS Facebook page, and you’ll know that I don’t give much slack to losers.  By that I mean, if you can’t produce results, I tend not to buy into the excuse that you’re “making progress”.  I called for Pat Shurmur to be removed very early in his brief tenor as Browns Head Coach, I called for Mike Brown to be fired shortly after the Cavs got knocked out of the Celtics in the playoffs (the first time), and I am quick to call for the Browns to move on past QB’s who aren’t going to cut it long term (*cough* Weeden *cough*).  So, before you read the rest of this, know this.  I do not hold the usual “hope for mediocrity” mantra that most Cleveland fans are satisfied with.  I don’t want a watchable product, I don’t want a team that plays with “competitiveness” while losing.  I don’t believe that any city with that attitude deserves or will ever have a long term winner.  Dynasty are not built on excuses, they are produced with consistent improvement and results.

 

That being said, dynasties and championship caliber teams are not built overnight.  They are not built with confused team philosophies, and they are rarely produced with constant turnover.  This brings me to now former Cavs Head Coach Byron Scott.  The official reason the organization gave for firing Coach Scott was his inability to manage an effective defense during his time as head coach.  Further, looking at his abysmal win-loss ratio (he only won 27% of his games as head coach with the Cavs), the reasons for pulling the trigger on firing him were clearly in place.  That being said, I think we can all agree that Coach Scott did the Cavs a favor by even agreeing to coach this team in the first place.  Lebron was clearly on his way out the door, way before they even fired Mike Brown.  And while fans may have not allowed themselves to believe it, the front office HAD to know, if for no reason other than Lebron’s refusal to talk deal with them.  Coach Scott knew he was going to take over a league worst team when he agreed to take the job.  He was given assurances that if the unthinkable happened, if the best player in the league bolted, he would be given time to coach up a young team through the draft.  This is the reason the Cavs tapped Coach Scott in the first place, he has an excellent pedigree for mentoring and coaching young players.  And to that end, he’s done a really admirable job.  Kyrie has a ton of natural talent, but he has clearly been given guidance along the way.  Dion Waiters was far from a sure thing (still is), and Tristan Thompson wasn’t supposed to be as good as he has emerged this past season.  Coach Scott has one of the leagues youngest teams, and although the wins-losses aren’t in his favor, the improvement in individual and team performances are.

Lets look at facts.  Most of the teams that play outstanding defense in the NBA are veteran teams.  The Celtics, the Spurs, the Bulls, even the hated Heat.  Even the excellent teams that are young don’t play great defense.  Look at the Thunder.  No one can question their ability to score, but they are extremely soft on the defensive side of the court.  The Cavs have far less depth and experience, and their defense isn’t much worse than the Thunder.  A lot of the Cavs defensive woes can be chalked up to inexperience and youth, and signing a few veteran free agents, while continuing to let their budding young stars grow would cover a host of failures there.
The Cavs set a 5 year minimum time frame on rebuilding in the post-Lebron era.  They gave Coach Scott 3 years, and he’s done about as well as anyone could have in my opinion.  The young guys love playing for him, and he clearly has their respect.  Now the rumor is the Cavs are trying to bring back in Mike Brown, I suppose in hopes of his inability to connect with players being a willing scapegoat for when Kyrie takes the first ticket out of the frozen city.  Because the truth is, Mike Brown may coach good defense, but he’s about as inept a coach offensively as you’ll find in the NBA.  Worse, he has zero charisma, and players don’t want to play for him, nor do they often respect him.  At least with Coach Scott, you had a willing mentor to young players, and a guy who they looked up to/respected.

This is the way of the Cavs though.  A lot of talk from Dan Gilbert, backed up by a complete lack of basketball knowledge.

One Pound Of Sadness: Beginning To Love Chud


I’ll be honest with you.  When the Browns whiffed on Chip Kelly, and made no clear effort to go after any other big name coaches on the market, I was pretty discouraged.  Then, when they hired a non-headline coach in Rob Chudzinski, I was ready to slam the door on the new ownership “regime”.  I mean, did these guys know the precarious situation they were walking in to?  A rabid fans base, arguably one of the most involved, certainly one of the most loyal, in the entire NFL.  A fan base who has experienced nothing but failure after failure, disappointment after disappointment, literally for longer than I have been alive (I’m racing up on 30).  And to this fan base, who they needed to win over, they throw some no-name head coach to, and hire the much maligned Mike Lombardi to be the GM.  How could this be the good start they desperately needed?  Did they realize how bad this looked?

