Out with the Old – In with the New – Cleveland Browns in 2013
Former head coach Pat Shurmur gave his new bosses (Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner) few reasons to retain him after the two came into power. The first-time head coach went just 9-23 in his two seasons, which was actually a game worse than his predecessor (Eric Mangini). Along those lines, Shurmur was steadfast in employing the West Coast Offense and did not make a strong attempt to tailor his offense to his personnel. It’s time for a much-needed change and I remain optimistic (although excitement has faded a bit in some fans’ eyes) in the front office’s decisions at this point.
“We want an individual who is a head coach, who is a strong leader, who’s tough because this is a tough business, but also is smart, very organized, has great attention to detail and is aggressive.” – Jimmy Haslam on 12/31/12
The Browns’ owner and CEO have determined the franchise will go forward hiring the next head coach before the general manager (or director of player personnel), as well as implement his input in personnel decisions. Depending on who the Browns hire, the team could sign multiple athletes on one side of the ball as opposed to the other (as the incoming coach’s specialty gets preferential treatment). I understand this to a certain point, but the front office must also be smart enough to realize the team is not talented enough to give lesser attention toward upgrading a large portion of the roster.
As far as listing imperative personality traits, Haslam’s wishes seem resonable. Clearly, Shurmur did not personify all five qualities (arguably two of the listed); that is a reason why he is now looking for work. Whoever can come in and impress during his interviews will be the frontrunning candidate as the next head coach. This includes revealing and explaining his philosophy in coaching and leadership of the team, as well as outlining his vision for the future. The front office anticipates this hire will be with the team for many years – the incoming leader’s short and long-term goals (assuming they predominantly coincide with those of management) could be the difference between getting the job or not. One thing Haslam and Banner also want is commitment; the new boss must be 100% on board with everything that accompanies the job.
It appeared a few days ago that the team got their guy in Chip Kelly, but that was ultimately not the case – the University of Oregon coach listened to job offers but will return to coach in the NCAA. The candidate search, as a result, will be much longer and multiple options will continue to be interviewed in the upcoming weeks. I still believe Haslem and Banner want to find a leader who has a strong background in offense, but at this point it remains difficult to predict who the next head coach will be (or even when he will be hired).
In his three years as general manager, Tom Heckert made both successful and disappointing decisions when dealing with personnel. Whether it was against his personal philosophy or the owner’s wishes (as some have assumed, given the impending sale of the team) – the former general manager largely shied away from free-agent options.
Over the past two seasons, the Browns brought in lower-profile athletes like Brandon Jackson (eight rushes for fifty-four yards in two seasons) and Usama Young (averaging just four tackles a game in two years), while missing out on higher-rated players like Pierre Garcon (who would have averaged the most receiving yards-per-game on the 2012 roster) and Josh Morgan (who would have had the third-most yards and touchdowns by a Browns’ receiver).
Looking at the NFL Draft, Heckert went the conservative route as opposed to selecting the perceived playmaker. Part of this could have been caused by the dearth of talent on the roster, but the general manager traded down instead of taking Julio Jones in the 2011 draft and was unsuccessful in obtaining rights to draft Robert Griffin III in 2012. Granted, he has gotten several, solid players – like Phil Taylor, Greg Little, Billy Winn, etc., but they need to be complemented with some of the best athletes to elevate the team as a whole.
I believe Heckert’s replacement will team up with Banner to bring in highly touted options in the offseason for at least three reasons. First, this is similar to what Banner did in Philadelphia – whether it was with free agents like Michael Vick or selecting LaSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin early in the draft (as opposed to offensive or defensive linemen). Second, that line of thinking seems to coincide with Jimmy Halsam’s beliefs. His business approach is to find the best people possible and to never settle. Finally, what has occurred over the past three seasons paves the way toward going “all in” – the Browns have a young, talented roster that is solid in the trenches. A couple of play makers sprinkled in (on both sides of the ball), and this franchise could elevate to levels they have not seen in many years.
The issue of not being able to hire a new coach promptly could hurt the team’s chances of getting one of the better general managers. Should the team continue to look at coaches into late January, they might have to go against their previous statement and hire a director of player personnel first. There are two reasons for this – not only could they be in trouble of hiring someone who is over his head, but the incoming general manager would have less time to prepare for the upcoming draft and free agency. Like the coaching search, which man to fill the void remains to be seen. The front office of the Browns has been quiet as of late, but once they find their new target – it will be somewhat obvious.