Then, I started to pay attention a bit more to Coach Chud.  The things the man said, the things he does, and (probably most importantly to the oft nostalgic Browns fans) to the things he HAS done.  I won’t lie, I started this from a fairly critical, openly sarcastic position.  Coach Chud wasn’t getting a fair shake at this from me, but I’ll be honest in saying that he’s started to win me over. Why? Well, I took the name away. I made him simply “Coach X” in my head. Then I thought about what he brings to the table as the Browns Head Coach.

1. Passion.

There is no question that Coach Chud is the single most passionate head coach the Browns have had in my lifetime. He WANTS to be here. Cleveland, unbelievably, was his dream job. You are probably not going to find another Head Coach option where this is the case. Most guys would use Cleveland to show that they can get the job done in a more glamorous market. The Cleveland Browns head coaching position is not one that most coaches look at as a final, permanent spot. The hard truth is that this has been a disaster of a football franchise for more than 40 years (one-to-two year stretches of non-mediocrity don’t count, those were flukes imo). Who wants to be responsible for an extension of that disaster? The answer is, simply, Chud. Chud wanted this job, badly. He grew up, like the rest of us, as a Browns fan who desperately wanted his favorite team to be better than the mess that they were/are. And now he’s in a position to do something about it. Now as we know, passion alone is not enough…

2. Brains.

The guy has the brains to turn this thing around. He’s widely considered to be one of the most innovative, creative young minds in the NFL. Now, since Chud has never coached a national champion contender in college, or been a head coach in the NFL, he’s flown under most of the national medias radar. To get a real opinion of him, you need to ask the guys he’s coach under. The opinion you come up with is unanimous. Heaps of praise, tons of respect, and an almost glowing admiration from his former superiors. It’s not an accident that so many people share the same opinion of Coach Chud. He might be one of the best guys in the league at breaking down film (which he does borderline obsessively), which is big in my eyes. Coaches who obsess over film are the ones who get the real, objective story. Film doesn’t get emotional, it isn’t biased. Winning coaches are the ones who follow the film.

Outside of that, Chud did something that Chip Kelly has yet to do, which is successfully apply the spread offense to the NFL. Think about who the first QB to have great success running the spread. A hint, it was RGIII/Kaepernick/etc. It was Cam Newton, smashing rookie QB records in the system Chud built. That is no accident…

3. Past Success

Coach Chud has been successful at every level he’s coached thus far. Most notably as a TE coach/asst head coach in San Deigo, where he helped build Norv’s vaunted offense. In Cleveland in 2007, he took an objectively awful QB in Derek Anderson and built a system for him that made him a pro bowl QB. Additionally, its worth noting that it was statistically the Browns most successful offense in well over 30 years. Then, as I noted above, he was the one who brought the spread successfully to the NFL, building around Cam Newtons unique skill set. Now, its worth noting the immense versatility this shows. Cam Newton and Derek Anderson and Phillip Rivers are all about as different from one another as Quarterbacks can be. Yet, Chud was able to work out a system for each that played to their strengths, covered up their weaknesses, and allowed them to thrive.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are still question marks. Can Chud’s systems be sustained over the long haul? He only got a year with DA, and Cam certainly had a little drop off in his second season. Can Chud adapt when NFL defenses start to figure out his systems? This is certainly a matter for concern, but after a neutral examination of the facts, I’m willing to get behind the kid from Toledo and give him a shot. Besides, what’s the worst that can happen, we can have a few more losing seasons?

Browns CEO Joe Banner says Chip Kelly hire “too risky”.


Joe Banner has come out and stated that the prospect of hiring Chip Kelly was “too risky”.  Its a little late to put the spin on now, after the Browns made it clear that Kelly was their #1 option and went so hard to try and land him.  There’s nothing wrong with trying hard and coming up short, I personally would have respected the effort even if I was a bit disappointed in Kelly’s decision.

Staff Changes Reviews


This has been a heck of an off season as far as changes to the Browns’ organization – both the coaching staff and the team in general.  The whole thing was set into motion when Jimmy Haslam bought the team from the Lerners, and brought a new, much more involved perspective to team management.  It’s no secret that Lerner was far more interested in everything outside of being the Owner of the Cleveland Browns than he was with that role, and it was reflected in the team’s lack of stability and poor on-field performance.  If nothing else, Haslam taking over the team provided the hope that the owner just might show some concern for the organization as a whole, since he actively wanted to own the team.

Haslam’s first move was to fire Mike Holmgren as team president/CEO and bring in his own guy, Joe Banner.  Now, initially I was a little skeptical of this move.  I’ve been a big fan of Holmgren throughout his NFL career, and I was a little sad to see the walrus go.  However, Haslam wanting his own guy running the front office was expected and made sense.  Plus, the reality is that Holmgren didn’t do enough to turn the organization around.  Banner proved effective in running the Eagles’ organization, and has a wealth of connections to agents, coaches, and GM’s.

From there, Haslam/Banner announced at the end of the season that GM Tom Heckert and Head Coach Pat Shurmur were being fired.  I was on board with the firing of Shurmur, because I never liked hiring him in the first place. Further, he’s done a pretty poor job of coaching up the young talent on the Browns’ offense, which is supposed to be his specialty.  I did not support the Heckert firing, as I think Tom did a heck of a job bringing in young talent.  The only possible misfire was the 1st round pick on Weeden, which still remains to be seen.

This left the team with vacancies at Head Coach and GM, but Haslam/Banner vowed to bring in a new coach before finding a GM/personnel director to pair him with.  The head coach search started out with a bang, with a sprint to try to woo former Oregon (current Eagles) coach Chip Kelly.  Most fans, myself included, were intrigued by the prospect because of the explosive, high speed offense that Kelly runs.  Once it became apparent that Kelly was not to be, Haslam/Banner began a slew of interviews before settling on Coach Rob Chudzinski.  Chud was the Browns’ offensive coordinator in 07-08 under head coach Romeo Crennel, and helped coach Derek Anderson to his best NFL season and a spot in the Pro Bowl.  Chud has also coached for other teams, including the Chargers and Panthers.  Originally from Toledo Ohio, Coach Chud is a lifelong Browns fan and definitely brings a hometown perspective to the team.  I’ll admit that I didn’t love the hire initially, as I would have rather have seen the team hire Mike Zimmer or Bruce Arians out of the candidates available, but Chud has since won me over by his clear passion for this position and the fantastic staff moves he’s made in the time since his hire.

The Browns then hired former Browns’ staffer, long time NFL personnel guru, and NFL Network analyst  Mike Lombardi to take the GM reins.  This is probably the most controversial hire thus far.  Lombardi was an unequivocal bust in his time in Cleveland, though that was nearly 20 years ago.  He was also the “brains” behind the drafting of Jamarcus Russel in Oakland, and is widely known for taking big gambles in drafting and free agency.  I’ll admit that I do enjoy his commentary for NFL Network and find myself agreeing with him a lot these days, especially on topics like Brandon Weeden.  That said, the rumor mill made it pretty clear that Lombardi was the team’s GM pick months ago. He’s definitely got the most to prove out of everyone hired thus far.

Coach Chud’s first staff moves were to fill the offensive and defensive coordinator spots. While I was in no way sad to see Brad Childress go (worst coach ever), I think I speak for many fans when I say that defensive coordinator Dick Jauron did a heck of a job last season. He is definitely a top 5 defensive coach in the NFL. The hire of Norv Turner as offensive coordinator was both smart and unexpected. Norv is one of the best offensive minds in the League, even if he does fail as a head coach. Ray Horton was hired as the Browns’ new defensive coordinator, which was about the only move that was going to appease me, personally. You don’t often get to replace a top 5 coach with another top 5 coach, but the Browns actually did, so I’ll take it.

Over the next few days, we’re going to break down each coach more in depth, but this recap should get you up to speed on the current front office/coaching staff.